I read a great article today on how grandparents can be involved in the sex education of their grandchildren. The author talks about how, even if parents are talking to their kids about sex (and many, unfortunately, still don’t), grandparents have a role to play. She says that while parents have to discipline their children, grandparents are free to offer only love and acceptance, making the conversation about sex feel safer and more open than it might with one’s parents. Certainly, however, if parents aren’t often prepared to have “the talk” with their children, it’s likely that grandparents aren’t either—they’re probably the ones who were involved in the lack of sex education of their own children! However, you may find that grandparents are more interested in learning how to talk to their grandchildren about sex than you might think. The author of the article held a training for grandparents at a luncheon club, and while some members of the club boycotted the talk, there were a fair number of people who came. This makes me think that maybe extended families—grandparents, aunts, uncles and so on—might also be good avenues for teaching kids about sexuality. Hearing the message that it’s important to take care of yourself, respect your body and others’, and that human sexuality is a normal, healthy thing from multiple sources and at regular intervals can only be a good thing for teens—and for those who fear that talking about healthy sexuality would be condoning sex among young people (which it isn’t), remember, sexuality doesn’t mean just sex. It’s teaching young people about their bodies, how they work, and how to take care of them, whether or not the young person is having sex. It’s also talking openly about the pressures that young people face, and providing them with the tools they need to make the best decisions for themselves.
Studies have shown again and again that when adults communicate openly, honestly and accurately about sex and sexuality, children respond. When parents are clear about their values regarding sex (and/or unprotected sex), children pick up on those messages and are more likely to behave in the desired way. Parental closeness with their children is even more important in preventing teen pregnancy, and closeness is predicated by communication.
So if you’re a parent, or a grandparent, or a godparent, or someone who cares about a young person, start talking now. If you don’t know how, find out—there are many programs in California designed to help adults communicate with teens about sexuality. If you need help finding one, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or respond to this blog.