Recently, I have been thinking about why some parents are not being honest with their kids. Honest about things like the horrific shootings at Sandyhook Elementary and a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the Holocaust, or past wars. Was it because they were afraid that the fear and anxiety would be overwhelming for their child? Were they sick of the media profiteering and fear mongering about these events?
I just couldn’t understand why parents would shield their children from our history and current events, but then my thoughts turned to another topic that many parents aren’t honest with their children about-- the birds and the bees. I wondered why parents wouldn’t want to be honest with their children about that, especially with what I have come to know about the epidemic of child sexual abuse.
Do a quick search of Wikipedia and you will find that “(h)onesty refers to a facet of moral character and connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, and theft. Furthermore, honesty means being trustworthy, loyal, fair, and sincere.” These are all traits I think every parent would want to instill in their child.
So why then are the body and sexuality such a taboo subject when it comes to teaching our children? Most parents don’t have “the talk” until their children reach the teenage years. Some never have it!
One of the key points in our website’s education center is that you shouldn’t discuss sex with your children only in terms of abuse, but also as a natural and healthy part of life, or what I would call being honest. I have been doing a ton of research on this question as RAACE looks to expand our educational programming as we launch our 2015 Prevention Tour. The question I pose to parents is simply, “Why not be honest?” If you are not teaching these positive things at the age-appropriate times, someone else will. It could be the media, a friend at school, or worse – someone who means to take advantage of your child and their trust!
Sex is not just in advertising, movies, music, or on TV. It’s all over the Internet. It only takes seconds to find it on social media. Sites like YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Flicker and even Facebook all have such content. Try a Google search to see how prolific the pornography industry is.
With sexual content easily available, our children are being exposed to sex at an earlier and earlier age. In fact, according to the Focus on the Family website, “Some researchers have stated that the average age of exposure to pornography is down to 8.” Yes, everyone – eight! Consider then that children are most vulnerable to abuse between the ages of 7-13, while the median age for reported child sexual abuse is age nine. Then consider the fact that 20% of the children who are sexually abused are under the age of eight.
Most kids and teens have questions about their bodies and sex. A walk through Barnes and Noble or 15 minutes searching on Google, Amazon or iTunes show that there are hundreds of books we could use to start teaching children about their bodies and sex. Experts agree that if children are comfortable talking openly with their parents, they are more outwardly confident and less likely to become victims of abuse. They are also more likely to tell someone at the first sign of an abusive situation.
So for me and my focus on guiding The Race Against Abuse of Children Everywhere, 2015 is about dropping this shroud of secrecy, providing the tools needed to expand our educational programming, and focusing on positive, communicative parenting and the honesty needed to teach sex education. As parents, we must realize that our children are being seduced daily from every angle. It’s time for us to get rid of the taboos and start speaking honestly with our children about sex, because a well-informed child is better armed to protect him or herself against sexual abuse.