FOR SEXSMART CHILDREN
children sex education is an important part of parenting. If youre
reading this page, you are committed to giving your children the
tools they need to grow into happy and healthy adults, sexually
and otherwise. There are several, different ways to do a good job
on your childs sex education. Many people think of sex education
as parents having the talk---sex talk --- with their
children. If you have read Sex Smart, you know that I think that
the most important thing you can do to help your childs sexual
development is to be a good parent, to follow the Milestones of
is formed by the subtle and not so subtle lessons we learned in
our family of origin. Consistent, good experiences with loving touch,
eye contact, trust, empathy, positively constructed body image,
self esteem and power are necessary building blocks. These Milestone
experiences link feelings of being loved and feeling good enough
with other developmentally crucial abilities and associations. For
instance: (1) embodied feelings of pleasure, including (appropriate)
familiarity with the sights, touches, tastes and smells of bodily
intimacy; (2) the ability to tolerate feelings, ones own and
others(3) emotional closeness to another person; (4) relaxation,
trust, safety, and energy flow; (5) the expression of feelings;
and (6) ultimately, the free expression of sexuality. (Zoldbrod,
associations, letting go and turning ones body over to sexual
experience with a beloved other creates dissociation or anxiety,
what you say about sexuality to your children has a lot less to
do with how they ultimately feel about their sexuality than how
you act towards them, and what you model, in their family. In fact,
research by Julia Heiman and others (1986) has shown that experiencing
negative familial and cultural attitudes toward sex
does not, by itself, create adults who have problematic sexual functioning.
For a description
of the different Milestones, click here:
If you grew
up in a family in which each of the Milestones of Sexual Development
unfolded in a very positive way, and you and your partner have a
healthy, respectful and loving relationship, the chances that you
will be able to create a similar family life for your children will
be good. A focus on getting more comfortable talking about sexuality
with your children would be a reasonable thing to do.
If you are someone
who grew up yourself in a family that was abusive, neglectful, alcoholic
or drug abusing, providing your children with a consistently loving
and empathic home life means that you have to be willing and able
to confront, daily, what you, yourself did not get as a child.
I have plenty
of clients who amaze me. They are committed to giving their children
a childhood that is immeasurably better than the one they had. And
it is a complicated process. It can be both painful and pleasurable
to give so much to your children when you got so little. On one
hand, you identify with your children and take pleasure in their
joy in being alive, in their trust in you, and in their self esteem.
At the same time, it is painful to watch them thrive and to experience
so vividly the loss you, yourself, suffered by not having these
good experiences with love, touch, pleasure, trust, intimacy, power,
self-esteem, or friendships. Sometimes the most important thing
you can do to create healthy sexuality in your children might be
to get some support or psychotherapy for yourself. I have often
found that groups for adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs) are amazingly
supportive, even if your parent(s) were not alcoholic. And these
groups are free.
train of thought about sex education is to do it throughout your
childs life, focusing on teachable moments.If
you arent comfortable talking about sex, there are many wonderful
resources to help you.
A Few Books
Gordon, S. and
Gordon, J. (1989). Raising a child conservatively in a sexually
permissive world. New
York: Simon & Schuster.
Harris, R. and
Emberly, M. (1999) Its so amazing! A book about eggs, sperm,
Raising sexually healthy children. New York: Avon Books.
Mayle, P. (1999)
Where did I come from? Seacaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group.
Moglia, R. (1997).
All about sex: A family resource on sex and sexuality. New
J and Schuster, M. (2004), Everything you never wanted your kids
to know about
were afraid theyd ask); The secrets to surviving your childs
sxual development from
Three Rivers Press.
SexSmart (2005) How your childhood shaped your sexual life and
what to do about it. PageFree Press.
A Few Websites
For teens: www.goaskalice.com
For teens: www.teenwire.com
can be ordered from from www.amazon.com, www barnes and noble.com,
or new harbinger.com.
of Kind Parental Touch Lead to A Lifetime Of Pleasure
Aline Zoldbrod Ph.D.
each of us wants to leave our child with a legacy-important
knowledge, good values, something powerful and positive, something
of ourselves which will last in the child, which will be our
gift to them, when we are gone from this earth. This is a
worthy undertaking. But it can be risky and make us feel like
failures, because kids -it turns out- actually are impossible
We struggle, as our kids mature, with this notion of legacy.
Some of us get caught up in the materialism of the world and
are convinced that we won't be able to leave our children
"enough" goodies, as we work to pay our own bills
and worry about retirement. Many times, we sacrifice time,
money, and peace of mind for them: we want them to do better
than we did in the world. We worry about them, at every turn,
and invest in important things like private tutoring for difficult
subjects, or getting up early to drive them to a better school
than the one they could get to easily and without our help.
