A friend introduced me the other day (“She teaches sex ed to teens, and is a Life Coach”), and the person said, “What do I tell my 7-year-old about Jamie Lynn Spears?” This confirmed my suspicion that the topic is on a lot of people’s minds. Wonderful, well-meaning parents of tweens who idolize Ms Spears for her role on her TV show, and who have put off having “the talk” with their children, are now faced with what to do and say. Here are some suggestions.
- Talk to your kids about sex. From the time they are born, be as matter of fact about their genitalia as you are about their eyes and ears and noses. Give them the right names. Practice saying the words penis and vagina and vulva and testicles if they make you uncomfortable. Make an agreement with yourself and your spouse that any embarrassment and shame about sexuality ends with this generation.
- Use resources on this topic. There are many resources available through books, Planned Parenthood and other agencies to help you talk with your child about sexuality. Find some that fit your family and your values.
- Get knowledgeable about issues youth are currently dealing with regarding sexuality. Regardless of your personal opinion about sexual activity, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual orientation, and labiaplasty, your children have to or are going to have to deal with these issues. They will know people their age who are gay (the stats are 1:10, so figure on average 2-3 people in each of their classes), who get pregnant or get someone pregnant, who have sexually transmitted diseases, and who come to them for advice. Research shows teens want to talk to their parents. Know what you’re talking about. Be available. By the way, labiaplasty refers to corrective surgery on labia, usually to reduce their size. Though there are some medical reasons for this, there is a growing trend in women under 30 to have this procedure done for cosmetic reasons. For a refreshingly real resource for teen girls, check out the book Body Drama by Nancy Amanda Redd, a former beauty queen who got tired of unrealistic expectations and airbrushing. None of the pictures in her book are touched up.
- Use this story as a gift given to you to begin, continue, or deepen discussions with your child around sexuality that are appropriate to their age and knowledge. Silently thank Jamie Lynn for sharing her situation with all of us. Whether it spurs you to talk to your young child about “the birds and the bees” or your teen about your values, decision-making, and safe sex, it’s an important conversation to have. New stories about sexuality happen all the time. Open your eyes, take a breath, and talk to your kids about sex. Think about all that’s at stake. It’s worth any uncomfortable feelings you may have.
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