Are you the kind of mom who can easily talk to your older kids about sex? Or who WANTS to be that kind of mom when her kids are older?
A while ago I posted a reader question on my Facebook Page, which I thought was really good.
A Reader Asks: “My daughter is getting married and I want to make a fun “honeymoon care package” for her. I’m going to include The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, some lubricant, and candles, but does anyone else have any ideas? Nothing too expensive because we’re on a major budget!”
I was actually kind of surprised by the answers. Maybe not quite half thought it was a good idea, but most women were saying, “Ick! Major boundary issue!”
The night before her wedding I gave my daughter a gift bag with lubricant and condoms.
I knew they were on a major budget and that stuff can be expensive. In fact, I even put condoms and lubricant in my son-in-law’s Christmas stocking this year (and by the way–did you know one of my most popular posts on this blog is stocking stuffers for husbands? Pin it or bookmark it for Christmas!)
So there are two big questions: why do some families think it’s no big deal to be open about sex like this, and why would some families be mortified? And which is right?
Let’s try to dive into this because I think there’s something awfully important going on below the surface.
The way we react to the idea of talking about sex with our daughters is often based on how we feel about talking about it with our moms.
If your mom never talked about sex to you and was very prim and proper and never let it be known that she was a sexual being, then that’s likely how you saw her. She’s a mom, not a wife. And then, if she had suddenly, out of the blue, decided to launch into a conversation about sex it would have been the most awkward thing in the world. All you’d be able to think is “please please please shut up shut up shut up oh won’t you please just be quiet?”
And that’s how we intrinsically think of mother-daughter relationships. It’s based on how we related to our mothers.
Sometimes your relationship with your mom is so rough that you determine to do the exact opposite with your kids, and everything’s fine. But quite often we just repeat what seems natural and normal. And so the idea of having a relatively open-door policy when it comes to conversations about sex seems really weird.
But is that really the way it should be?
Think of the message that this gives kids: sex is something taboo. Sex is something that can’t be talked about normally. Sex is therefore not normal; secretive; and perhaps shameful. It’s something that we’re embarrassed about.
At the same time, we know we’re supposed to tell them that God made sex to be a beautiful part of marriage and that they’re supposed to be enjoy it when they’re married. But if we say those words but also give the impression that “I’m really not comfortable with this”, then we’re sharing mixed messages. And the kids will pick up on the shame part, not the “really great in marriage” part.
Kids are going to gravitate to find information about this from the people who seem to be the most open about it and who enjoy it the most. If you’re always awkward then they’ll assume you aren’t a good source of information because you really don’t want to talk about it.
And, in many cases, they may assume that marriage is where sex goes to die.
But, Sheila, shouldn’t there be boundaries?
Saying that we should talk about sex openly is definitely not the same thing as saying that we should share with our kids the details of our sex lives.
In fact, one of the first bad reviews I had for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex on Amazon was from a woman who said that there shouldn’t be books like this–we should all just be talking to our mothers. And I replied that most people would never want to learn about things in this much detail from our moms.
I have a great relationship with my daughters, but I gave Rebecca the book before she was married, and one of her comments was, “I’m glad you wrote this because now we don’t have to talk about it so much!” Being open to talking about sex doesn’t mean that you have to talk about absolutely all the details.
But you should feel comfortable talking in certain parameters.
If you feel uncomfortable talking with your kids about sex, then there may be issues you have to work through. Either you’re scared of what your kids will do or that they’ll rebel, or you have so many mixed feelings about the whole thing yourself that it’s hard for you to talk about it honestly. If it’s the latter, then please, read something like The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex which can help you see God’s purposes for sex and help stop any shame you may feel. Whatever you do, DON’T inadvertently pass your shame onto your children!
Your kids need more, and deserve more. You need to be a safe place. So work on yourself so that you can be that for your children.
What does talking to your kids about sex look like?
It isn’t one conversation. And I don’t think it’s even planned. It’s just simply participating in conversations when the kids bring it up. Here’s what I mean:
Guidelines for Keeping the Conversation About Sex Open with Your Kids
Answer questions at an appropriate level without freaking out
Kids sense from a very young age when a topic is off limits. A child between the ages of 4 and 10 is going to start to ask questions about sex in some form. If, when they do, you stiffen up and become super formal and sit them down for a “serious conversation”, or if you dismiss it, they’ll learn “there’s something wrong with me for wanting to talk about this” (even if they don’t know what THIS is), and “I shouldn’t bring this up with mom.”
If, on the other hand, you just keep doing what you’re doing and have a natural conversation at their level, it will be fine. I often found that it was when we were doing dishes or riding in the car or something that my chatterbox Katie would come out with something, and I’d just go with it, with no change in tone of voice or anything.
This made the girls feel that they really could ask me stuff.
Use teachable moments as kids grow
I remember the girls being really disturbed a girl they knew when they were about 12-14. This girl would wear clothing that showed her cleavage (she was really well developed at a very young age) and extremely short skirts. She’s openly flirt in church. And my girls could not get over it.
When they brought it up sex would naturally come up–“what do you think the boys are thinking?” or “why do you think she’s dressing like that?” “How can we help her?”
Just be a safe place
I’ve never had to bring up uncomfortable topics because my girls always brought them up first. I remember when Katie was 13 and she came in to my room so upset because “One of my friends is having oral sex with her boyfriend!” Now, I didn’t even know that Katie knew what oral sex was. I was a little disappointed that my little sweet innocent girl did. But while I was flinching majorly inside I didn’t flinch on the outside and we just talked about it and figured out how to pray about it.
Similarly, when Rebecca was 14 she came home from camp one year really disturbed about how the camp had talked about masturbation. Again, I wasn’t sure how much she knew about that word, but she kept talking about it (I can’t remember now what the problem was), and we got through that conversation.
Because I never flinched and just kept on with the conversation without making a big deal about it the girls never thought “I can’t talk to mom about this” or “this makes mom really uncomfortable.”
And then as they grew it became so much easier to talk about porn, too, because that’s such an important conversation, even with girls. Porn is not just a male problem, and we need to make sure our daughters are prepared, too (which is why I really recommend Covenant Eyes as soon as you have any preteens in your house–male or female! Get 1 month free using this link).
Encourage them safely
So now that my daughter is married, I can give her lubricant and condoms. But I don’t ask her if she’s used them! I know she’ll talk to me if she needs to. But I also know that she has a bunch of married friends at church and a bunch of mentors, and if she has specific problems she’ll likely go to them.
So there’s a bit of a divide: we’re comfortable talking about sex in the abstract, but we don’t talk about it in the specific. And I think that’s healthy, because there is that divide between parent and child where you don’t really share about your own sexual self. Maybe it’s because of our hardwired incest taboo or something, I don’t know, but there is a line where most people don’t cross. But to joke about things in general, or to talk about big picture issues, or to point people in the right direction for help–that’s all good to do.
I always wanted to be the kind of mom who could give her married kids lingerie or lubricant! And I’m glad I am.
But what do you think? Should some things be off limits? Let’s talk in the comments!
Oh, and you may also enjoy this post on how to raise kids with a healthy view of sex.
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