Author and social worker Miranda Featherstone joined us on February 1 to dive into how to talk to kids about bodies, sexuality, reproduction, and gender at every age. Miranda said that while you can’t possibly script and prepare for every conversation, you can use some basic guidelines to prepare for any current and future discussions.
She said, “As with most big issues that come up in parenting, conversations with your kids will be easier if you already have articulated–to yourself, to your co-parent, to those with whom you talk about important parenting decisions–your own values. If you’re not sure, start paying attention to the media and communities around you, and think about your journey of gender, sexual orientation, sexuality, and your relationship to your body. What values do you see reflected in your family’s world? Where do you experience conflict?”
Miranda encouraged parents to consider what information their child needs in their current and future developmental stages. She then encouraged the audience to think about how these things come together in their world. What do you need to add to the messages your children are receiving? Are there messages that you want to qualify or try to interrupt?
She shared some tips for answering questions and having these conversations as they come up:
● Use words like “mostly,” “usually,” and “a lot of the time.”
● Use kid-friendly language, and when possible, avoid introducing new vocabulary AND new ideas together: look to books for examples.
● Answer kids’ questions with as much comfort and frankness as you can muster! Be honest if you need more time or don’t know. Revisit if you have second thoughts about an earlier answer.
● It doesn’t have to be that deep! Answer questions or address things briefly as they arise–in front of your mother-in-law! At the dinner table. You don’t need a quiet, tender moment 🙂
● If your kids don’t ask on their own, you’re not off the hook! Offer digestible information after reading a related book or watching a show or movie where someone has a baby… or a relationship!
● It’s always a good idea to find out what a kid already knows before offering any information.
Miranda shared the books and resources below to consult as you navigate these topics, below.
Resources for Kids & Caregivers
➛ Books for kids & teens (and for caregivers):
Preschool-Elementary: Tyler Federer’s Bodies Are Cool, and Lizzie DeYoung Charbonneau’s Your Whole Body Book
Elementary: Rachel Brian’s Consent (for Kids!)— Also recommended: the author’s book on worries!
Ages 4-10: Robie Harris’s less inclusive but more concrete trilogy (It’s Not The Stork, It’s So Amazing, and It’s Perfectly Normal)
Ages 8-10: Cory Silverberg’s trilogy (What Makes A Baby, Sex Is A Funny Word, and You Know, Sex)
Ages 8-12: Sonya Renee Taylor’s Celebrate Your Body (And Its Changes, Too!) and Rachel Simon’s The Every Body Book
➛ Resource (for caregivers): National Sex Education Standards (2nd Edition): https://siecus.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/NSES-2020-2.pdf
➛ Podcasts (for caregivers): The Puberty Podcast
➛ Instagram (for caregivers): @sexpositive_families @givingthetalk @kristinbhodson @talkyounevergot
➛ Websites (for teens and caregivers) www.scarleteen.com and www.sexetc.org
By Sarah Muncey