As parents, it's important to help our kids figure out that most of these images are not true portrayals of normal, healthy bodies or sexual behaviors and relationships. So, how can we as parents handle our child's normal and age-appropriate curiosity in a safe way while sharing facts and our values around this topic?
For many preadolescent boys and girls, an interest in sexually explicit magazines and websites reflects both their curiosity and a desire to do something "grown up." If faced with finding your adolescent's magazine under the bed or finding them hunched over the computer screen in the dark, take a deep breath! Try not to make your child feel guilty or ashamed of their curiosity. This is a great opportunity to review your own as well as your co-parent's values about sexually explicit material.
You and your co-parent can take the time to ask yourselves such questions as:
Do the pictures reflect the values you want to pass on to your child about intimate relationships? Communicate these values to your child. You can share your attitudes, feelings and beliefs about these materials by saying something like, "I understand that you are curious about sex, bodies, love and relationships. That's normal at your age. However, I find that these magazines and websites show unrealistic sex and relationships. I feel that sex is an important part of a mature, intimate relationship. It is precious and should be valued, cared for and acted on in a way that is respectful to your self and the one you love. I think these images are often sexist and degrading to women as well as men. In real life, women and men do not have these types of perfect bodies. Not every person participates in these particular sexual acts, and I believe that safer sex, which is not usually present in these images, is a necessity. I'd be happy to share with you some books and information that I think will answer your questions."
If we aren't comfortable with our child's first views of adult nude bodies being of air-brushed, perfect bodies of models, we can encourage them to explore real portrayals of different shapes and sizes of male and female bodies through such books as The Joy of Sex, Our Bodies Ourselves, It's Perfectly Normal, or a human sexuality textbook, as well as photography or art works of natural, nude bodies.
As adults, we may have our own uncomfortable feelings about pornography. However, forbidding these materials doesn't mean your child won't see them. They may turn to friends, an older friend, or the Internet to get the information they are curious about. The important thing is to keep the communication lines open and to use this opportunity to share facts as well as express your values about sex and sexuality. Keep in mind that you are talking to your children because you care about their happiness and well-being!
For more information on how to talk with your child about this topic, visit these websites:
From Diapers to Dating, Debra Haffner
Third Base Ain't What it Used to Be, Logan Lekoff
Don't forget to visit our website for helpful
information about workshops, and much more.
miss an opportunity to
primary sexuality educator for your children.
help? Call our Parent Education Team at
Planned Parenthood League of MA
phone: (617) 616-1658