Keep the conversation going: How to handle sexuality questions outside of your comfort zone

So let’s say you’re a generally sex positive person, who has taken on the task of being the primary sexuality educator for you kid(s). You’ve had the “where do babies come from? talk years ago, perhaps you’ve discussed safer sex, contraception, maybe even talked about pleasure, and you’ve nurtured a relationship in which your child feels comfortable coming to you with questions and concerns. What could be better? But then one day, they take it to the next level– possibly a level outside of your comfort zone.

Does anal sex hurt?
Why do people use handcuffs for sex?
How do two girls have sex together?
How old were you when you first had sex?

Before jumping to any conclusions, it is wise to ask where the question is coming from. Sometimes we assume that if a kid is asking something about sex it means they’re doing it or interested in doing it. This may not be the case at all. By saying, “That’s an interesting question. What’s made you curious about anal sex? Or, “Well, what do you think people use handcuffs for? Is a way for you to take a deep breath, step back and buy yourself some time, as well as getting to the heart of what may be motivating the question.

The next thing you can do is take that time to check yourself. What’s going on inside? Our values around sexuality are so deeply ingrained, so personal, and often highly charged, that it is easy to be triggered by a question from our children. It is important to acknowledge and respect this. Our values around sexuality are influenced by a lifetime of taking in messages from family, culture, peers, possibly religion and a lifetime of sexual experiences-which could be anything from abusive to mediocre to amazingly wonderful.

So let’s imagine you are triggered. The mere thought that your kid might be interested in S/M or anal sex or is asking about your sex life, is making you queasy. You have options. Even if you feel you can’t fully address the question, it is important to affirm that you’re glad your child feels comfortable coming to you with questions. “I’m happy you feel you can ask me these questions. This is one I’d like to think about before I answer right away. Or “Thanks for trusting me with such a sensitive question. In this particular case, I may not be the best person to answer this for you but I want to be sure you get an honest and accurate answer.

Then you can consider consulting a trusted friend or family member who you feel is better able to handle the question in an honest and matter of fact manner. Or you can consult a trusted resource such as The Guide to Getting It On or a website for teens like Scarleteen.

One of the most important aspects of being the primary sexuality educators for our children is fostering open communication. You don’t need to be a sexpert with all the answers, or even share the same values as your kids, but if they know they can come to you, and you will do your best to give them an honest and helpful response, that will go a long way in nurturing trust in your relationship and in raising a sexually healthy child.

Remi Newman

Remi Newman, MA, earned her master’s degree in sexuality education from NYU and has over ten years of experience creating and facilitating sexuality education workshops in both English and Spanish. As a new mom, she created “Having the talk before they can talk” a workshop for new and expectant parents to help them feel confident as the primary sexuality educators for their kids. Originally from the streets of Philadelphia, she now lives in Northern California with her husband, son, sister and one of her best friends. Find her online at Healthy Sex For Life.

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