While conducting focus groups for my book, The Sex-Wise Parent, the son of a minister shared how his parents prepared him for his first day of school. I love the lessons from this story so much that I want to share it with parents everywhere.
Tom and his family had just moved to a new town so his father could attend to a new parish. Tom was set to attend a school serving boys from first grade through 12th, and at six years of age, this was his first year of school.
Maybe because it was the 60’s, or maybe because of their own childhood memories — whatever the reason — Mom and Dad were pretty sure that the older boys in this school would be all too willing to teach little Tom their version of the birds and bees. These sex-wise parents sat down with their son together with a book that included charts and diagrams of sexual and reproductive anatomy and physiology. They explained male and female anatomy and how people got pregnant, and encouraged him to ask questions. He recalled “I asked them if (ejaculation) was like peeing in there — YUK !” Decades later, he still recalls their patient answer that “one set of tubes shuts off so the other can work — so that seeds can come out instead of pee.”
The other focus group members and I listened in dumbstruck awe and envy. How lucky was Tom! When the older boys teased and told stories about sex, he was prepared with the truth. Tom’s parents sent him off to his first day of school filled with factual information wrapped up in their family’s values.
Tom also learned that sexual touching was special and reserved for people in love. What a contrast to today, when so many kids hear about sexual touching for the first time in the context of a good touch/bad touch sex abuse prevention program. By teaching Tom that sexual touching was part of a loving, special, grown up relationship, they were de facto teaching him that any grown up who tried to touch him in a sexual way was doing something wrong. And most importantly, they were modeling that they were open to hearing what he had to ask or say about sex.
Their final words on the topic also warmed my heart. When I asked Tom if his parents were worried about him telling the other kids about sex he replied, “Not at all. In fact, they told me that getting to tell a child about sex was a privilege reserved for parents, and it was my job to keep this to myself so other parents get to have the very special conversation with their kids like we’d just had”.
Not everyone has the comfort and skills of Tom’s parents, but any parent can develop them! I wrote The Sex-Wise Parent to help parents do just that, and provide helpful resources at my website. Please — use these resources to help make yours a sexually safe and healthy family, school and community.