Today’s Version of “The Talk”
These days “The Talk” takes so much more out of a parent.
Firstly, children need to have it at younger age and in fact so much younger that it should occur before it is even on a child’s radar. Secondly, that “talk” needs to include pornography and the relationship of pornography to intimacy – emotional or otherwise.
Given that smart phones are more available to kids than water, parents must realize that their kids will be exposed to sexual material way before puberty and way before a natural interest in sexuality develops.
As such, the prepubescent child’s view of sexually explicit material is received more like a how to manual, much like a Lego project. Devoid of any aspect of relationships, caring, love or basic humanity the viewed sexual material sets up in the mind of the child that the activities seen on their devise are in a sense normal and indicative of how the equipment – their sexual apparatuses are to be used.
Today’s talk must include a counter-balance to that and while we always wanted to include comments about love, respect and perhaps waiting until marriage, we must now talk about what children can and will be exposed to – and before it happens.
As with any talk, we are not seeking to scare or admonish, but merely to inform. In so doing, we also wish to discuss and impart our values.
There has always been at least 3 reasons for engaging in one’s sexuality: recreation; procreation and; expression of intimacy and emotional connection. There is a fourth reason which unfortunately is sinister in nature and that is to hold power and control over another. This is an abusive form of sex and is seen in one-sided relationships and also seen used as a weapon of war.
Given the 4 reasons for engaging in sex, our discussion should include statements about our morals and values and about consent and about who experiences what in the sexual transaction.
That talk will be different depending on the age of the child.
With the preschooler, we talk of love, caring, relationships and privacy. Preschoolers will come to know about differences in the genitalia of girls and boys. They will naturally explore their differences and compare their body parts with the same fascination of favorite toys. We acknowledge the differences and inform about privacy and who may or may not have access to their private parts and under which circumstances.
Before the child has unsupervised access to the Internet through any kind of device, the talk includes that they may come across images of grownups undressed and/or playing with their private parts alone or with others (you can appropriately label those parts as you wish).
You can inform the child those are actors and that even if some may look happy with what is going on, being actors, they may not really like what they are doing. You can advise as to your feelings about such material and your views on what should happen if the child stumbles upon it or goes looking for it.
Clear and unequivocal statements as to what acceptable use of the Internet and any connected device is paramount. Clear and unequivocal statements as to what your course of action may be in the event a child is found to attend to such viewing is also advised.
Although controversial for some, I do suggest parents inform their child that the use of the Internet will be monitored by intermittent inspection of the browser history and by going through the history and content of any applications.
As for your younger teen aged child, you have got to know that on average most teens will have viewed porn on a regular basis. Boys likely view more porn than girls, but both do so and for different reasons.
Boys look to porn for the titillation leading to sexual gratification. Girls while at times looking to porn for the same reason, also look to porn to learn how to satisfy the demands of the boy. It is as if the girl’s access to a caring relationship is through the activity seen in pornography.
Forget the old adage, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. These days, girls are learning that the way to a relationship is through the sexual gratification by any means of their intended boyfriend.
As a result of porn, a misplaced sense of girl-power comes from the girl demanding sexual behaviors of the boy also learned through pornography. It is as if pornography has rewired many of today’s youth to see sexual gratification as the only way to form relationships and in the end, no real relationships are gained and intimacy is an elusive dream. In the wake of this path is left devastated and abused teens who then become adults whose ability to form intimate long-standing relationships is challenged.
So, now more than ever, that talk is of vital importance. Having a parental relationship with our kids is of vital importance. Appreciating that gender and sexual orientation are on a spectrum is important for parents to realize and that our kids have long since accepted that reality.
We as parents must learn to turn off our own devices and engage our children more regularly and more readily. It is only through a relationship with our children that we have any influence – social capital. On the basis of that social capital our views and concerns carry more weight for our children’s consideration.
Parenting is less about who you are by title and more about what you do. There is no such thing as good timing for challenging talks. Parents must make the time and open the discussion themselves, lest it be too late. Be frank about your values and morals without threatening or admonishing.
Be the parent. Have that talk.
Food for thought? I would love to read your comments. Please post them below and please share this blog with the links provided.
I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.
If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.
Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships