Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Every once in a while, you hit a nerve in a most unexpected way. Today (as of the writing of this post) I asked what I thought was a very simple question on my social media page. As it turns out, I don’t know that I worded it correctly. I wrote, “[f]or those who have older children, when did you (if you ever) stop worrying about if they are having sex, and just realize that they are and start having adult conversations with them about it?”
It was based on an odd random thought that I had. I have no children of my own, but it seems like for parents of children, there are really three stages in the sexual development of their children. First, it’s safe to assume that (unless something truly horrible happens that is not the topic of this post) they are not sexually active. This is an innocent childhood, and frankly, I would wish any child a long innocent childhood. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t happen in this day and age. For safety (so something truly horrible is less likely to happen), children should be taught early about certain topics, age appropriate, of course, such as “good” and “bad” touching. The concept that the child can say “no” and how to respond if that’s not accepted (including, for example, a child that does not want hugs) is critical.
The second stage must be one of questioning whether or not the child is sexually active. Once they’re physically (and hopefully emotionally) mature enough for sex, and interest in it, there is still a time when it’s not clear if they’re actually engaging in it. This, it seems to me, would be the proper time to teach them about safe sex, “no means no” and respect for and from your partner.
Finally, there must be the stage where the child is old enough that, no doubt, they’ve already had and are actively having sex. I’m not sure when or where this happens, and I am curious about that. Suddenly, the parent can just talk with the child in a friendly, open, honest way. “Have you ever been tied up by a sexual partner?” for example. I would think, and this might be wrong, that most of the time conversations like this would originate from the parents. Would this happen when the child is in their twenties? Only after they are married? Thirties? After college?
I don’t think the way I worded the question came across like that, or maybe a lot of people just want to be involved in this kind of conversation. Several of my friends responded (including a long-running crush of mine which was a little bit weird for me) about their children who are still young (middle or high school), giving their thoughts on open discussions with children of all ages. I had one friend who doesn’t even have children but wanted to be involved.
I loved this. To be honest, I think it’s a reflection of how people want to have the opportunity to talk on, consider and share opinions on topics such as this. My friends know my situation (childless), my natural curiosity, and the fact that I just don’t judge. This gives a kind of safe space, even if it is very public, to have discussions such as this. I’m so proud and honored to have friends who feel free to open up and discuss such taboo subjects with me.
One of my friends said that when her daughter came home and announced that she was pregnant, the answer was fairly obvious (although, this one time…). A couple of my friends spoke of having age-appropriate conversations early on in their children’s lives, so they know they can always have open and honest conversations about it. One of my favorite comments along this line was a friend who told me that she also is sure to reassure her daughter that she won’t be disowned if she does get pregnant and is honest about it. My single and childless friend shared the alternative perspective (which I love) about how her mother finally started talking with her, in her mid-thirties, as an adult.
The short answer is everybody is different. There are common threads, and I think that today’s generation of young adults seem to be more open about conversations about sex with their children in open and honest ways. This is, in my opinion, a great thing. I’ve long lamented that our society is far too uptight and closed about sexuality and related issues. But I’m also wondering if I should post questions like this more often. It seems like my friends are seeking an outlet for honest and open conversations about topics like this. And have I mentioned how much I love my friends? I love that they trust me, and my other friends, to respond to such radical questions from me. Thanks to all of you.