While conducting workshops for professionals working in child sexual abuse, I often start by having them work in small groups and answer the question: “where did you first learn about sex?” Their answers are all over the map, and most have one thing in common; as adults they remember the feelings being shown by the person speaking to them as strongly as they remember the words. People remember their parents feeling embarrassed — even blushing bright red — or seeming to be angry at having to have the conversation. Others remember older kids acting as if this information was forbidden, or illicit; never to be spoken of outside of the confines of their friendship.
Anyone who took a basic psychology course had to learn about Pavlov and his dogs. He teaches us that feelings become ‘contiguous’ or stuck together with experiences. If your child experiences receiving their early sex information in an environment filled with embarrassment, anger or secrecy, they may be at risk of associating these feeling with their sexuality, and that’s not good. Secrecy, and anger and embarrassment undermine sexual health and safety. When you speak to your child about sexuality, bring the positive, parental feelings of love, intimacy, respect and concern. Even if your information isn’t perfect, your lesson will be priceless!