Ideally, children will get all of the information they need at home from their parents, but school should also be an important source of information.
Here is why:
It’s normal for teens to have many questions and lots of thoughts and feelings about sex and sexuality, and parents have an important role to play. Here are some tips for talking with your teen about sex.
Parents really make a difference. Teens who have frequent conversations with their parents about a variety of topics related to sex are more likely to delay sex until they are older, and use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do become sexually active. Most teens name their parents as the biggest influence in their decisions about sex.
Many schools teach sex education that includes information on abstinence, safer sex, birth control, and relationships— which is great. But nothing compares to the influence you have as a parent on a day-to-day basis. That’s why talking about sex and sexuality at home is important even if your teen is getting the right facts at school.
It’s important for you to share your personal values and beliefs about sex. If you spend some time thinking about your personal values and what you’d want for your teen, it will be easier to send a clear message when you do talk about sex with your teen. Consider
If you are clear about your hopes for your teen, they’ll be more likely to adopt those hopes and feelings too. No matter what your expectations, it’s also important to talk about ways people can protect themselves during sex by using birth control and condoms. This will arm your teen with important information and let them know that they can talk with you about this stuff.
It’s not just about talking. Having a good relationship with your teen and setting boundaries is important, too. Talking about your values, expectations, birth control and condoms is important. But so is having a close relationship with your teen that’s based on respect for each other.
Research shows that teens are less likely to take risks — like having unprotected sex, doing drugs, drinking, or smoking — when they feel they have a close relationship with a parent. Staying involved in their life, listening to them, and sharing your life and interests with them can help you build a closer relationship with your teen.
Setting boundaries for your teen can also help them avoid risky situations. Here are some things you can do:
In addition to talking with them about your hopes for them around sex, it helps to understand why teens may be motivated to have sex. Here are 7 common reasons teens choose to have sex and some suggestions for how you can respond to them:
1. “I’ll feel more grown up.”
As they physically mature and have more and more independence, some teens feel they’re ready for sex and that having it will make them even more mature and independent.
Possible ways to respond:
2. “I know I would enjoy sex.”
For many teens, life is about the “right here” and “right now.” Teens may have a hard time weighing the short-term benefits — physical pleasure or emotional satisfaction — against the possible, and more serious, consequences — STDs and/or unintended pregnancy. And before being able to really enjoy sex, your teen and their partner need to have consent.
Possible ways to respond:
3. “It’s okay if I have sex because everybody’s doing it.”
Teens often think that more of their peers are sexually active than actually are. Give your teen the facts.
Possible ways to respond:
4. “I believe in having sex if I truly love the other person.” / “I want to feel closer to my partner.” / “Having sex is the best way to show my partner I love them.”
Many teens believe that they’ll lose their partner if they don’t have sex. Others believe that they need to have sex to show their partners that they love them. And teens may not think about other ways of showing their feelings besides having sex.
They also need to know that pressuring your partner to have sex is never okay, and can be a sign of an unhealthy or abusive relationship.
Possible ways to respond:
5. “I know people who had sex at a young age, so why can’t I?” / “You had sex at a young age — I can handle the consequences just like you did.”
People don’t always tell the whole story when it comes to how they deal with the responsibilities and consequences of sex. And because their brains aren’t fully developed, teens can’t realistically think through all the risks that having sex poses. You can help your teen with this — you might choose to tell your own story as one way to do that.
Possible ways to respond:
6. “If I have sex, I’ll finally know what it’s like.”
For many teens, curiosity plays a big role in choosing to have sex.
Possible way to respond:
7. “Other people will like me more if I have sex.”
Many teens believe that they’ll be more popular with their peers and more attractive to their crushes if they have sex. You can help them understand that sex should be about how you feel, and not about what people think of you.
Possible ways to respond:
You can support them in waiting even more by helping them think through how they’ll say no to sex in the moment. Ask them what they think someone might say to convince them they should have sex. They can practice what they’ll say back. They might come up with things like:
STDs are super common, and most people will get one at some point in their lives. Young people in the US ages 15-24 have the highest risk of getting an STD — they make up a small part of the sexually active population, but get half of all new STDs each year.
You don’t need to be an expert in sexual health to help your teen avoid STDs. Encourage your teen to learn about safer sex. You can even read about it together. Let them know that if they’re going to have sex, you expect them to use protection, like a condom, every single time. If they might have vaginal sex, it’s also important to talk about birth control. Remind your teen that no matter what, you love them, and they can always come to you if they’re worried about STDs or anything else.
