I spent this weekend binge-watching the new Netflix series Sex Education. In the series the main character is a teenage son of a sex therapist single mother. I thought this might be a good opportunity to talk about some of the good things and not so good things that kids can experience from having a sex positive parent.
As a sex therapist I have thought quite a bit about what knowledge I wanted my kids to have and not have. I wanted them to feel comfortable naming their body parts which is an issue for a lot of kids. Many aren’t taught the real words for their genitals which makes it harder to communicate with adults both about health issues they might have and about inappropriate things that might occur.
One of the main things I have done with my kids as well is to teach them early and often about consent. They know they need consent to touch others and they know that they have a right to bodily autonomy and can say no to touch from anyone (much to the chagrin of cuddly grand parent types).
Also my children are very good about talking about feelings. Starting very young we would help them identify what they were feeling and why.. For instance “you seem like you might be angry that I didn’t allow you to have the third donut. I totally understand, however we need to save some donuts for people who haven’t had one yet.” As they’ve gotten older they have gotten pretty good at explaining how they are feeling and why which really helps. This can also lead to them being put in the role of doing emotional processing with peers so be careful to remind them that if other kids are in trouble we need to help them find adults to talk to in addition to trying to help them ourselves.
One of the downsides of sex positive parent is that it can be easy to give kids more information than they actually want. In “Sex Education” the mother has erotic art, sex toys and all sorts of sexuality related information everywhere around her house. I think it’s important to have some boundaries around where the sexuality related material is. Perhaps one accessible bookshelf in case they’re curious and then keep everything else out of sight. I think it is important to answer kids’ questions about sex and give them some basic information but it can be easy to go too far. When you’re answering a child’s sex questions try to keep the extra commentary to a minimum, particularly when they are expressing that they are grossed out by the information you are giving.
I also think it’s very important to try to limit your children’s exposure to your own sexuality as a parent. Sometimes this is easy. Always lock the bedroom door when you’re having sex and keep the sex toys locked up. Sometimes this is less obvious like when you are in a Dominant/submissive relationship and someone goes into a subservient or dominant role without thinking about it. Children will definitely notice things like this and may mimic the behavior in ways that are problematic. This is a particular trigger when the dominant uses “Daddy” or “Mommy” as a title. Please keep that language to the bedroom if you have a child at home.
I think one of the other concerns as a sex positive parent is how to deal with the issue of new partner’s coming around. I think it is particularly important to make sure children aren’t left alone with new partners and that some sort of thought process is going on around how children are experiencing or not experiencing partners based in their developmental stage. There is a lot to be said for not introducing new people to the children as partners until the relationship is serious. If you’re not sure if a relationship is going to be long term there’s a lot to be said for introducing someone new as a friend. After all, kids have sleepovers with their friends, the concept isn’t too foreign.
If you need to talk more about sex positive parenting we can set up a one time consultation with one of our sex therapists.