The Birds, The Bees, and the Elephant in the Room

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By Dan Coulter

Let's be honest.

The reason many parents dread having “the sex education talk” with their children is that dad and mom are nervous that the kids will ask them about their own intimate interactions. It can feel worse than having an elephant in the room. It can feel like having a male elephant in the room in a state of visible excitement. But it doesn't have to play out that way. And there are real consequences of avoiding “the talk.”

By the way, because I distribute these articles via email, I have to be careful that spam filters don't mistake a communication about puberty for something else. So, from this point, when I mean sex, I'll substitute the word, “sax.”

This is highly appropriate, because after the saxophone was invented by Adolph Sax, it was denounced as “the devil's horn.” Why? It allegedly created lustful thoughts in those who heard it played.

But back to the importance of “the sax talk.”

Not opening lines of communication about sax with your children puts them at risk of making costly mistakes out of ignorance – and robs you of the opportunity to share your values and advice.

So how do you open the door to topics you need to discuss without inviting the children into areas that are too personal? Make that a part of the discussion. Explain that responsible adults have a right to keep some things personal and private – and an adult's sax life is one of those things. If you approach the subject matter-of-factly and confidently, you can stay in the Goldilocks zone. Not too hot and not too cold. You'll gently deflect questions that you feel would compromise your privacy, but encourage those that help your child understand what he or she needs to know.

In surveys, kids say that their parents influence their decisions about sax more than any other source. Nine out of ten teenagers say that it would be easier to avoid sax if their parents talked openly and honestly about it. (Source: The Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina.)

Traditionally, we think of dads talking to sons and moms talking to daughters about sax, but that really depends on family makeup and aptitudes. In single parent homes, or if one parent or the other is a better communicator, there's no rule that says he or she can't cover the territory for boys or girls.

But if there are reasons you feel that you can't have the initial talk yourself, you may want to ask a counselor or therapist with expertise on the subject to do the honors. You might ask a family member, like an aunt or uncle. Hopefully, that would be an initial bridge to help you and your children have further conversations. It's important for kids to know that sax is anything but simple, and that you're available to discuss “saxuality” with them when they have questions.

Growing children also need to see saxuality as it's integrated into their entire lives, not just as the act of having intercourse.

One of the best forms of sax education is seeing how mom and dad treat each other. Children need to learn that kisses and hugs and caring conversation in the kitchen are as much a part of an intimate relationship as what happens in the bedroom.

In these days of divorce, single parenthood, and non-traditional families, we can expand that to say it's important for children to see how any two caring adults treat each other as a couple. And that respect and affection play just as big a role as sax.

You don't have to reinvent the wheel here. There are lots of great materials you can use to support your communications, including those with graphics that can convey what words can't. Of course, it's a good idea to preview any materials yourself before you share them with your children.

“The talk” can be one of your best moments if you project confidence, guide the discussion, and keep your sense of humor.

You won't have to worry about the elephant in the room, because you control the elephant.

If you like, you can put him in a pair of pants...or give him a saxophone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR -- Dan Coulter is the author of the DVDs, "The Puberty Video for Boys with Asperger Syndrome (and Autism Spectrum Disorder - Level 1)" and “Managing Puberty, Social Challenges and (Almost) Everything: A Video Guide for Girls.” You can find more articles and information on his website:

© Dan Coulter 2014 Used by Permission All Rights Reserved

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