Here are some really important things your teen needs to understand when it comes to safer sex:
It’s totally normal for teens to masturbate. Masturbation is safe, pleasurable, can reduce stress or period-related cramps and has no bad side effects. It’s also the safest sex there is. There’s no need to be alarmed if you find out your teen is masturbating. Masturbating can satisfy sexual feeling and help teens get to know their own bodies.
Teens hear lots of myths about masturbation — that only guys do it, or that everybody does it so if they don’t do it that means they’re “weird.” The truth is that people of all genders masturbate, but not everybody does it. It’s normal if you do it, and it’s normal and OK if you don’t. Letting your teens know these facts can help them to deal with the myths they may hear.
During adolescence, teens tend to desire more privacy and feel more self-conscious about their bodies. Whether they masturbate or not, your teen is probably going to want more privacy than they did when they were younger. So let them keep their bedroom door closed if they want and knock before you go into their room.
But what if you forget to knock and walk in on your teen masturbating? Find a quiet time later on to let them know that what they were doing is normal. And tell them you’ll try harder to respect their privacy. You’ll both probably be embarrassed about it, but that’s ok.
Pornography or sexually explicit pictures and videos are easy to find. In fact, many children and teens first see porn accidentally when they are looking for something else online. It’s very likely your teen has seen some porn on the internet — and some teens are watching it regularly.
Most young people who look at pornography do so out of curiosity about other people’s bodies and about sex. But porn can lead to unrealistic expectations. So let your teen know that porn sex isn’t like real sex.
For example, the models’ and actors’ bodies usually don’t look like the average person’s body. Their bodies are cosmetically, and often surgically or hormonally, enhanced. The kinds of sex that people have in pornography generally doesn’t reflect what people do and like to do when they have sex in real life and the amount of time it takes for people to get excited and that they stay excited in porn is usually completely unrealistic.
Another example of negative messages in pornography is the lack of communication between actors — verbal or nonverbal — before, during, and after sex. They usually don’t ask for consent, which is always a must in real-life sex. And the actors in pornography don’t usually appear to use birth control or condoms.
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Thinking about sex is a natural part of puberty. Talking with your kids helps them navigate these new feelings in a healthy way, and lets them know that they can come to you with questions.
It’s important for you to share your personal values and beliefs about sex. As kids go through puberty, it’s normal for them to start having more sexual feelings and thoughts. By acknowledging this and talking to them about these feelings, you’re helping them feel more comfortable and able to make good decisions about waiting to have sex until they’re ready.
Talking with your kids really can make a difference in the choices they make as they get older. If you spend some time thinking about your personal values and what you’d want for your preteen when they’re older, it will be easier to send a clear message. If you’re clear about your hopes for your preteen, they’ll be more likely to adopt those hopes and feelings too.
It’s best to have many small conversations that come up naturally, instead of one big talk. You don’t have to carefully plan to say everything important all at once. Actually, it’s better if talking about sexuality is a lifelong conversation. Doing a little bit at a time helps keep your preteen from feeling overwhelmed or getting bored.
Everyday life has lots of natural opportunities for talking about sexuality — these are often called “teachable moments.” You can use movies, TV, advertisements, and social media as jumping off points to have conversations about sex, sexuality, body image, healthy relationships, and more. You can also talk about experiences you had when you were their age (like a crush or first kiss), to start conversations and learn about what’s going on with them.
It’s normal for these conversations to feel a little awkward at first, but your kids are listening, and they want to know what you value and expect from them. And the more you talk now, the easier it will be to discuss the more complicated stuff as your preteen gets older.
It’s not just about talking. Having a good relationship with your preteen and setting boundaries is important, too. Talking about your values and expectations is important. But so is having a close relationship with your preteen that’s based on respect for each other.
Research shows that young people are less likely to take risks when they feel they have a close relationship with a parent. Staying involved in their life, listening to them, and sharing your life and interests with them can help you build a closer relationship with your preteen.
Setting boundaries for your preteen can also help them avoid risky situations. Here are some things you can do:
Before you talk, think about your values and what you want for your kids: when do you believe it’s okay for them to do sexual things, like kissing and touching? How much further into the future will you think it’s ok for them to think about having sex? What milestones will you want them to reach before having sex (be in a loving relationship, be prepared with birth control and condoms, be in a certain grade or out of school, etc.)? Knowing exactly where you stand helps you send clear messages during these conversations.
One of the ways you can encourage preteens to put off sex until they’re ready is by talking with them about their future goals and dreams, and what steps they plan on taking to achieve them. Then discuss how dealing with an unplanned pregnancy or STD might make those goals and dreams harder to achieve.
