Thursday, April 19, 2012

Taboo Topics for Kids (or Touchy Discussions with Lil Munchkin)

So my daughter hit that stage... so to speak... where personal or difficult questions start popping out of her mouth. I made the promise to myself many years ago when she was just a baby that I would always answer her questions honestly.

The main logic behind that is so that she wouldn't end up like me (pregnant at 16, a mother at 17, and no self-confidence to speak of until years later). So far, she seems to be happy with herself, she thinks she's awesome (which she totally is) and she knows that she has the right to make choices about her body. Fantastic.

Then the question comes out:
"What is sex? -nameblank- asked if I wanted to have sex with him and I said no."

Oh dear... where do we start with this one? At 7, she can grasp the concept of togetherness, and I think she pretty well understands relationships of varying degrees. But it's hard to describe sex as an action for a generic couple, because typically the description goes along the lines of: "A man puts his penis is a woman's vagina"

You see how that's a problem, considering that M and I are both women. Still working the kinks out on that one, but I turned it around on her by asking what she thought sex was. Made her think. We'll see what comes up. I also made sure to tell her that sex is a very serious action that can really change the way you see yourself, especially if you do it when you aren't ready.

I impressed on her the importance of feeling comfortable saying no if someone (anyone) is trying to coerce her or pressure her into doing anything that she doesn't want to do. Which she totally got, because let me tell you, this girl won't put on a hat if she doesn't want to. Nevermind some obnoxious kid trying to convince her to take off her clothes *HAH!* (I am very thankful of this, despite the fights we get into about her putting on her clothes for outside....)

Another potentially awkward question started with a conversation going: "What's Hanukkah?" (I'm sorry if I spelled that wrong! Spell check doesn't trigger, and I know there's like 3 different ways to spell it...).

Now, it's hard to describe Hanukkah in a way that she'll understand that it isn't a holiday we celebrate, and why. So I start with "Hanukkah is a holiday in the winter that Jewish people celebrate, just like Christians celebrate Christmas".

Then the potentially awkward one comes up: "Are we Christians?" Crap. I know her daycare is Coptic Orthodox, and she learns all about that end of the religious spectrum. Maybe she is, maybe she isn't, either way... that choice is not mine.

The simple reply? "Well, I'm not Christian, but maybe you are." Whoof. Crisis averted. Cue discussion about the differences in celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah. Which is a pretty easy conversation, thanks to my working knowledge of both celebrations and their roots.

I must admit, despite the difficulty I have in answering some of her specific, personal, or sensitive questions, I am extremely grateful to have a daughter that feels comfortable asking them. She knows that she is always able to come to me for anything, especially questions. She is also incredibly smart and intuitive, which makes it easier to explain things to her and be confident that she understands.

It's important, to me, that she knows the details of all things in life that interest her. We talk about all the taboo subjects, from religion, to money, to sex and intimacy. We talk about them in an age appropriate way that also leaves the conversation open for further details as she ages.

I look forward to more potentially awkward questions and conversations, and I will savour them as an important part of growing up and developing personal autonomy.

(this was originally posted on my previous blog December 2011)

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