Photo Courtesy Jennifer Cook
Photo Courtesy Jennifer Cook

If you have ever been “forced” to learn something new, such as the basics of social media or blogging, I don’t have to tell you how frustrating it can be. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, another glitch rears it’s ugly head and sets you back another hour. With any emerging skill, it is crucial to start from the ground and work your way up, regardless of how much general knowledge a person may have. Understanding the basics of any new competence forms the roots from which your new knowledge will (hopefully) grow. That’s how learning works.

Your brain builds upon information it already knows. For example, there is a reason we teach people how to add and subtract before we dive into algebra – without the concepts of basic math, algebra just isn’t going to happen. And for some of us, algebra just doesn’t happen anyway. (Why DO they put those little letters in math problems, anyway?)

Think about our adolescents and sexual health. Teaching our children about the basics of reproductive and sexual health provides the essential groundwork from which their knowledge can grow. Knowing proper terms for their va-jay-jays (vaginas) and willies (penises) is a great start. (See what I mean?) I’m not saying never use slang – that’s not realistic. After all, don’t we all want to Save the Tata’s? First, be sure kids know basic and proper terminology, then you can start messing with their heads with the slang. Please use appropriate, non-offending slang. Some words are entirely unacceptable – and you know which words I mean.

Modeling skills related to decision-making, consequences from our choices, respect for others, taking responsibility for actions…you get the idea… helps kids develop into respectable humans. These skills are all part of a person’s sexuality, too. They use this foundation to navigate their decisions about when and with whom to engage in an intimate relationship, how to keep themselves and their partner safe from unintended pregnancy or STI’s, and honoring their partner’s sexuality values.

What you do, what you say, what you watch…it all matters. It is important for parents to lay the groundwork about healthy sexuality. No, please don’t tell them details about your own sex life. Rather, talk openly about issues you see on the media. When you hear a sex-related term, ask them if they know what it means. If not, you can explain it to them using your personal values – or just give it to them straight! You know your own kid. And if neither of you know the answer, look it up!

Laying the roots for your kids when it comes to the physical, mental/emotional, and social aspects of sexual health will allow them to build upon that knowledge and navigate their sexual world in a manner that follows their personal value system.

Will they always make the best choice?

Well, let me ask you…did you? It’s okay. Even mistakes help build our knowledge base; and that is how we grow and learn as individuals. Offer support and guidance as your young person navigates through adolescence and the incredible physical and personal growth that occurs. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.