The average age that teens have sex for the first time is 18. So while your preteen probably isn’t going to start having sex for many years, it’s important to talk with pre-teens about how to prevent pregnancy and STDs so they can make responsible choices when they do become sexually active in the future. Around this age, you can start giving them honest, more detailed information about STDs and safer sex, pregnancy and birth control, masturbation, and most other aspects of sexuality — and they should know of at least 1 adult that they trust who they can come to with questions. Talking about this stuff will also help them see why they’re not ready to think about having sex just yet.
Masturbation is very normal and common among preteens. Most young children learn early on that touching their genitals feels good. As people go through puberty, masturbation becomes more intentional and attached to sexual feelings. This is all normal.
Thinking that masturbation is wrong or dirty can cause guilt, shame, and fear that can be emotionally unhealthy for people of all ages. So it’s important for your kids to know that masturbating is normal and harmless — as long as they do it in private. And you can let them know that it’s also perfectly fine to not masturbate if they don’t want to. It’s a personal choice, and either is normal.
This is a good age to start knocking before you go in your preteen’s room. If you do walk in on them masturbating, try to stay calm — you don’t want them to think they’ve done anything wrong. You can say “Sorry, I should have knocked,” and tell them later that you’ll be more careful about privacy in the future.
We all know that porn isn’t appropriate for preteens. It can be confusing or even upsetting to their still developing minds. Some pornography is violent and degrading, and can promote unhealthy ideas about sex, relationships, and gender. For all these reasons and more, it’s a good idea to use parental controls on TV, computers, tablets and phones. As much as possible, be aware of what your kid is seeing online and what sites they visit, and consider keeping your computer in a family area. These things can lower the chances that your preteen will come across porn where it’s easiest to find — online.
But the reality is a lot of young people do see pornographic images or videos. Often it’s an accident (like if they’re Googling something harmless and stumble on adult sites or ads). Other times, older preteens might seek out porn because they hear about it from their friends or they’re curious about sex.
If you find out your preteen has seen porn, try not to freak out or get mad. Ask them how they came across it — was it an accident? On purpose? Did someone send it to them? Ask them what they think about what they saw, and be clear about your expectations and values here.
If your kid has questions about porn, you can answer in simple terms. You can talk about how porn is for adults only and isn’t meant for kids. As they get older, you can talk about how sex in porn doesn’t usually reflect real life — the people onscreen are acting, and it’s not generally an accurate depiction of how sex really happens. For example, porn shows lots of sexual activity, but none of the consequences of sex (like STDs and pregnancy) that people have to deal with in real life. They also often leave out consent, which is an essential part of real life sex. And most people’s bodies don’t look like the bodies you see in porn.
Even though the vast majority of preteens aren’t sexually active, they’re old enough to learn how to protect themselves in the future. Teaching them about STDs and safer sex sets the expectation that they’ll make responsible choices when the time comes. It also shows that you care about them, and that they can come to you with any questions.
You can help your preteen stay healthy and even save their lives by giving them the real, honest facts about STDs and how to protect themselves. They should know that:
Another step you can take to help your child avoid a very common (and possibly dangerous) STD later in life is to make sure they get the HPV vaccine — both girls and boys should get it at age 11-12. It’s safe and can help prevent cervical and other kinds of cancer in the future.
Talking with kids about sexuality helps keep them healthy and makes your relationship stronger. There are many ways to start conversations about sex and sexuality, and it gets easier with time and practice.
Kids between the age of 5 to 8 need accurate and age-appropriate answers to their questions. The conversations you have now play a major role in helping your children develop healthy relationships as they grow. And showing your kids that you’re a trustworthy and nonjudgmental resource makes it easier to talk about more difficult topics when they’re older. It’s easier than it seems — just keep it simple and direct, look for teachable moments, and stick to having lots of small, casual conversations.
Kids have lots of questions. They need answers, but they don’t always need all the details. It’s important to be honest, accurate, and frank when answering your kids’ questions about sex, but that doesn’t mean you need to overwhelm them with lots of information. With younger kids, less is better — start with the simplest explanation, and only give them more details if they have other questions or seem really interested in what you’re talking about.
One way to guide the conversation is to find out what your child already knows or thinks, and what they’re really trying to find out. What seems like a straightforward question to adults could be different than what your kid actually wants to know.
For example, a child who asks, “Why do I have a penis?” might be wondering about why touching it feels good, or why their body looks different from their sister’s, or what part the penis plays in reproduction. To figure out what they’re really asking, you can say, “That’s a great question, what made you think of that?” or “Can you tell me what you already know about that?” or “What do you think the answer is?”
Talking with your kids about sexuality isn’t going to make them have sex earlier. Giving your kids age-appropriate information about sexuality won’t encourage unhealthy sexual development. In fact, research shows that children who talk with their parents and know more about this stuff are more likely to wait to have sex until they’re older and use birth control/condoms when they eventually do have sex.
