How to Talk To Preschool and Elementary Children About Sexual Abuse

Here you go – the magic words you need so you can talk to your kids about this shitty part of life. These scripts are just to get you started as this is an ongoing conversation you need to have with your youngsters.

A note of caution: if you were sexually abused as a child please do not revel this to your children until they are older (17+) and can handle the information. I believe children do not want or need to hear about our childhood traumas. They need to see us as whole and healthy and when you talk about your childhood trauma it can be very scary and upsetting to them because they do not have the emotional or mental capacity to handle this information.

WHAT TO SAY

If your child does not know about sex, then don’t say “sexual abuse” just skip it.

Early Childhood

Sometimes adults and even other kids will try to touch kids in their private areas to make themselves feel good. This is called sexual abuse. The adults who do this know it’s wrong and sometimes the kids do too, but not always. These are tricky people who will try to get kids to do things that are against our family rules.

Please tell me or another safe adult if someone tries to touch you this way. You won’t be in trouble and we will find help for the other person.

If sexual abuse ever happens to you, it’s important to know that it isn’t your fault. It’s never the kids’ fault and if you tell someone, they will make sure the person who is doing the abuse gets help. If that person doesn’t believe you, keep telling until someone does.

Please let me know if anyone wants you to keep a secret from me. We don’t keep secrets in our family. Surprises are okay, like a birthday present or special treat. Never keep a secret that feels sad, scary or bad.

Tween

In addition to the scripts above:

Sexual abuse can be uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s really important to talk about it. I want you to be safe and need to know if something like this happens to you or to one of your friends.

If a situation feels uncomfortable, wrong or even just a tiny bit strange to you, please tell me. It’s better to follow up on those feelings than to ignore them. You might get an “uh-oh!” feeling in your belly. Pay attention to this when it happens. It’s your intuition telling you something isn’t right.

Can you think of a time you were doing something and you had this kind of “uh-oh” feeling? I remember one time when…[tell a tale of when you ignored your intuition].

For more information about sexual behavior in children, child sexual abuse and red flags in adults and kids, check out www.stopitnow.org.

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How To Talk To Your Children about Caitlyn nee Bruce Jenner and Being Transgender

If you’ve been under a rock for the last several months, you may have missed that Olympian and reality TV star Bruce Jenner has come out as transgender. Her new name is Caitlyn and she is finally living her life as nature intended – as a woman.

The idea of “gender” is confusing and “transgender” even more, so you need to get a little learning under your belt and talk about this with your children.

Here’s my handy-dandy and simplistic guide to explaining gender. goldfish-32441_1280

SEX is about biology and physiology. Are you male or female? Think about this in terms of fish. Do we talk about “women” and “men” fish? Nope, because that’s gender.  We say male and female. See, biology or physiology.

Some people’s sex isn’t so clearly defined and we used to call those folks “hermaphrodite.” Times and language change and the preferred word is now “intersex.”

GENDER is social, cultural and emotional and there are two parts: identity (how you feel and connect to the gender role available to you) and expression (how you dress, talk or behave).

The words we use to describe someone’s gender are woman and girl; man and boy.

TRANSGENDER is when someone, like Caitlyn, is born in the wrong physical body for their gender identity. How they feel on the inside (like a boy or girl) doesn’t align with their sex (male or female).

CISGENDER is when someone’s gender is aligned with their sex. Like me, for example. I am in a female body and I feel like a woman on the inside and I related to and connect to the things most women and girls like and do in our culture.

Now, I have simplified things here to one degree or another because this is a complex issue that has many facets and intersecting ideas.

If you think that being transgender or something other than the typical genders most of us are familiar with, is wrong or bad, it is imperative you find a way to talk about this with your kids that isn’t negatively biased. Children who are out of “norm” with regard to any aspect of their sexuality, generally have a tough time. They have an even tougher time when their parents are assholes about it, whatever it may be. Don’t be an asshole.

Part of the reason I know what I do about this, is because of this great infographic, The Genderbread Person 3.0.

