I recently attended a wonderful discussion led by two individuals whom I admire immensely, Cathy and Todd Adams. While they both wear many hats on a daily basis, their task on this evening was to talk openly about the wide, deep berth of sexuality (encompassing body awareness, physicality, self-care and emotional health) and how to create a family environment where it is respected, acknowledged, modeled and frequently referred to as a normal, healthy and pleasurable aspect of who we are as human beings. The overall message that resonated for me is that our sexuality is a gift to be cherished rather than hidden, shameful or guilt-inducing in any way.
It felt really good to be given the space to talk so candidly about a most natural and vital aspect of the human experience, and yet one that so many adults are highly uncomfortable discussing. As I sat in the audience of more than twenty parents, I was struck by several observations that are the catalysts for this blog today.
First of all, as Cathy and Todd frequently pointed out, many of us must get past simply approaching the topics of body awareness and sexuality in the ways that our well-meaning, but often baggage-laden parents approached it at least two decades ago with us. As the level of consciousness in our world continues to expand, what we offer our beloved children in this, and in all other areas of what it means to participate in the human experience, must expand. As far as discussing sexuality, once a hidden taboo, often seen as dirty and highly repressed human condition, creating all kinds of shame and guilt that can linger in the psyche for an entire lifetime – it is time to fully open the doorway to allow much more light in regard to this topic within families.
I wholeheartedly agree with the major theme of the night that early, open, honest and frequent communication in a loving, direct, matter-of-fact way is highly beneficial in inviting our children to create both an intimate relationship with their own body, as well as the possibility for creating an intimate relationship with a spouse or a partner in the future.
Cathy and Todd espoused that if we wait too long for an opening to have the one big, often highly uncomfortable, “sex talk” with our children, then we miss the opportunity to create ongoing dialogue throughout their childhood and adolescence that naturally grows and evolves as the children grow and evolve. It takes time to deepen understanding, comfortability and intimacy with our own body. This level of appreciation and acceptance cannot occur in a hit and run fashion if we desire body awareness, and a capacity for emotional balance surrounding it to develop.
Due to the openness about sexuality in our family, I must admit that I was actually quite shocked at several of the questions and comments offered by other audience members. While some parents wondered if ten years old was too young to teach a girl child, much less a boy, about periods, others lamented a spouse unwilling to discuss anything about the body, puberty or sex with their children. A willingness to share in a deeper, wider way seemed to be present, but I still felt much fear surrounding discussions on sexuality within our own families.
While every family is, thankfully, beautifully unique, I can only share my perspective and experience stemming from my own childhood—one that was very open as far as sexuality—and of course, what we have offered and seen develop in our own family over the past sixteen years with our three children (two girls and a boy). For us, all functions of the body are natural and to be acknowledged with appreciation, and quite often, humor, too.
A prime example is that all three of our children have known about periods from a very young age. For us, them seeing a tampon in the linen closet and asking about it was no different from them asking about a remote control or a carrot peeler. We simply utilized their interest as an opening to answer honestly and lovingly in a digestible way. Curiosity is a powerful gateway to educate, connect and deepen understanding that doesn’t last forever in our children. For that reason, NO bodily functions, whether teaching toilet training, hygiene, body parts or the different aspects of sexuality need be off-limit or saved for later subjects. I feel that we often don’t give our children enough credit to take in information as early as they are actually able to do so, and thereby, allow them to grow up in a family environment that provides a safe place for questions, answers, release of emotions and joyful self-expression.
As Cathy and Todd shared, there is not one right way or one right time to introduce our children to the vast topic of sexuality, but there does seem to be a growing consensus that if we truly desire to raise children who become whole, conscious human beings with a healthy attitude towards both physical and emotional intimacy as adults, then shying away from educating them and allowing their beautiful sexuality to unfold in a very natural, open way within the safety of the familial nest may be an old paradigm that no longer serves us or them.
Repressed anything, much less repressed sexuality, does not need to be a foregone conclusion in our children as future adults. As parents we only have them under our roof for a relatively short period of time, but the most important time, when belief systems, patterns of communication, emotional well-being and self-love become imprinted in the human heart and psyche. Our children deserve our best attempt to help them not end up with much of the psychic debris and emotional baggage that many of us acquired from well-meaning, but tight-lipped and emotionally unhealed parents.
From my perspective, the most important message that we can offer our children is that we give them permission to be fully themselves in all of their life choices. (For example, in family discussions, my husband and I have expressed several times to our children that straight or gay, we love, honor and support them completely and totally, and that we are here to help them bloom in whatever direction their soul leads them.) This message takes years to be fully felt and received on all levels, and it starts in a home that is open, honest and real when it comes to appreciating all aspects of the human experience, and sexuality, is no exception…
Three CHEERS to my friends, Cathy and Todd, for the willingness to sit before others and speak so candidly about raising the bar to parent children who are comfortable exploring the truly divine nature of their own beautiful body!
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A modern bridge between the mainstream and the mystical, Annie Burnside, M.Ed. is a soul nurturer, award-winning author, and teacher specializing in parenting, conscious relationships, authentic living and spiritual development. Her book “Soul to Soul Parenting” won the 2011 Nautilus Silver Book Award.