You can answer their questions honestly while still explaining that sex is something only grownups do. For example, if they ask what the word sex means, you can say something like: “Sometimes when two grownups like each other, they want to kiss and touch each other’s bodies — especially their penis or vulva. What else do you want to know about?” At this age, kids might be fascinated with bodies and the concept of sex, but they usually just think it’s weird or gross.
Providing your kid with information that’s age-appropriate helps them develop a healthy attitude about this stuff as they grow up. It also makes it easier to talk with them about the more complicated aspects of sexual intimacy (like consent, safer sex, and healthy relationships) as they get older.
Plan to have lots of small, casual conversations and rely on teachable moments. Don’t worry if you haven’t started talking with your children about sexuality yet. It’s never too late. Just don’t try to catch up all at once. Many parents plan (or dread) “the big talk” for a long time, expecting to have one conversation that covers everything important all at once. But talking with children about sexuality works best as a lifelong conversation, so prepare to have many small conversations during their childhood, providing more information as they grow. Doing a little bit at a time makes it less overwhelming for both you and your kid.
Don’t stress too much about finding the perfect time to talk. Everyday life gives you lots of opportunities for talking about sexuality (like questions about their genitals during bath time, running into a pregnant neighbor, or seeing people talk about sex on TV). And they may hear stuff out in the world that makes them want to ask questions. These teachable moments pop up all the time, and help make your conversations easier and more natural.
The most important thing is being open, honest, and available when your kid wants to talk, and to encourage questions and learning when they’re ready. It’s normal for you to feel a little awkward during some of these talks, but remember that younger kids don’t always realize these topics are difficult for adults.
Having a negative reaction or refusing to answer sends the message that your child’s natural curiosity is bad, and that it’s not okay to come to you with questions — and this means they’ll seek out information from other sources like friends or the internet. So even if you feel flustered, try to keep calm and talk with them in a positive tone.
When talking to younger kids, it’s common for parents to frame sex only as “something grownups do when they want to have a baby.” Of course that is one big reason people have sex, and it’s good for your kids to understand how sex is related to pregnancy. But it’s okay and even good for kids to understand that grownups have sex for other reasons too, like for pleasure and to express love and feel closer to a partner.
It’s important for kids to know who the trusted adults are that they can come to with questions or concerns related to sexuality. On the flip side, teaching appropriate boundaries when it comes to talking about sex is important too. Let them know that while sex and bodies are natural and not shameful, they’re also private. This might mean not talking about this stuff at their friends’ houses because every house has different rules. This could also mean only talking about this stuff with adults you’ve both identified as trusted and safe. You can say something like, “I’m really glad you’re asking me these questions — you can ask me anything. Are there other people you think you could ask about this stuff if I wasn’t available?” What about your brother, Aunt Molly, or Dr. Jones? And who do we not talk to about private stuff?”
It’s super common for kids of all ages to touch their genitals. Most children figure out at an early age that their genitals are sensitive and touching them feels good.
How parents react to their kids touching themselves can send strong messages. Getting angry, slapping their hands away, or acting disgusted can cause shame and guilt that can negatively impact them as they grow older. It’s common to feel a little uncomfortable if you see your child masturbating, but try to stay calm and remember that it’s perfectly normal and healthy behavior.
While it’s important not to shame your child for touching their genitals, it’s also important to teach them healthy boundaries for themselves and others. Let them know that masturbation is private and not appropriate to do in front of other people. You can say, “I know that feels good and lots of people do it. But you should only touch yourself in private places — like your bedroom or the bathroom.”
Try not to freak out. It’s natural for you to be embarrassed, but ultimately it’s not harmful or damaging for your child to know that grownups have sex.
The best way to respond is to stay calm, be matter-of-fact, and talk with them about what happened later. In the moment, you can say something like, “We’re having private time. Can you please close the door and go play in your room?” It’s okay if you did happen to yell in the moment — but make sure you apologize later and explain that you were just startled, so your kid doesn’t feel like they did something horribly wrong.
When you talk later, start by asking them what they saw and if they have any questions. Younger kids might be worried that you were hurting each other or fighting, so reassure them that you’re all okay. They may be curious and have lots of questions, which is normal. A good basic message is that sex is a private thing that grownups do with each other to feel good together and express their love. You can explain that this kind of expression of love is different from the way parents and kids show affection. You can also talk about privacy and how they need to knock before coming into other people’s rooms.
How your child processes what happened depends on how old they are, how you react, and whether you’ve already had age-appropriate conversations about sex with them. Try to think of it as another opportunity to normalize sexuality and show that you’re willing to answer their questions.