We sit in an old car drinking coffee, at 5AM every weekday
morning, so they can go to hockey practice. We worry about
their friends. We work hard to talk to them about what we
think are important values, and have to face their wrath and
scorn. "Jeez, Mom, Don't tell me that. Do you think I'm
stupid? I'm not stupid, Mom."
we despair, because our kids grow up and seem to have such
different values than the ones we treasure. The kid whose
parents took her to the symphony becomes mad for rap music.
The father who got up at 5AM to drive his kid to the best
school in the city sees his child crash and burn academically
in his freshman year. Conservative parents who homeschooled
their daughter awake one day to see her become a multiply-pierced,
atheistic, grungy, college dropout. Having invested so much
in our vision of how their future will turn out, it is so
hard not to be scared or disappointed as we watch them navigate
through the waters of life.
As a sex
therapist and a psychologist, and as a parent, as I watch
and experience these struggles with my patients (and in my
life too), what always strikes me is that one of the most
critical legacies we can leave our kids is the most simple:
a childhood full of appropriately loving touch.
The benefits of receiving good touch are lifelong and profound.
Children who are appropriately and lovingly touched will feel
profoundly loved; they will feel they deserve only good things;
they will grow up to experience their body as attractive;
they will feel lovable; they will grow up to be able to self
soothe; their self esteem will be higher; they will feel safe
in the world; and they will feel comfortable expressing their
own loving feelings to others through touching. Memories of
good parental touch last every minute of a child's life, and
these visceral, tactile memories of being so cared for can
be called up during times of loneliness, stress, or illness.
The link our children will make between love and safe, appropriate,
caring touch teaches the most important lesson about sex.
They learn that touch is important. That touching is meant
to be between people who are emotionally attached to eachother.
Our tender touches will make them less likely to have mindless,
souless sex (if that's what you can call back-of-the-bus blowjobs
) with people who are only out to use them. And conversely,
the fact that our children link love, touch, kindness, and
safety will provide a foundation which will allow them later
to experience deep sexual pleasure in an emotionally intimate
Good touch does not get any respect in America, and I don't
really know why. It doesn't get talked about in the newspaper,
it doesn't get Googled much, and it doesn't get discussed
in school (except all the emphasis on not letting strangers
touch you, and keeping your hands to yourself in class).
While you can take courses in massage, (even in erotic massage
there aren't any courses to teach you how to touch your children
as they go through different developmental phases and ages.
Yet what could be a better legacy to leave your kids? The
simple pleasure of routinely being gently bathed, splashing
and having water play, then being tucked into bed, hugged
and kissed by a mother or a father is more powerful than a
million dollar inheritance.
were lucky enough to have had parents who touched you a lot
when you were growing up, then caressing your own children
will seem easy and natural.
My own memories of good times with my parents are heavily
weighted to times of verbal and physical affection, and they
are vivid. My mother generously linked verbal praise and touch.
I recall standing in my house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
as a teenager, wearing a new pale blue flocked dress which
set off my green eyes. I was preparing to go out on a date.
My mom came up, faced me, took me in her arms, hugged me,
and said, "Oh, my angel child." My mom is dead,
yet that 40 year old memory still vibrates with feeling. And
I always feel beautiful in that color. My father expressed
love more by touch than by words. He and I had a ritual of
back scratching which lasted throughout our lives. He woke
me up for school by scratching my back for years and years.
One of my last memories of him, when he was dying of cancer,
is lying next to him in bed and scratching his back. The association
of back-scratching with love and pleasure and connection permeates
my life, and is now a part of my relationship with spouse,
friends, and my kids.
If you weren't lucky enough to have had good touch from your
parents when you were growing up, then learning to touch your
own children is going to be more of a struggle, but it can
be done. If you came from a neglectful or abusive home, it
can be painful to get in touch with what you didn't have.
But it can be a growth point, a way of opening yourself up
to feeling more. For starters, consider getting a regular
massage yourself, so that you begin to link non-sexual touch
and pleasure. Another great way to become comfortable being
more affectionate is to watch other parents with their children
at playgrounds, on the street, or on vacation. Make mental
and written notes of how the parents expressed their affection,
and begin to imagine what this would look like in your own
family. Then, begin to touch in your own family. Think about
ways to reach out physically, and pick one which doesn't intimidate
you. Handholding, for instance. Then just try it. It might
feel awkward, but once you give the message that it's ok to
touch, your kids will reach out to touch you. And even if
it feels awkward at first, feel good about yourself for persevering,
because giving your kids the gift of loving touch is the best
legacy there is.
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