Questions from the Field
(Parent): How much influence do you think a parent really has when it comes to their kid's choices about how far to go and whether to have sex? Also it it really true that oral sex has become as common as we're led to believe? What kind of activity are you seeing with the kids you work with? And how young are they starting it?
(Parent Educator): Parents really do have a lot of influence. The earlier parents can start answering kids' questions honestly and age-appropriately, the easier it is to maintain that influence. Ultimately, it's true that parents can't control kids and their decisions. At some point kids will be making decisions for themselves. However, if kids' have heard parents articulate their values and expectations over and over throughout the years, they will be in a good position to remember those when they are facing big decisions. It is really important that kids have accurate information about sexual health before they face those decisions. Parents can play a big role in providing that too.
Research really validates that parents are THE most influential force for kids when they make decisions about sex.
As to the oral sex question—certainly some kids do have oral sex. I think it's hard to say if it's more common, but we do see a generational divide in that the younger generation does not consider oral sex as intimate as vaginal sex. They believe it's safer, and while you can't get pregnant with oral sex, you can get sexually transmitted infections. It's important to talk to kids about this reality.
Kids as young as young as middle school are experimenting with oral sex. Let's be clear - most middle schoolers aren't, but many are. As kids get older, they engage in more and more sexual activity. But, we know that by 12th grade about 50% of students report being sexually active.
(Parent): Any tips on addressing the kids (ages six and eight) after discovering mom and dad, um, getting intimate? Thanks
(Parent Educator): Don’t you hate it when that happens? Be assured that it happens all the time. It’s good to remember that we want our kids to know that sex happens in the context of loving, caring relationships, and what your kids saw, while embarrassing is not necessarily unhealthy. It’s a good teachable moment, and a chance to communicate some of your values to your kids.
You could say something like “When two adults really love each other and care about each other, one way they express their feelings and share their love for each other is to hug, touch and kiss each other without their clothes on.” If you felt it was a good time, you could say “this is what some people call ‘sex’”. Also, it’s a good opportunity to offer some values around the context in which sex is OK—like “This is something just for adults, who love each other and are in long-term relationship or married”.
It also might be a good time to read a book with your child. Again, Robie Harris’ “It’s So Amazing” or Marc Brown’s “What’s The Big Secret” are good options for this age.
Other Common Questions From Parents
Parents of younger children:
- How long is it okay for parents to bathe with children of the opposite/same gender?
- When should my child know about sexual intercourse?
Parents of teens:
- How do I start the conversation? I've been waiting for my child to ask questions (to signal to me when he's ready to learn or curious) but he never did, so I didn't bring up any information and now he doesn't want to talk to me about anything related to sexuality!
- Isn't talking about sex and safer choices sending a mixed message?
- What is sexting?
- Is dating in middle school okay?
- What's up with co-ed sleepovers?
If you are looking for tools to confidently answer these questions and to learn more, consider attending an It's That Easy! Parent Educator Training.