Every time we had a sex talk back in high school, the coordinator would have a box where we would drop pieces of papers anonymously with questions to be answered at the end of the forum. Most of the questions that were asked are:
I know you might be thinking, these are just basic straight forward questions. Now that I am all grown up, I think these questions were real concerns for us because we had never been taught about sex.
The only basic thing was, “Do not have sex until you are married!” and “If you have sex you will get pregnant and your parents will be pissed!”
Lack of sex education- both by parents and in schools- is a major crisis that has major ripple effects through many parts of society.
Lack of sex education in schools has been identified as a major contributory factor to the high rate of teenage pregnancy and unsafe abortion in the country.
Believe it or not, every girl or boy ill one day has to make a life-changing decision about their sexual and reproductive health.
So imagine the gap that exists in the lack of knowledge that these young people require to make these kinds of decisions responsibly. This is why most of our young people are vulnerable to early pregnancies, coercion, and STI’s.
This is what we recommend. A Comprehensive Sexuality Education.
Comprehensive sexuality education is based on an approach that focusses on gender and rights.
Whether in school or at home, this kind of sex education is taught throughout the adolescent life, to every age group depending on information relevant to their ages.
There are various things you can cover.
First are facts about human anatomy, reproductive health, and human development. You can go deeper on topics like contraception, consent, sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and childbirth.
Apart from pumping the youth with information, it is good to nurture positive values regarding their sexual and reproductive health. Such values are based on relationships, culture, gender roles, sexual abuse, and human rights. It is what I refer to as holistic sexuality education.
With these kind of knowledge, our young people will develop skills like critical thinking, communication, responsible decision making, and self-esteem.
Talking to children about sex is not an easy task.
If you are keen on the news an social media, there have been so many cases of early pregnancies, sexual assault cases, kidnappings, deaths, and sexually transmitted diseases.
This means that the one talk you gave your children about the birds and the bees is not enough. You should have an ongoing talk frequently according to the age they are in.
Ideally, children will get all of the information they need at home from their parents, but school should also be an important source of information.
Here is why:
There has been a huge debate in the past about providing condoms in school and teaching contraception to teenagers.
It has been said that giving these options will make them promiscuous.
To be honest, teaching comprehensive sex education doesn’t have the downside most people are afraid of.
Providing these options does not encourage adolescents to start having sex earlier, it only helps them be safe in case they choose to have sex.
In this generation, they are already having sex at a very early age so it is good that they have safe sex.
There have been so many efforts to curb teenage pregnancies but you have seen how the numbers have risen recently especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Poverty is one of the primary causes of teenage pregnancies but so is a lack of sex education.
Immediately your child starts becoming eager and curious about their body, you should start educating them right there and continue throughout each stage of their lives.
Abstaining from sex before marriage is a tradition that the current generation does not hold in high regard.
As a parent, you have to accept this hard truth and talk to your children about protecting themselves, making informed decisions, and keeping healthier sexualities.
If you feel like “No! my child will abstain from sex”, which is admirable, you are still not exempted from teaching them about sex.
They too need sex education. If a child grows being well informed, he or she will be empowered by that information and will respect people’s opinions and sexualities.
Furthermore, your child will not source information from their peers or the internet. We all know these sources are not reliable because of misinformation.
Do you know why you hear teenagers having oral sex and anal sex instead of vaginal sex?
It is because they do not have accurate information about alternative sexual behaviors.
Young people think that oral sex is incompatible with abstinence because abstinence involves vaginal intercourse so they believe.
With a comprehensive sex education approach, teenagers will be more informed about participating in alternative sexual behaviors instead of falsely assuming these alternatives are safe.
If we do not teach sex education, we will have generations that are completely unequipped to advocate for their bodily autonomy and are extremely ashamed about any sexuality that they’ve experienced.
We will fail generations of women when we set them up to be hurt, and we failed those generations of men when we fed them toxic masculinity instead of teaching them about consent and pleasure for all bodies.
If we’re to move forward, we need to find a way to build systems that educate and protect. What Do you think?
Across the world, due to the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), children are affected by physical distancing, quarantines and nationwide school closures.
I am sure most of your children and youth may be feeling more isolated, anxious, bored and uncertain.
They may feel fear, and grief, over the impact of the virus on their families.
I have really been working hard to find content that will help open the world of isolation.
Watch out for resources and ideas to support parents and projects that will engage children in understanding the coronavirus, the challenges it brings to their world and what can be done to protect them.
I have also done a previous blog about how you can spark a meaningful conversation about coronavirus with your children.
To help parents interact constructively with their children during this time of confinement, I have shared below very simple but constructive tips you can use while parenting during this period.
