Parenting sure does have its perks. Like today when my neighbor met me at my mailbox to tell me what a terrific job I was doing raising such sweet children.
My eyes narrowed skeptically.
See, that morning happened to be the 564th time the two younger ones argued over whose turn it was to ride shotgun. I figured the echo of my loving reprimand carried much further down the street than it should have.
So I braced for the punch line.
Instead, she played an exquisite symphony of praise and gratitude for their assistance earlier that week in catching her runaway dog.
Awww…they really are sweet kids, I said to myself (but quickly so I wouldn’t miss a word). I have to tell you…I left that conversation truly basking in the glow of my mad maternal skills.
It’s funny how we perceive ourselves sometimes. Earlier that day I was miles from winning any kind of parenting trophy, but that evening I strutted toward my house with one arm full of junk mail and bills while the other one waved like a pageant queen to the two cars that buzzed past me.
You know the feeling, don’t you? It’s the moment of sheer elation when you suspect that all of the sweat and tears you’ve invested teaching your child wonderful character and impeccable manners looks like it may actually be paying off! Your heart can’t soar any higher than when you hear your kid say, “Yes Ma’am,” to his preschool teacher. And if your arm could actually reach that far, you would give yourself a hearty pat on the back when she splits her Kit Kat bar with her little brother (and she actually gives him two out of the four pieces instead of just one).
Strong values may seem easy to teach but they can sometimes be very difficult to learn. Even still, we recognize the importance of introducing wonderful qualities like selflessness, telling the truth and respecting others during the preschool years to avoid problems later on down the road. Because let’s admit it, it’s one thing to have a self-centered toddler, but it’s another to have an insufferable 9-year-old.
So…why do we clam up when discussing anything related to sex and sexuality with our kids, especially when they are young? We fear it, we postpone or we simply avoid it altogether. And, if we do power through “The Talk” during the difficult teen years, we consider the massive feat equivalent to climbing Everest. I’m not saying that we would be in it for the glory, but if there was a badge to wear for having The Talk, we’d slap that baby on our lapel the moment the discussion was over and wear it out for all to see. People would look upon us with both awe and admiration and parents everywhere would marvel at our courage.
Just like all honorable qualities, sexual values are not taught in a one-time talk either. How could one talk do the trick when our kids live in such a sex-crazed society? The scales are unbalanced. If you are not talking to your child early and often, someone else is. The good news is that there are age-appropriate things you can do even when your child is young to establish a basis of excellent values.
Timeline for Sex Ed:
- Ages 2-3: Introduce the body parts by using the correct terminology. This is also a terrific age to incorporate the idea of modesty in any discussion.
- Ages 4-7: Begin to introduce the concept of pregnancy and childbirth and the sanctity of human life. Continue to emphasize modesty. Useful illustrations are all around (e.g. pregnant friend or family pet) to introduce and reinforce the topic of pregnancy and birth.
- Ages 8-10: The Big Talk. Um…yeah, I know, this IS young, but discussing sex during this time frame means YOU will likely be the first one to introduce it. You can get to them before someone else gives them inaccurate or dangerous information. Besides, at this age they are surprisingly pretty cool about the basic facts and much less embarrassed than if you wait until they are older.
By being a prepared and equipped parent, you can anticipate your child’s uncomfortable questions about sex and challenging developmental stages. This means you can respond to them with confidence and in truth and love. Believe it or not, teaching your child about sex really is a perk to parenting because you get to be the expert on sex to your child and you have the opportunity to wrap your values tightly around any information you provide her.
Be brave, friend, you got this.