Open Book Families
Sexuality should never be something we experience shame about. When we give our kids permission to share their thoughts, feelings, questions, and experiences - we all benefit.
Parents regularly tell us that they want their kids to grow up to be happy adults, and we see them teaching kids skills and values to make that happen. Except so often they are skipping a really important part and it’s mainly because they didn't get any education on it either and don’t know where to start.
Does that sound like you?
Many of us learnt about sexuality from our friends, books, a health movie played in the school gym, magazines, or TV. For kids of today not much has changed except... the internet!
Parent's and caregivers play an important role in relationships and sexuality education. You are the first educators for your kids in most areas and even when you don't talk about sexuality you are still sending a message. Sadly that message might be that it's shameful or secretive.
Starting talking about sexuality early doesn't mean talking about sex. Those first lessons and conversations are actually an important step in protecting your child from sexual abuse.
Sexuality should be joyful, and while it's important to teach kids it's private we also need to help them understand that our sexuality is something to be celebrated.
You might not know but I worked as a Sex & Relationships Therapist for several years. What I learnt in that role was just how important my job as an educator was. So often the issues that couples came to see me with (and these might even be issues you are having as an adult) could have been avoided with sexuality education early on. Creating an environment where a young person feels supported can have lifelong impacts on their wellbeing and relationships.
In today's world, many young people report not learning much or having difficulty getting their questions answered about sexuality from their parents and carers (even though they also report wanting to talk to those people!). For lots of parents and carers, the main fears are saying something wrong or giving the child too much information. That's why Open Book Project provides you with support to become the go-to sexpert at home. Whether you want to learn some tips and strategies through an online course, sign up to a online family learning experience or attend a community education sessions there's something for everyone.
Why is talking with young people about sexuality so difficult?
It doesn't have to be! Download the Teachable Moments Tip Sheet to get started.
One reason it feels difficult is that it means starting and continuing conversations that you probably didn't get growing up.
While it can feel awkward at first, persevering until you can speak comfortably about these topics has a whole range of short and long-term benefits for young people including:
developing behaviours to protect against abuse
establishing firm boundaries with adults and other kids
delayed sexual activity
a greater ability to negotiate consent and pleasure with partners in later life
clearer communication with doctors
There is a saying that goes "If you aren't talking to your kids about sexuality, you are the only one who isn't!".
So who else is talking? Friends, peers, tricky adults, tv, media, advertising, and pornography!
Pornography is everywhere and young people are being exposed at younger and younger ages. When a parent discovers their child has been watching pornography they are often scared and react badly, yelling and banning computers and phones.
Having regular conversations about media and sexuality can help minimise the distress for everyone. While you might have been able to avoid this discussion before, there is now little choice as everything about our lives changes and becomes increasingly digitised.
For pre-pubescent children encountering pornography can be deeply upsetting and confusing. Stricter controls need to be placed on the use of technology and usage should be monitored. You shouldn't rely on software filters alone, you are the filter between your child and the world and part of your job is to interpret the world for them in age-appropriate ways. It is essential to provide the child space to talk about what has happened and to explore with them what information they might need to support a healthier understanding of bodies and relationships.
For older children, puberty onwards is a time of sexual curiosity. Wanting to find out about sex and searching for answers online is normal behaviour. However, encountering pornography which is often violent and degrading can have lasting impacts on the young person. Starting conversations about relationships can be an easier place to start than launching into porn too so use this opportunity to discuss power and gender in media. Teenagers use technology as part of their dating and sexual expression, and there are many advantages to this safer form of sexual activity (if they have the knowledge and skills!).
Ready to start talking about pornography, protective behaviours, puberty and so much more? Why not start with the free webinar and find out how!