I have these six one-page tips that I outsourced from WHO for parents.
They cover the following:
I hope this information helps in one way or another in helping your little ones cope during this confusing period. Feel free to click on the Links on the Infographics to learn more.
Have an amazing weekend!!
INCASE YOU MISSED IT:
Easter holiday is around the corner and it is an exciting time for family get-togethers, yummy food, sweet traditions, funny stories, and lots and lots of love.
Have you ever found yourself telling your child, “Uncle just got here—go give him a big hug!” or “Auntie gave you that nice toy, go give her a kiss,” This means that you were worried your child might not offer affection on her own and that is why you urged them to do this.
If you have said this to your child before, you might want to reconsider the urge to do that in the future.
Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she “owes” another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.
“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children,” says Girl Scouts Organization- developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, “but the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older.
Plus, sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”
Give your girl the space to decide when and how she wants to show affection.
Of course, many children may naturally want to hug and kiss family members, friends, and neighbors, and that’s lovely—but if your daughter is reticent, consider letting her choose what to do.
Of course, this doesn’t give her license to be rude!
There are many other ways to show appreciation, thankfulness, and love that don’t require physical contact.
RELATED CONTENT: 6 Tips on How To Nurture a Child’s Mental Health.
Saying how much she’s missed someone or thank you with a smile, a high-five, or even an air kiss are all ways she can express herself, and it’s important that she knows she gets to choose which feels most comfortable to her.
Is it ok to hug a kid that doesn’t want to be hugged? No, it isn’t.
I know you might get offended by the sheer suggestion that kids should have a say in whether they want to be hugged or not. What you might not know is that a small act of respecting a kid’s wishes can go a long way in shaping their understanding of consent, enables them to respect their own body and emboldens them to say no.
It remains irrelevant if the hug or, for that matter, any other form of expression of affection, is non-sexual. It also doesn’t even have to be an exchange between an adult and a child.
Parents can teach their kids about boundaries and consent when it comes to expressing affection or even physical contact.
In a largely patriarchal world, it would go a long way in teaching boys, early on in their lives, that they are not entitled to any affection from any gender.
A loved one expecting a hug from a child creates the impression that they owe it to them. A majority of the abusive relationships stem from an imbalance of power where one person is made to feel like they owe affection to their partner.
Some of you might wave away this concern and accuse us of blowing an innocent family interaction out of proportion. But I think this has long been a (very controversial) topic in parenting circles.
After CNN’s Katia Hetter wrote an article advocating for such a practice in 2015, readers responded with various opinions. Some shared difficult stories from their childhood that they carried with them well into their adult years. For Example:
“I raised my children this way over 20 years ago. Why did we do this? Because I had been a victim of sexual abuse by a family ‘friend’ for many years as a child. I did not want my children to think they had to hug or touch others unless the contact was wanted,” one reader wrote.
Others didn’t understand the big deal and argued that family obligation sometimes means doing uncomfortable things.
“You’re damn right you’re going to hug the woman who gave your mother/father life so you could have life,” another reader wrote.
That said, think about it the next time you want to urge your child to hug or kiss anyone.
I know sometimes as parents we do things to our children without even realizing it, but it is time to do better and not let our sons and daughter get the wrong idea about consent and physical affection.
Enjoy Your Easter Holidays!!!
INCASE YOU MISSED IT:
As much as parents try to keep their children safe, it is not always possible be to protect them from impending traumatic experiences. In the wake of a traumatic event, your comfort, support and reassurance as a parent can make children feel safe, help them manage their fears, guide them through their grief, and help them recover in a healthy way.
Before I get into it, let us first be clear what trauma is.
Trauma is an emotional response to an intense event that threatens or causes harm. The harm can be physical or emotional, real or perceived, and it can threaten the child or someone close to him or her. Trauma can be the result of a single event, or it can result from exposure to multiple events over time.
Potentially traumatic events may include:
The intense, confusing, and frightening emotions that follow a traumatic event or natural disaster can be even more pronounced in children and teens. Such events can undermine their sense of security, leaving them feeling helpless and vulnerable—especially if the event stemmed from an act of violence, such as a physical assault, mass shooting, or terrorist attack. Even kids or teens not directly affected by a disaster can become traumatized when repeatedly exposed to horrific images of the event on the news or social media.
2. Brains (Thinking)
3. Emotions (feeling)
It is important to remember two words when working with anyone experiencing trauma and hurt: “hope” and “encouragement.” This isn’t about telling someone they should paint over all their problems with happy thoughts. Instead, it is about offering a way out from the despair left over from trauma.
Talk to your child about what happened. There is no way to manage trauma without at least acknowledging that it happened. Most people are raised in homes where no one talks about “the elephant in the room.” But if you want to help a person heal from any type of hurt or trauma, it is important to discuss it.
Once you begin talking about difficult subjects, you give your child permission to as well. You are teaching them it is okay to talk about these things.
Reassure your child. The event was not their fault, you love them, and it’s OK for them to feel upset, angry, or scared.
Don’t pressure your child into talking. It can be very difficult for some kids to talk about a traumatic experience. A young child may find it easier to draw a picture illustrating their feelings rather than talk about them. You can then talk with your child about what they’ve drawn.
Be honest. While you should tailor the information you share according to your child’s age, honesty is important. Don’t say nothing’s wrong if something is wrong.
Do “normal” activities with your child that have nothing to do with the traumatic event. Encourage your child to seek out friends and pursue games, sports, and hobbies that they enjoyed before the incident. Go on family outings to the park or beach, enjoy a games night, or watch a funny or uplifting movie together.
Physical activity can burn off adrenaline, release mood-enhancing endorphins, and help your child sleep better at night.
Find a sport that your child enjoys. Activities such as basketball, soccer, running, martial arts, or swimming that require moving both the arms and legs can help rouse your child’s nervous system from that “stuck” feeling that often follows a traumatic experience.
Offer to participate in sports, games, or physical activities with your child. If they seem resistant to get off the couch, play some of their favorite music and dance together. Once a child gets moving, they’ll start to feel more energetic.
Encourage your child to go outside to play with friends or a pet and blow off steam.
Schedule a family outing to a hiking trail, swimming pool, or park.
Take younger children to a playground, activity center, or arrange play dates.
Children are often impressionable. It is so easy to teach a child that they cannot trust themselves. Particularly in abusive homes, children are taught not to feel or to think on their own. They are usually taught to do what their parent says without question and to overlook their own experiences.
Teaching a child to trust their intuition is not overly difficult, though it often takes time. Start by having a discussion with your child about how important it is to trust one’s own inner voice, or conscience. Continue asking your child how they feel about certain experiences. This act will help your child learn that to look inside is an important aspect of life.
Children who’ve experienced a traumatic event can often find relentless media coverage to be further traumatizing. Excessive exposure to images of a disturbing event—such as repeatedly viewing video clips on social media or news sites—can even create traumatic stress in children or teens who were not directly affected by the event.
Limit your child’s media exposure to the traumatic event. Don’t let your child watch the news or check social media just before bed, and make use of parental controls on the TV, computer, and tablet to prevent your child from repeatedly viewing disturbing footage.
As much as you can, watch news reports of the traumatic event with your child. You can reassure your child as you’re watching and help place information in context.
Avoid exposing your child to graphic images and videos. It’s often less traumatizing for a child or teen to read the newspaper rather than watch television coverage or view video clips of the event.
Most children (and really, most adults) are not taught how to grieve. Most people are taught “Don’t cry,” “Keep difficult emotions to yourself,” “Be strong,” “Move on,” and other similar methods of coping with loss. When working with emotionally injured children, you can best help them by not only teaching them how to talk about their feelings, but also about how to grieve.
How do you do this? There are a couple of ways:
One is through personal example. Here, you demonstrate your own grief about something.
Another is when you ask your child questions, such as, “What do you miss about so-and-so?” Or, “If you could talk to so-and-so, what would you say?” Try to ask open-ended questions that generate feelings.
Grieving involves processing through feelings until they are complete. Children need not analyze this concept. They just need permission to talk, cry, be angry, and express their emotions until they are done. Grief is finished when it’s finished. There is no timeline for grief, and everyone processes emotions on their own schedule. Talk to your child about these concepts and give them permission to “process” through any feelings at their own pace.
The food your child eats can have a profound impact on their mood and ability to cope with traumatic stress. Processed and convenience food, sugary foods and snacks can create mood swings and worsen symptoms of traumatic stress. Conversely, eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can help your child better cope with the ups and downs that follow a disturbing experience.
Focus on overall diet rather than specific foods. Kids should be eating whole, minimally processed food—food that is as close to its natural form as possible.
Limit fried food, sweet desserts, sugary snacks and cereals, and refined flour. These can all exacerbate symptoms of traumatic stress in kids.
Be a role model. The childhood impulse to imitate is strong so don’t ask your child to eat vegetables while you gorge on soda and French fries.
Cook more meals at home. Restaurant and takeout meals have more added sugar and unhealthy fat so cooking at home can have a huge impact on your kids’ health. If you make large batches, cooking just a few times can be enough to feed your family for the whole week.
Make mealtimes about more than just food. Gathering the family around a table for a meal is an ideal opportunity to talk and listen to your child without the distraction of TV, phones, or computers.
