As a young girl, car rides to and from our summer home at the Jersey Shore left an indelible mark. To this day, whenever I return, the salty sea air and the blinking fireflies that usher me over the bridge, remind me of “the talks” my twin sister and I used to have with our parents, my Dad in particular, on those seasonal journeys.
Don’t underestimate how rich and full of promise time on the road with your nieces and nephews can be. It is one of the ripest opportunities for open discussion, especially when it comes to delicate subjects.
Growing up, it was during age appropriate, frank conversations with my parents on long car trips helped shape my framework of what constitutes a healthy sexual relationship.
But while the conversations might have been uncomfortable, I am indebted to my parents for initiating those discussions at a very early age.
God bless my father, he is a simple man with a very simple sense of logic. Over the years he drilled into our heads what at times seemed like laughable criteria on which we should never compromise when it comes to physical relationships. His pearls of wisdom on those long trips down to the shore though echoed in my ears and helped me think on my feet when I found myself, as I got older, in shall I say, compromising situations.
Sex expert and regular contributor to O magazine, Dr. Laura Berman would be proud.
"What you need to do as a parent is arm them [children] with knowledge that will guide them well into adulthood," says Berman. “You want to start these conversations early with your kids -- before they find themselves in the circumstances where they’re having to make those healthy sexual decisions.”
Use Real Language
With my twin-sister and I held captive, my father capitalized on the opportunities to impart his acumen on the topic, without mincing words or using euphemisms, which is critical and serves a two-fold purpose, according to Cicely Richard at Helium.com. "It can start the sex-talk process, and this information can be a protection against predators who search for children who don’t know their bodies," says Richard.
Let’s be honest, talking about sex can be awkward. But research shows when kids are occupied and the need for direct eye contact is eliminated, their defenses are lowered which allows conversation to flow more effortlessly. Cue the long road trips!
While it might be tempting to avoid the subject as long as possible and even get it down to just one "big talk," it is advisable to maintain an open dialogue.
One Big Talk?
According to Dr. Mark Schuster, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and chief of general pediatrics and vice chair for health policy at Children’s Hospital, Boston, "If parents are waiting for the right time to talk to their kids about sex, they’ve probably already missed their window of opportunity."
Over the years, as funny as some of the things my Dad told us were, I’ve found I sound just like him when I pass on the same sure-fire advice to my nieces and nephews.
For aunties, there is more to consider
However, the topic of sex can be tricky for an auntie because it is important to maintain respect for the value systems of the parents of our little darlings, which sometimes can be in direct contrast to our own. So how does an auntie handle this?
The best advice comes right from our own Savvy Expert, Natalie Robinson Garfield. Appearing recently on ABC News, with our founder Melanie Notkin, Natalie emphasized "communication, communication, communication" with parents, so when touchy subjects come up, we respect their authority while being the best supporting cast member to the family we can.
So remember these three important tips when talking to your kids about sex:
- Don’t wait to have one big talk
- Start introducing the subject early
- Use real language. Avoid euphemisms.
And I would add one more thing. Aunties can be a parent’s best ally. Sometimes kids seek out their aunties for advice about things they feel uncomfortable talking to their parents about. Remember that you are there to support parents in raising healthy, sexually responsible kids.
As our founder Melanie says, "It takes a family village."
Originally written by Stephanie Baffone, LPCMH, NCC, an Expert on Love & Loss, for SavvyAuntie.com