Here’s what to say:

Early Childhood – under age 8

“Sometimes, when people are born, their bodies don’t match how they feel on the inside. They might have a boy body, but feel like a girl on the inside. This is called transgender. It can be super hard and confusing for the person if they feel this way.

 Most people feel comfortable in their body and are happy to be a boy or a girl.”

 Tween – 9 and older

“Have you heard about Bruce Jenner? How he changed his name to Caitlyn? He actually changed a ton more. Here’s the deal.

Your “sex” is whether you are male or female. Your “gender” is how you feel on the inside – like a boy or a girl. Gender also has to do with social roles and our culture, like women wear dresses and there is work that people still think are better for men or for women.

When someone is transgender, like Caitlyn, …(insert script from above).

What do you think about this?”

 Be sure to talk about your values about this as well.

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Lena Dunham vs. Josh Duggar: Which One Sexually Abused Their Sister?

Gee whiz! Was it just last November that I was talking about Lena Duhnam’s inappropriate sexual behavior with her sister? And here we are again!

It’s been revealed that Josh Duggar, the firstborn child from the TV show 19 Kids And Counting, sexually molested his sisters when he was 14. He too, engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior, but it was with with five younger girls instead of one.

I talked to my colleague and sexual abuse expert, Kim Estes with Savvy Parents Safe Kids  about Josh. She said he is a “opportunist molester” which means what it sounds like: he has the opportunity, he molests. Kim says that because he molested multiple girls, multiple time, his behavior is definitely sexually abusive.

According to Kim, people who sexually abuse generally do not “recover.” Much like recovered alcoholics, they can learn to manage their problem with the proper support, but it’s always there. Whatever “praying the molester away” sort of “treatment” Josh received could not possibly provide the tools he needs to control his behavior. In her mind, he’s still a risk to young girls.

When I asked her about the girls he abused, who don’t appear to be particularly traumatized by these events, she said, “The girls are still very young and because their parents, church and culture probably told them ‘boys sometimes do these things because they can’t help it and he made a mistake and was really sorry’ they minimized his behavior. She also most likely told the girls that they are just fine, and it’s not a big deal.”

Because the parents and other adults did not treat this with the seriousness it requires, these poor girls may suffer life-long problems related to their molestation. Brushing this under the rug only serves to support the molester and the “picture perfect” life the Duggar’s pretend to lead.

Back to who’s the worst offender, Lena or Josh. I think it’s probably clear who wins that title but I thought it would be a great teachable moment to compare Lena and Josh’s situations, so you can learn a thing or two about sexual

Here’s what’s similar:

– They were older, bigger, smarter and more powerful than their sisters.
– The behavior was non-consensual, meaning the girls did not agree to it.

Here’s what’s not:

1. Josh was a 14 year-old adolescent; Lena was a 7 year-old girl.
2. Josh was in puberty and feeling full-on sexual feelings; Lena was not in puberty, therefore she had no hormonal powerhouse encouraging her behavior.
3. Josh repeated sexual behavior with multiple girls; Lena did not.
4. Josh knew what he was doing was wrong; Lena did not.
5. Josh was secretive about his behavior; Lena was playful and open about her behavior.
6. Josh grew up in a sexually repressive culture; Lena did not (I am assuming this because she knew the word vagina at 7).

You might be a little hung up on Lena’s taking advantage of her sister, but you need to know (actually if everyone knew this, the world would be a better place) that it is within the range of developmentally typical behavior for kids to do what she did. It happens all the time and all over the planet.

One of the main ways young children learn about sexuality and bodies is through their natural curiosity and play. While Lena’s behaviors pushed those boundaries, and were not okay or safe for her sister, they are not outside of the range of typical for a seven year old girl. This sort of sexual or body exploration can become problematic and because of this, should always be stopped. Sex and sexual touching isn’t for kids, right?

These days, the main way 14 year-old boys learn about sexuality and bodies is through the damned internet. Or, ideally, they learn about this when they have access to another human through consensual, same-age (2 +/- years) experimentation with kissing, fondling, touching and actual vaginal or oral sex.