One important topic you can introduce to your child is the concept of boundaries. Boundaries can be physical and emotional. Physical boundaries include a person’s body and physical space. Emotional boundaries include how a person is treated emotionally, mentally, and psychologically.
Art is one effective intervention for teaching children this concept. You can draw a picture of a line, wall, or some type of boundary indicator. On one side of the line, write down attributes of healthy boundaries, such as, “respect,” or “does not touch me in a way that is unsafe.” On the “boundary violation” side of the barrier, write a list of unhealthy boundary violators, such as “name calling,” or “yelling.” You and your child can create this drawing together.
Of course, you will need to use age-appropriate language. The main concern is to teach your child emotional intelligence and about how to protect themselves from unsafe relationships.
Teach your child that it is okay to talk about difficult memories. Explain that they have a “hurt self” that needs to be healed. In addition, let your child know they aren’t only hurt, but that they also have a “healthy self” or “strong self” capable of overcoming hard things. The strong self will help heal the hurt self.
To help your child identify what is hurt, you can ask questions about thoughts, fears, feelings, and dreams. See if your child can identify how they experience the pain from the trauma they have endured. If your child is not interested in going that deep, just talk to them. Say, “I know you are hurt. Here are some suggestions for helping yourself heal.”
It is helpful for parents and other significant leaders in a child’s life to learn how to teach them important life lessons, especially those involving emotions. Since most people generally do not understand emotional health, this can prove challenging—mainly, because most people haven’t been taught themselves.
I recommend drawing two pictures for your child: one a hurt child, and one a healthy child. The hurt child could look sad and have tears. The strong child could look steadfast and concerned. Teach your child that these two “parts of self” exist within them, and that their job is to learn how to nurture and heal the hurt part of the self.
Trauma can alter the way a child sees the world, making it suddenly seem a much more dangerous and frightening place. Your child may find it more difficult to trust both their environment and other people. You can help by rebuilding your child’s sense of safety and security.
Create routines. Establishing a predictable structure and schedule to your child’s or teen’s life can help to make the world seem more stable again. Try to maintain regular times for meals, homework, and family activities.
Minimize stress at home. Try to make sure your child has space and time for rest, play, and fun.
Manage your own stress. The more calm, relaxed and focused you are, the better you’ll be able to help your child.
Speak of the future and make plans. This can help counteract the common feeling among traumatized children that the future is scary, bleak, and unpredictable.
Keep your promises. You can help to rebuild your child’s trust by being trustworthy. Be consistent and follow through on what you say you’re going to do.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be afraid to admit it. Don’t jeopardize your child’s trust in you by making something up.
Remember that children often personalize situations. They may worry about their own safety even if the traumatic event occurred far away. Reassure your child and help place the situation in context.
Help your child identify things they tell themselves about life or personal identity. Beliefs children often have when hurt tend to be very personalized; beliefs such as, “I am unlovable,” “The world is not safe,” or “I will never be happy again.” Any type of negative, devaluing belief can be ingrained in a child’s head for years, decades, or even a lifetime. It is beneficial to help your child identify these beliefs early on.
Have your child write down a list of unhealthy beliefs. Some include thoughts such as, “If I were a better child, my mother would not be on drugs,” “If I were thinner, my friend would not have rejected me,” or “I need to be a perfect student to have a good life.” If your child is old enough, work with them to identify unhealthy beliefs.
Once these unhealthy thoughts have been identified, make a list of helpful, healing beliefs for your child to replace the unhealthy thoughts. After this, remind your child to replace the unhealthy beliefs with the healthy beliefs. Make sure they understand this process is building an essential inner recovery “muscle” and will require practice to develop.
Usually, your child’s feelings of anxiety, numbness, confusion, guilt, and despair following a traumatic event will start to fade within a relatively short time. However, if the traumatic stress reaction is so intense and persistent that it’s interfering with your child’s ability to function at school or home, they may need help from a mental health professional—preferably a trauma specialist.
Warning signs include:
When children experience abuse, abandonment or other deep hurts, the adults in their lives may not know how to help them. Many people believe topics like psychological healing only belong to the professionals. But “professionals,” however helpful they may be, do not have enough time to impact children in the same way as those who are involved with them daily.
Whatever the age of your child, it’s important to offer extra reassurance and support following a traumatic event. A child’s reaction to a disaster or trauma can be greatly influenced by their parents’ response, so it’s important to educate yourself about trauma and traumatic stress. The more you know about the symptoms, effects, and treatment options, the better equipped you’ll be to help your child recover. With your love and support, the unsettling thoughts and feelings of traumatic stress can start to fade and your child’s life can return to normal in the days or weeks following the event.