Now that you have clearly defined your own values and aspirations for your child, how do you help them make those values and aspirations their own? This is by far the most challenging aspect of sex education. It can best be done over time, by demonstrating as a role model behavior that your child sees, and by taking opportunities as them come up to have dialogue with your child.
Role Model: This may seem daunting. It’s tough in the best of circumstances. With an intact nuclear family, where there are no major marital issues, no domestic abuse, and a healthy sexual relationship it’s a challenge. In families with divorce, violence, or disharmony it is even more difficult. Still in any of these circumstances there are tactics that can be used to help you communicate your values and aspirations to your child.
Here are a few things to do:
- Ask your child about their feelings when sexual topic confront you. TV shows, books, and life circumstances are great opportunities. If a character on a TV show is behaving in a way you would approve of or disapprove of ask you child how they feel about the way that character behaves. If you see a man at a convenience store verbally put his female partner down in public ask your child how that made them feel. If a friend or relative has an unplanned pregnancy, take the time to discuss this with your child, focusing on how they feel, avoiding simply stating that this is bad, unfortunate, etc.
- After you hear their feelings, openly tell them your feelings. Avoid overly harsh terms, simply tell them how you feel and believe.
- Openly tell your child from an early age what your aspirations and expectations are for them regarding sexuality and sexual activity. This needs to be done at an age appropriate level. For your toddler simple discussions about sex as a part of marriage, a committed relationship, or whatever your values may be is appropriate when the opportunity comes up. For a teen more explicit discussion of expectations is appropriate.
- Find times to discuss how sex affects a relationship. Especially in teens and young adults the focus of a relationship can easily change from communication and relationship building before sexual activity, to sex becoming the focal point of a relationship once a couple start having sex. Having sex early in a relationship can lead to delay in development of the rest of the key aspects of a lasting relationship.
- Avoid talking negatively about sex. If you do not have a satisfying sexual relationship with your partner, avoid grumbling about this in front of your child, or fighting or arguing about it in their presence. Regardless of when you expect your child to have sex, most parents want their child to have a positive and healthy attitude towards sex in the appropriate setting. Try not to sabotage that by inadvertently sending the message that sex is not good or worse.