The Birds And The Bees, Part 2

Communicating your Families Beliefs

In my last post, The Birds and the Bees, Part 1, I covered the idea that Parents are the Model for their children. Parents are the number one influence on future decisions teenagers will make regarding their sexuality. As parents how do we guide them through this phase of their lives?

The message that most kids get from their parents about sex is simple:

Rule #1 Don’t do it!

Rule #2 Follow rule number one.

It is important for parents to communicate with their kids what their family believes about sex.

I can not tell you what that belief should be. That is up to you and your spouse but this step is crucial —-Tell your kids. Communicate your beliefs. Express your views, tell your kids what your family believes, whatever that is. If your family believes no sex until marriage— great. Communicate that. If your family believes no sex until you are in love —- fine. If your family believes something different—-no problem; they’re your kids, not mine. Discuss your family’s morals and values. I’m not going to tell you what to say, but you should tell them what your family believes. The morals and values of the family lays the foundation for your children. Once you have done that step now comes the harder question —- If I ask your kids, what does your family believe? Could your kids tell me? It’s a little harder. Many parents feel like they have communicated very clearly, but if I ask their kids “What does your family believe about sex?” The kids don’t know the answer. …… Something to think about…If you have communicated something to your children and they can not repeat it back then the message has not truly been received. It has not been internalized.

When your children are young they will accept the parental views and make them their own. As your child transitions to the teen years, things get more complicated…

As children become teenagers things change.

While the family belief system will still serve as the foundation, your child will begin to develop their own beliefs about sexuality. Parental influence is still a factor but it is no longer the only factor in their decision making. The determining factor is actually what is in their own minds ——-Your child beliefs (not yours) will guide their decisions. This is hard to swallow but crucial for parents to understand.

The average age of the first sexual encounter is 16.5 years old. The average age for marriage is 29.5. That’s a long time to wait and if the only information a child has is “wait until marriage” then that answer may not be enough when they are 27 years old. I grew up in a Christian home. I remember being involved in Young Life and we were taught no sex until marriage. I remember many serious debates around the age of 15 on where exactly was the line? Where’s the loophole? How far can we go? I also remember a funny episode of Seinfeld where they debated what exactly defines when sex has occurred. We wondered about that too at that age.

Using data from the CDC YRBSS before age 13 only 3.5% of kids have had sex. But by ninth grade, it jumps to 20%. By twelfth grade, slightly over half of kids have been sexually active.

As your children transition from elementary to the teen years, our parental communication must evolve.

We must transition from a monologue — telling kids what to believe– to a dialogue. When they are young, you tell them very specifically what to do and your kids do what you say. As they get into junior high, this paradigm shifts. They are still very much influenced by what you say, but their actions are more determined by what they think—what they believe. Our children are growing up and they’re becoming independent. If I ask your children what do they believe about sex would their answer surprise you?

In the next post we discuss some specific communication techniques you can use to improve the dialogue with your child.

Learn more about Dr. Livingston here

Further Reading:

The link from this book cover is tied to Amazon. Proceeds generated are donated to the Irving ISD Teen Parenting program, a drop out prevention program for students who are pregnant or parenting.


The Birds And The Bees, Part 1

You Are Their Model

Many people ask me how should they talk to their children about sex. My short answer is parents and their children must have an ongoing lifelong dialogue and not a one-time conversation. This next series of posts are designed to help you open your mind to new ideas and different ways of thinking about how to handle this challenging issue with your kids.

Think about this for a second —— “How did you learn about sex when you were a kid?” Reflect back to those awkward years between sixth, seventh and eighth grade—— kids were talking about sex. You had questions and maybe you asked a trusted friend or sibling. Maybe you saw things on TV, the JCPenney catalog, or if you were lucky you found a copy of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Some kids even performed the 1980’s version of Googling and found an encyclopedia to look things up. The key here is that you found ways to get the answers to the questions on your mind. You filled the void.

So what do our kids do in 2019 to find the answers they have about sex? Our multitasking, Facebooking, iPad playing, Tik Toking, Netflix watching, Intagram posting, Snapchatters have immediate access to information. Just like us they have questions about sex, but the difference is they live in a world of information overload. They are one click away from answers to any question. So specifically, how do kids learn about sex? They learn a little bit in school in health class. They learn from their friends. They learn from other media, TV shows, and music. Most importantly, kids learn a ton from the Internet

Despite all of this access to information what actually influences their decisions? The answer is YOU——The parents. Here is the good news. Parents still matter. Study after study shows this crosses socioeconomic, cultural and racial barriers. The number one influence on what a child believes, and ultimately is going to do about sexuality, actually comes from you. It’s good to know we parents still matter because sometimes it does not feel that way.

Parents are the model for their children. From the time they are born, your children watch everything you do. They are learning about sex from you all day every day, even when you think they’re not watching. They watch what happens when one parent comes home from work. How did you greet each other? They notice the intimacy, the engagement, the hugs. They see and feel the love a couple expresses for one another. They notice your reactions and emotions. What happened in a movie when there was a romantic moment? How did you react? When mom and dad are talking about other people’s relationships, they’re listening. When an inappropriate joke comes up in a movie or TV show they watch your response. You are their model.

I once heard a speaker described adolescent sexuality with this metaphor. Think of yourself walking down a long hallway with all of these curtains. As you take a step forward, you pull back the curtain and you answer certain questions. As your child gets older you walk further down the hallway and you pullback the next curtain and the next and the next. This is a great illustration of the ongoing dialogue we must have with our children. I believe children are prepared to understand any question they ask. If your child asks you a question then answer it on their level. Don’t be embarrassed or shameful. Since I’m an OB/GYN, you can imagine dinner conversation at my house is often very interesting. So my kids at a very young age asked me, how do you get the babies out? When they were young, the answer was simple. “When the baby is ready to be born, it sends a signal to come out between the mommy’s legs and sometimes I make a cut to help the baby come out through the mommy’s stomach.“ That was the answer when they were young. As they got older, I was able to explain in different language exactly what my job entails. Answer the question that they have.

In our next post, we will dive deeper into the subject of The Birds and The Bees and how to help parents navigate through this difficult subject.

Further Reading: