As parents, we are faced with numerous decisions while raising our children, including imparting values and beliefs that are true and important to us. In the vast sea of choices we’ll need to make while parenting, deciding when to discuss sensitive topics like sexuality with our kids requires an honest view of them. No one knows your children better than you do. You are aware of their personalities, level of maturity, and ability to comprehend concepts when you explain them. So you can determine when they are ready for any particular conversations. When the timing is right, you lovingly seize the opportunity to teach them about these subjects.
But what do we do when social media unexpectedly accelerates the timeline and the need for these discussions comes up before the right time? What if your five, six, or eight-year-old comes to you with questions about these topics? In our household, the subject of transsexuality came up unexpectedly for our second grader. After the conversation, I expressed my frustration to my husband, saying “I hate that I have to talk about this with my eight-year-old!”.
When is the right time to have “the talk”, though? Of course all kids are different, but you don’t have to navigate blindly. There are numerous resources to help guide you in this conversation. To quote Ron DeHaas, co-founder of Covenant Eyes, “it is worth saying that teaching kids about sex is a lot like teaching them about anything: It involves not just one conversation but a series of ongoing conversations - some of them formal, some informal.”
Teaching your children about sexuality is your responsibility. While many parents still fight to keep the government or the school system out of this part of their kids’ education in particular, there are those who rely on others to talk about this because that may be an uncomfortable or awkward conversation to have. This can be both dangerous and damaging. An ongoing honest and open relationship is essential for successful parenting. As a parent, you should be your child’s first source of information for important life issues, not the internet, not another person.
You may choose to address these subjects before you are compelled to do so. There is a great benefit to being proactive - it allows you to shape the narrative and provide accurate information to your child, rather than leaving them vulnerable to potentially misleading or incomplete information from external sources. By fostering an open and trusting environment, you can hope to encourage your child to come to you with any questions or concerns they may have in the future.
Educator and author Kim Sorgius defends an early approach to the subject. Having lost her virginity when being abused at an early age, she wasn’t fully aware of what had happened until it was too late. “The truth is my story is actually not that uncommon. There are many young girls who go too far or experience sexual abuse largely in part because they don’t even recognize it. Their parents’ attempts to protect them by not talking to kids about sex become the VERY THING that ends up putting them in danger”, she shared on her website.
However, you are the expert on your own children, so your approach may differ. Irrespective of your family's dynamics, it is important to remember that our culture, world, and society are evolving at an unprecedented pace — a pace that we may not necessarily agree with or find comfortable. Because of that, children today have access to a vast amount of information through various channels, including social media. They may come across content that is confusing, explicit, or misrepresentative of certain topics. As parents, it is our responsibility to guide them through this digital landscape and help them navigate the complexities of the world they live in. By initiating conversations about sensitive topics, we can provide context, clarify misconceptions, and instill our own values and beliefs.
While it may be uncomfortable or challenging to discuss certain subjects with our children at an earlier age than anticipated, it is crucial to remember that knowledge is power. By arming them with accurate information and promoting open dialogue, we empower our children to make informed decisions, develop empathy, and foster inclusivity. These conversations also serve as opportunities to reinforce our family values and strengthen the bond between parents and children.
When my hand was forced by social media, the route we chose was honesty. Of course, we limited ourselves to the basics without going into explicit details, and explained things to our son in simple terms. We are a Christian family, so we also approached transsexuality from a biblical perspective. Our words were measured to meet his level of maturity and discernment, but we were honest nonetheless, we did not dismiss his questions and did not dismiss the subject. Transparency is fundamental in any relationship, and the relationship between parents and children would not be any different.
So here is the food for thought we leave you with: it is essential to have not only an ideal plan where discussions happen at the time you deem appropriate, but today it is also necessary to have a "what do I do now?" plan, so you know what approach you will take when circumstances beyond your control push you to address these topics sooner than you’d like. Here at home, our choice was to answer questions honestly and openly, albeit before we wish we had to. What’s your "what do I do now?" plan?
An accomplished translator and writer, Cami has been in the creative field for nearly two decades. Her experience as a linguist in several fields, paired with her background as a native Latina immigrant (born and raised in Brazil and naturalized American citizen) gives her a unique perspective on the social and cultural context of our society. She has been with Techless since 2022 and currently lives in Michigan with her husband of twelve years, their eight-year-old son, and their puppy Oreo.