Lena did not sexually abuse her sister. Her behavior wasn’t okay and should have been stopped, but compared to Josh, it was small potatoes.

Josh sexually molested and abused these girls. The good news is he told his parents what happened, which tells me he knew he needed help. I would feel better about him if he’d had the correct kind of therapy that would be more certain to help him but he did not. It’s never too late, however, and perhaps he will seek out some support as he goes through the media wringer.

My heart goes out to the girls Josh molested. Their families, church, and law enforcement clearly failed them. Perhaps all this attention will allow them to get the help they really need: counseling with a skilled and knowledgeable therapist.

For more information about sexual behavior in children, child sexual abuse and red flags in adults and kids, check out www.stopitnow.org.

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How To Explain Affairs and Cheating To Your Child

Gone are the days (well, they were never really here, actually) of monogamy being the one and only way to be in relationship. Ever since time began, people have had all kinds of arrangements and agreements within their relationships and for many different reasons – health, time, sexual tastes, etc. I believe monogamy is primarily a social construct and not a natural inclination.

th_editedI think it’s important to talk to your kids about different types of relationship structures because it is a nearly impossible and ridiculous idea to expect human beings to mate for life. We are just not wired that way. If we were our divorce/ breakup rate would be nominal; people would nearly always have crazy and totally satisfying sex lives with their one partner; and the only person we’d be turned on by would be our life-long mate.

If handled correctly, relationships that are non-monogamous have rules spelled out and are fully agreed to by all parties. Here are some different relationship structures for you to chat about with your kids.

Monogamy: Two people, fully committed to each other as primary partners in life and in bed. The agreement is that they have sex and a relationship only with each other and no one else.

Monogamish: Two people fully committed to each other as primary partners in life and with an agreement that each (or sometimes just one) partner may occasionally have sex with other people, but not a dating or boyfriend/ girlfriend type relationship.

Swinging: Two people fully committed to each other as primary partners in life and with an agreement they both can have sex with other people on occasion. Usually the partners connect with other “swingers” at events or online or in other ways. Sometimes they swap partners. This is often something they do together and is about sex.

Polyamory: Two people fully committed to each other as primary partners in life who also have concurrent committed relationships with another person or people. This is different from swinging or being monogamish because the primary partners are allowed to have full committed relationships (not just sex) with their other partner or partners.

Cheating: Two people fully committed to each other in life and in bed and one (or both) partners have sex or relationships with other people without permission or agreement from their primary partner. The relationships are hidden. No agreement = cheating.

Your kids may ask you what kind of relationship you are in. The safest thing (and easiest) is to tell your kids you are 100% committed to your partner. Most kids don’t want to hear about their parents’ sex lives, so if you swing or are monogamish, they don’t need to know and they don’t want to know.

If you are polyamorous, they do need to know – but please don’t ask me what to say, because I’m bound to offend someone. Talk to your poly pals and find out how they handle it.

Full disclosure, since I am certain you are wondering, I am in a happy, long term monogamous relationship and so far (25 years in) it’s working pretty well for us. I, personally, find that one relationship is pretty much all I can handle. The thought of adding another personality (on any level) to the mix scares the shit out of me. Although I would be willing to give it a whirl for John Stamos.

Finally, a big old shout out to Dan Savage  for helping thousands and thousands of people understand this super-confusing stuff – including me.

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A 14-Year-Old Girl Takes on Rape Culture, School Dress Codes and Rocks It!

Spring is here and young women’s thoughts turn to rape culture. This is from a young woman who decided she’d had it with the school system policing her clothing choices. I’m posting this with her consent and without her name, for obvious reasons.

Here are her thoughts:

UnacceptableATTENTION EVERYONE. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. That’s right I’m posting about this too, and you should as well. The more people that are informed the closer to a better, safer future we will get. We have unknowingly created a horrible thing called rape culture.

Rape culture is when young people are taught that girls’ bodies are sexual OBJECTS that need to be hidden and then girls are punished when they don’t hide them, as well as the ludicrous idea that if you get raped it’s “your fault” and you were “asking for it.” This mindset is subconsciously forced upon us at a young age starting with strict sexist dress codes because girls bodies are “too sexual” and “distracting to boys.”

