Saturday, March 26, 2011

Talk to Your Kids

Did you know that March is “Talk to Your Kids About Sex” Month? I wonder why March was chosen as this month of sexual conversation. I had forgotten that March had this theme until recently when my oldest daughter reminded me of a story.

The magazine was just a year old when we ran an article on how you should engage your children in conversation at the dinner table. I thought this was a great idea, so every night at the dinner table, I would engage the kids in talking about current events and news items.

One day, I heard a news item about a school system that was going to pass out condoms to high school students without permission from their parents. At this particular time, we had one child in high school, one in middle school and our youngest was in first grade. My oldest daughter was already off to college.

I thought this news item might create some lively conversation, so at the dinner table, I asked the kids what they thought about this. Our high schooler (who is also the most liberal person in the family) thought it was a great idea. High school kids should have control over their lives and make their own decisions. Our middle schooler (who is the most conservative in the family) was outraged. Parents should make those decisions and the schools should not step in. After this exchange our first grader raised her hand (like a dutiful first grader) and asked, “What is a condom?”

I was stunned. In my haste to create conversation, I had forgotten that she might not know about condoms. I can still remember the panic I felt at that instant. What do I say? How do I explain this at the dinner table? Help!

As my husband will tell you, I am not known for thinking fast on my feet. I like to mull things over and come up with solutions. He can beat me in a debate any day of the week. But at this moment, when it was important, I had a stroke of genius.

One of the tricks of parenting is to first find out how much they know. That will tell you a lot and help you answer many questions. So I asked her, “What do you think it is?”

She said, “All those houses in a row.”

And, I answered, “Yes” and, promptly changed the subject.

This experience is very funny in retrospect, but at the time I felt like I had dodged a bullet. But the best thing about it was that WASHFM had a contest just a couple years later for the funniest family story. And we won! The prize was a week’s vacation at Disney World. We had a great time that week and every time I tell the story, I still chuckle.

So, remember this March to talk to your kids about sex. You don’t have to talk about it all month, as they probably would not like that. Having a month set aside with this theme might be a good way to keep this important conversation top of mind.

Happy Parenting,


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