When Should I Talk to My Kids About Sex? (Abstaining from abstinence-only education)

Chalk drawing - Do it now

Chalk drawing – Do it now

Now.

Now is the answer.

Now is when you should talk to your kids about sex.

But what if they are 3? Is it too early?
Now.

But what if they are 18? Is it too late?
No. You should talk to them now.

But what if it is awkward?
It will be. Do it now anyway.

What if they haven’t asked yet?
Who cares? Now is the time!

What if I suspect they are already sexually active?
What are you waiting for? Sit down to talk now!

What if I don’t know what to say?
Now there is a great question.

Many of us, because of the way we were brought up, aren’t sure we even have everything straight. If that is you or if you just want some awesome resources to get you started. Here you go!

American Medical Association Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Teen

Grades 4-7: Learn about these important topics and more: * Puberty and what kinds of physical and emotional changes you can expect-from your developing body to your feelings about boys * The importance of eating the right foods and taking care of your body * Your reproductive system inside and out * Starting your period-what it means and how to handle it * Thinking about relationships and dealing with new feelings

American Medical Association Boy’s Guide to Becoming a Teen

Grades 4-7: Learn about these important topics and more: * Puberty and what kinds of physical and emotional changes you can expect-from your developing body to your feelings about girls * The importance of eating the right foods and taking care of your body * Pimples, acne, and how to properly care for your skin * Your reproductive system-inside and out * Thinking about relationships and dealing with new feelings

Our Whole Lives

Our Whole Lives helps participants make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health and behavior. With a holistic approach, Our Whole Lives provides accurate, developmentally appropriate information about a range of topics, including relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual health, and cultural influences on sexuality.

Our Whole Lives Offers…

  • Accurate information presented in developmentally appropriate ways
  • Affective and emotional learning
  • Guiding values and principles
  • Activities that help participants clarify values and improve decision-making skills
  • A safe and supportive peer group
  • Acceptance of diversity
  • A social justice approach to inclusive sexuality education
  • Step-by-step instructions for program promotion, implementation, and facilitation
  • Parent orientation that affirms parents as their children’s primary sexuality educators
  • Facilitator trainings and continuing education to increase knowledge, skills, confidence
  • Expert user support from OWL Program Associate (UUA) and OWL Program Coordinator (UCC)
  • Sexuality and Our Faith, an optional religious supplement for use in Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ settings.

Our Whole Lives Values…

While Our Whole Lives is secular, it is not value-free. The program gives clear messages about the following key sexuality issues:

  • self worth
  • sexual health
  • responsibility
  • justice and inclusivity

Our Whole Lives recognizes and respects the diversity of participants with respect to biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and disability status. The activities and language used throughout the program have been carefully chosen to be as inclusive as possible of this human diversity.

Additionally, here is a great article which quotes my friend  Laurie Watson, licensed marriage, family and sex therapist and clinical director of Awakenings Center for Intimacy and Sexuality in Raleigh, NC: Talking about Sex With Kids: Take the Fright Out of ‘the Talk’ . In the article, Laurie gives tips on how to talk with kids who are at various ages and stages.

You may be wondering, what brought this on? What has gotten Michelle’s panties in a twist this time? Well lovelies, I read this article today: Why Grown-Ups Need Sex Ed Too: Exposing the Long Term harm of Abstinence-Only Teachings which was a guest post by Amber Barnhill on my FB friend Neil Carter’s Patheos site, Godless in Dixie.

[Disclaimer: I do not always agree with Neil. Just because I link to someone does not mean I agree with everything they say. I do however enjoy reading his blog from time to time and I think it is healthy to challenge yourself with sources that do not always agree with you.]

Anywho, in today’s guest post, Ms. Barnhill, who grew up in a fundamentalist home, lamented her own abstinence-only education and illustrated how these programs and the way they are taught leads to sexual dysfunction in adult life. On that point, I completely agree with her. The way in which much of the church talks to kids about sex (if they talk to them about it at all) has caused immeasurable sexual dysfunction within marriage, and it takes years to overcome. I propose that we cease and desist with this nonsense, abstain from abstinence-only education and start actually educating ourselves and our children about the realities of human sexuality. We must talk to them openly and honestly NOW.

