Out & About: Lecture Will Discuss How to Have ‘The Talk’ With Children

Valley News Correspondent
Monday, October 01, 2018

Lebanon — The birds and the bees. The Talk. The facts of life. Whatever they called it, most people still remember when their parents sat them down to talk about sex. For both parents and children, the conversation can be awkward at best.

However, parenting expert Deborah Roffman says that it doesn’t have to be this way. Roffman is the author of the book Talk To Me First, which helps parents have open communication with their children about sex and sexuality. On Thursday, she will present the Dorothy Campion-Corcoran Parenting Lecture, “Way Beyond the Basics: Comfortable Conversations About Sex.”

The free event, hosted by Good Beginnings of the Upper Valley, will take place at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center 1 Medical Center Drive in Lebanon, in auditoriums E and F from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

In an emailed Q&A, Roffman discussed why talking to kids about sex is important, and how to do it in a way that will encourage comfortable and honest conversations.

Question: Once it was thought “The Talk” was something parents only had to do once, but today an ongoing conversation about sex and sexuality is encouraged. Why is this important?

Answer: The concept of “The Talk” is based on an extremely narrow understanding of the role of adults in raising sexually healthy children. Sexuality and gender are two of the most fundamental and complex and aspects of human life. We easily accept that nurturing healthy, mature, confident children is a gradual and ongoing process in every other respect. Why would sexuality be different?

Q: Many adults would rather talk to their kids about anything else besides sex. How can parents overcome their own embarrassment? Is there a fake it ‘til you make it element?

A: Embarrassment connected to the subject of sexuality is a learned association. None of us is born that way! Many of us picked up this discomfort early in childhood from the people around us. However, we are the grownups, right?

We owe it to our kids to fully accept that these are “just words” and to practice saying them aloud or whatever it takes so that we do not shy away from the topic. Otherwise, we will turn (our kids) over to the default options of peers, friends, popular culture, media and the internet as their primary sources of education.

Q: That’s a scary thought! With all those influences coming at kids from a young age, many parents feel overwhelmed by talking about sex and sexuality or don’t know where to start. What do children need to hear from their parents?

A: Based on their five core developmental needs, all children and adolescents need five things from the adults in their lives: affirmation, information, clarity about values, limit setting and anticipatory guidance. Of course, this paradigm applies to sexuality and gender as well. My presentation will largely focus on how to apply this unique parenting model to the kinds of potentially overwhelming issues like sexting, the gender spectrum and other modern issues that parents might not be comfortable with.

Q: Does talking about sex encourage kids to have sex, or pique their interest?

A: Children and adolescents need information and they also need to hear what their parents value and think about many aspects of sexuality and gender. These two needs do not contradict each other in any way.

Sometimes parents hold to a totally inaccurate belief that “too much information” might spark interest in “having sex,” when just the opposite is true. Research tells us that young people who are in the know are significantly more likely to make thoughtful, considered and cautious decisions.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Sometimes people refer to “The Talk” as “The Dreaded Talk.” How sad. These conversations, truly, can be among the most enjoyable and meaningful moments in the life of a family!

Editor’s note: For more information on Roffman’s lecture, visit http://www.gbuv.org/events/2018/10/4/2018-fall-lecture or contact Good Beginnings at 603-298-9524.