Children are so incredibly smart and intuitive. They observe, they watch, they pick up what they see, and apply it to their own lives. That is why parenting is such a great responsibility. What we model through our own actions is what will shape our children’s understanding of themselves and the world.
There are certain aspects of being a parent that come naturally and easily to us, for example, teaching them certain life skills and values such as respect and honesty; but there are also certain that are uncomfortable (for some parents) to discuss and explain – for example, sex, sexuality and physical relationships.
Unfortunately, the one-time sit-down, also known as “The Talk”, about the birds and bees is not enough to help them understand the complexity of such an integral, healthy and natural part of life and who they are.
Though parents may not talk about it often, be assured that your children are learning more from you about sex than you think.
Here are five ways you’re teaching your child about sex and don’t know it.
NEXT PAGE Sex and the spouse
- How we treat our spouse
Fathers and mothers are the first role models that children have, and how spouses treat each other become a foreshadowing of their children’s expectations.
Daughters look to their fathers as an example of how a man should be, and to their mothers for how she can be a good wife someday. Likewise, sons see their dad as the man they would like to become, and their mothers as the “life peg” for the kind of wife they’d like to have in the future.
How you treat your partner teaches your child how to respect the opposite sex. Is your relationship with your partner seen as something dominating or loving? All these will shape the way your children perceive ideal/normal physical and emotional relationships.
- Sex and body image
How parents react to their children’s weight, looks, and physical qualities have a great influence on how a child learns to appreciate and relate to his body. On the other hand, how you talk about your own body and others will have an immense effect as well. If your son or daughter hears mommy saying, “I look fat today, I shouldn’t go outside because I look horrible,” how do you think that will play out?
On the other hand, commenting about someone else’s body – “She should lose a few pounds before wearing that dress.” or “She looks hot in that skirt.”– also has negative effects.
- Our response to sex in media
With everything that’s being shown on media today, from the sexually suggestive content on TV, music videos and such, we may have become desensitized to it all. Isn’t twerking a normal thing now? Didn’t Nicki Minaj’s provocative Anaconda music video play on loop on MTV?
When our daughters see that it’s “normal” to dress provocatively, and when our sons see that it’s socially acceptable to treat women as objects of desire, we as parents need to step up and start explaining to our children how to respect their own bodies as well as other people.
NEXT PAGE Sex as a taboo subject
- By not talking about sex
Especially in Filipino households, sex and sexuality are topics not to be discussed around the family table. And while there is a place and time for such conversations, we need to encourage an environment of openness and dialogue so that our children will not be afraid to ask us questions about sex. When we don’t talk about sex and admonish our children when they do ask, we are teaching our children that sex is bad, which is inherently not. (Of course, depending on their age, we should provide them with age-appropriate answers.)
As they grow older, they will have more access to information online and they may turn to their friends for answers, which we all know may not be all that credible. So it may be better to nurture an open relationship so that should at any time they may want to ask something, they can go straight to the source- you.
- Not referring to body parts by their proper names
When we are reluctant to call our private parts by their name – penis, vagina, vulva, scrotum, etc. – a child will pick up that certain body parts make us uncomfortable and it connotes a sense of shame. Studies show that by teaching your children the proper names of body parts, this gives them a sense of empowerment over their own bodies.
READ: The role of parents in sex education
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