- You don’t need to become an authority on all things relating to sexual health;
- There’s no one perfect way to have “the talk”;
- Don’t rely on someone else to talk to your child for you if you feel you “just can’t do it” (though inviting your sexpert friend to come help get the talk started isn’t a horrible idea!);
- Don’t give up and reassure yourself that not talking to your child about sexual health would be better because “I’m just going to screw them up if I do!” You can do this. I believe in you!
WWWH stands for:
WHAT your sexual attitudes are;
WHERE they came from (so they can be challenged or validated);
WHICH values and beliefs you’d like to pass on to your children;
HOW to pass along these values and beliefs to your children.
I like analogies, so here’s my analogy for the WWWH approach. Imagine you have a basket full of apples. Some of these apples are local and some of them are imported from outside of Canada. Your task is to prepare the apples for desert. Your WHAT (sexual attitudes) is the basket of apples. Your WHERE (origin of sexual attitudes) are which apples are local and which are imported. Your WHICH (the beliefs and values to pass on) are the type of apples you decide to use for desert, and your HOW (method of passing on those beliefs and values) is whether you make apple sauce, apple juice, apple pie, or whatever else you can think of! I just hope you do serve the apples because they’re good for you and nutritional for your children and delicious.
You might say, but what if I want to use all the apples and make all sorts of deserts for the next week, and freeze some in my fridge for on a day I feel lazy and don’t want to cook?
That’s completely fine! Whether you want to work-in day-to-day tid-bits about relationships and dating, or sit down with your child every few months and ask them if they have any questions about their developing bodies or stuff their friends said at school, is up to you. Keeping the dialogue open and encouraging your child to think about their sexuality is the point, not the manner in which you do it.
This isn’t about doing things the right or wrong way, it’s about doing it in a way that you and your child are comfortable so that IT WILL GET DONE. Children who receive sexual health information tend to delay sexual activity until later years, are more likely to use safer sex practices, and have lower teen pregnancy rates (see: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3194801/, and http://www.naswdc.org/practice/adolescent_health/ah0202.asp (and all their related resources), and https://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/gpr/14/3/gpr140317.html … basically, we know this statement is super true in the sexual health community, trust me).
You also don’t have to know everything. If your child asks you a question that you’re uncertain how to answer, there is no need to make something up. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know! Lets look it up.” Then, take the bold next step, in looking it up with your kid! This will give you a chance not only to bond with your child but also how to teach them to recognize a legitimate source of information vs. a weird yahoo comment thread of obscure personal experiences that are more graphic descriptions of weird bumps than helpful.
You may not agree with everything you read, and that’s okay! Contemplate what you agree with and what you don’t agree with. Think about why you agree or disagree or are uncertain. What would you modify, add, or omit? Don’t worry about taking notes or having fully formed thoughts when you’re doing your preliminary research together. The point isn’t to know everything, the point is to communicate that sexual health matters and that there are answers to your questions in the world and they are worth exploring.
- Tynan Rhea received her education from the University of Waterloo in Psychology and Sexuality, Marriage, & Family. She currently works as a Sexual and Reproductive Health Consultant and studies under Tracey Tief, certified Natural Health Practitioner at Anarres Apothecary
Tynan is a Doula with the Sisterhood Wellness Collective in the GTA area. Tynan also works one on one with families to help start the conversation on talking sex with kids.