Once upon a time, there was a Fairy Godmother who would come to teach all the children in the land about what happens to their bodies as they get older. Parents of teens loved this Fairy Godmother. The children learned all about puberty and reproduction, and everyone lived healthily ever after. The End.
As parents of young people whose bodies are undergoing tremendous physiological changes, we often wish we had a Fairy Godmother to help us with the seemingly monumental task of educating our children about puberty, sexuality, and reproduction. These are, without a doubt, some of the most difficult and complicated topics that we parents have to tackle as our children inevitably reach physical maturity. Not only is it challenging, but it can also be scary, embarrassing, awkward, and uncomfortable for all parties involved. Believe me, I know. But instead of being afraid or avoiding the situation, perhaps we should see this as an opportunity to go on an amazing journey where we help our child seek information and enlightenment. A journey that involves your child becoming a fully mature man or woman. A journey where you and your daughter both realize that biological reproduction is now possible; and one where you must begin to come to grips with the fact that she not only looks older and wants to be treated as such, but that others (namely those of the opposite sex) are now noticing that she looks older…and hotter, which, of course, sends us parents off into a emotional tail-spin. This is when moms want to hug their babies and lock them up in their rooms, and dads reach for their shotguns!
As you know, the significant journeys that happen in our lives typically don’t happen in one day. Similarly, communicating with your child about topics like menstruation, ejaculation, sexuality, and reproduction takes multiple conversations and significant time, effort, and patience on our part. It takes perseverance as well, since teens usually dread these heart-to-heart, heuristic opportunities as much or even more than parents do. The problem is also that all too often, many parents are either unable or unwilling to take this journey with their child. The end result is usually minimal (if any) communication between and parents and their teens regarding puberty, relationships, sexuality, and reproduction. Ultimately, many teens end up with either no information, or even worse, the wrong information, as they seek answers from their friends, the web, porn, etc. Often, they are also left feeling confused and sometimes even guilty for being curious about their bodies and not understanding what all these changes mean. Why is it so difficult to talk to our teens about sexuality? There are lots of reasons; the most obvious of which is that sex (and anything remotely associated with sex) is an exceedingly taboo subject in our society.
Because pubertal development, sexuality, and reproduction are all inextricably linked, they become topics (under the larger umbrella of sexual behaviors) that are perceived by some as prohibited, forbidden, and even distasteful, specifically as they pertain to our children. In fact, there are entire organizations, be they religious, political, or social that discourage too much focus on these topics for fear of promoting or encouraging our children to go out and “go wild.” But I am here to say that it behooves us all to provide our children with as much accurate information as possible. After all, knowledge is power, right? In all fairness, I should point out that there are some parents out there who discuss all these issues (and more) with their children, and do so with both ease and grace. These parents begin encouraging their children early on to openly discuss body parts (the correct, scientific names; not cutesy nicknames like wee-wee or hoo-hee), functions, development, and other issues associated with pubertal maturation – all without a hint of embarrassment or shame. To these parents: I salute you. It takes great courage and determination to keep our children truly informed, particularly, when puberty and sexuality are not at the top of teen’s favorite things to discuss with their mother or father. I encourage all parents to embrace this challenge and take the opportunity to talk to your child today about the normative process of puberty and sexuality. The human body is a beautiful and wondrous thing, and despite the feelings of discomfort or protectiveness when it comes to our own children, the fact remains that we are all born to be sexual beings. So, close your computer and go have a chat with your kid. You will both look back on it one day and maybe laugh a little, but you’ll be glad you did!