Also, we make it harder for them to learn, but it’s perfectly okay to pull a girl out of class or have her miss a whole period to go to the principal’s office because her bra strap was showing. Well, let me explain something to you if you’re an adult who supports this: It’s. Just. A. Freaking. Strap.

And guess what, it’s nearly summer, and it’s getting hot, bra straps are gonna show no matter what you do, so you might as well join us if you can’t fight us and start to teach that rape is never okay, no matter what.

Consent is the only way a girl/boy could be “asking for it” but only if it’s by her/his own free will.

It’s not consent if:
1. They were threatened into giving it.
2. They were pressured into giving it.
3. The advancer is someone with authority over them.
4. If they’re intoxicated and unable to think clearly.
5. If they’re passed out it’s CERTAINLY NOT OK. Silence is not consent.
6. They can change their mind during any part of the activity, and once they stop willfully wanting to continue it’s no longer consensual and becomes rape.

If you want to support our cause to stop rape culture in our community then wear whatever you want to school tomorrow to protest!

(Disclaimer: I know men can be raped too and this isn’t an attack on men it’s an attack on rape culture and our schools’ sexist dress code policies).

I love you all and I hope you’ll help us stop this idea that rape is okay at the root: our public school system. 😘😄👗

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Want Your Kids to Be Smart About Sex? Pretend Your Family Is The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, they have been doing sexuality right for a very, very long time. If you want your kids to be super-smart about sex, the easiest thing you can do for them (and for yourself) is to pretend your family is the Netherlands.

holland-physical-large

The Dutch have the lowest teen pregnancy and STI/HIV rates in the industrialized world. This tells me they are doing something that actually works when it comes to their kids birds + bees education.

Here’s how you can turn your family into the Netherlands:

1) Be a naked family. Families in this part of the world are naked together from birth until death. They see nudity as a natural and normal state of being. We see it as embarrassing, shameful and something to hide.

2) Accept sexuality, in all it’s forms, as a natural and normal part of being human. Which it is. Just like humans are intellectual, social, spiritual, physical and emotional, we are sexual, too.

3) Offer sexually relevant public service announcements. This means you talk about how to use a condom correctly, the most effective forms of birth control and why communication is key to great sex and anything else when the mood strikes you. Short and sweet.

4) Start sex education in kindergarten. Rather than wait until children are in 5th grade or even high school, like they do in the US, start the sex talks really early. And by sex talks, I mean the whole tamale – penises in vaginas, sperm, eggs, etc.

5) View sex as a positive and fun part of life that requires education and  responsible behavior.  Compare this to driving a car: you wouldn’t just hand your kid the car keys on their 16th birthday, would you? This is one of the biggest responsibilities they will ever have. So is sex. It’s awesome and you need to be careful and responsible.

6) Expect your children to use birth control and condoms every time they have sex. It should be understood, from an early age, people have sex for fun and pleasure 99% of the time. This means everyone knows birth control and condoms are part of the deal when it comes to their sex lives.

7) Make birth control and condoms free and easy to get. Tell your kids where and how to get birth control and condoms. Actually, you should by condoms for your kids and leave them in a place anyone (including their friends) can access them.

8) Dutch teenagers see teen pregnancy as shameful. I’m not a fan of shaming kids, but this is part of why they have such amazing sexual health outcomes for their young people. Watch “16 and Pregnant” so your children can see how terrifically hard it is to be a teen parent.

9) Accept the fact that your child will have sex. And sooner than you will want them to. Most kids have sex at age 17 or so and it is in their best interest to be as ready as possible for this inevitability.

Read more about their culture here.

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The Effect Of Sleep Deprivation on Teen Sexuality

If you are sleep deprived you are more impulsive.Finger pointing teen

If you are a teenager you are already very impulsive.

Therefore, sleep deprivation increases the chance that teens will have unprotected sex.

Let your teens sleep in on the weekend – even if they sleep until noon, they need it. And if it keeps them out of someone else’s bed, even better. ;-)

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