Now is the right time.

No, it cannot wait.

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Separate is not Equal & Together is Awesome

1010073_10151428607366735_362495096_nThis is a concept you have heard over and over if you were raised in church; you may have even heard it in some other marriage book or seminar. It is a distinction without a difference (a type of logical fallacy where an author or speaker attempts to describe a distinction between two things even though there is, in fact, no actual difference) and that as my wise husband said upon seeing this meme, “I don’t know whether this is accurate or not. But it seems to me that if men do derive more self-esteem by being respected instead of loved, this is likely due to men’s psyche evolving in a patriarchal society. And it also seems to me that many Christians have taken one small comment made by Paul and blown it up into an entire doctrine. I think everyone should be loved and respected and everyone wants to be loved and respected. Mutuality is the way of Christ.”

Because of this doctrine we as Christians (and others) often divide up like junior high kids at the roller rink or a school dance, boys on one wall and girls on another. So without further ado, here are my top reasons why all this division stinks and why togetherness is effing awesome.

1. Separating the genders fosters misunderstanding and fear and also contributes to the “battle of the sexes”. Togetherness shows us that we need not be afraid of each other and that men and women should not be in competition. Moreover it shows us that we should be in cooperation and community with one other. ONE BODY. Not two bodies, one male and one female.

2. Separation of the sexes during bible study fosters the idea that men and women are not equal in God’s eyes and that women cannot teach men about the Bible. For TONS of amazing FREE material on this check out CBE’s Biblical Equality 101 page. Penis≠Power.

3. Separation also confirms the fallacy that we have nothing to learn from hearing how others feel and encourages us to “tune out” when we are together and someone from the opposite sex is speaking. We can all benefit from another person’s point of view no matter what equipment they have.

4. Keeping boys and girls apart (or single men and women apart) will not stop them from having sex. Take a gander at these bullet points lifted from a Christianity Today article…

  • Three surveys of single Christian adults conducted in the 1990s determined that approximately one third were virgins—meaning, of course, that two thirds were not.
  • In 2003, researchers at Northern Kentucky University showed that 61 percent of students who signed sexual-abstinence commitment cards broke their pledges.
  • Of the remaining 49 percent who kept their pledges, 55 percent said they’d had oral sex, and did not consider oral sex to be sex.
And this is with keeping the genders separated most of the time. If we put the genders together in almost every context what we would find is less fear, more respect and more understanding. When we have that, we may not have lower rates of premarital sex, but we probably won’t have higher rates either. At the very least we will have people who are able to communicate, love and respect one another, which will make (at the minimum) casual sex rates decline.
5. But what about separating when it comes to talking about the deed itself? Surely then Michelle you think we should divide up based on parts, vaginas to the left and penises to the right. But seriously…my answer is no, not even then. When we discuss sexuality separately it encourages secrecy and says that sex and sexuality is something to be ashamed of. We train our kids and ourselves to be ashamed/afraid to discuss intimacy with even our spouse. I know for me (and most of my friends) the way we were raised to keep such issues quiet and certainly not to discuss them in mixed company. It took me YEARS to undo the effects of this training with my husband and I am STILL working on it. When we stigmatize sexuality the way we have we do serious harm to our marriages. All we teach our girls right up until they are engaged is only how to say no. Oh wait, we also teach them how they are like a chewed piece of gum or a glass of water every boy in the room has spit in and no one is willing to drink if they fail to do so. And then we condemn these same women when they are sexually clueless and have nothing but negative thoughts about sex. Also, separating the sexes by parts has another issue. NOT EVERYONE IS HETEROSEXUAL. Sooo, yeah. There’s that.
6. Lastly, for now, it plays into the myth that women cannot be understood by men and/or men cannot be understood by women. Perhaps the reason we can’t understand each other is because we have been separated since the day we were born. Ironically, especially at the times it matters the most. Do you want to know a secret? The way to get to know someone is to SPEND TIME WITH THEM! Shocking, I know. We learn about each other when we stop dividing ourselves into us and them, boys and girls, mars and venus. We learn about each other when we listen and speak even when we are uncomfortable or afraid or even mad. We must overcome the awkwardness that we feel because of how we have been taught and allow our children to know a better way. The way of togetherness.