Taming the Birds and the Bees

A lot many of our battles are resolved over a cup of coffee with friends. So over one such steaming cup, a friend asked me for the hundredth time, ‘How do I go about it?’

‘Well, you just talk.’ Same answer. Hundredth time.

‘But, what do I say?’ 

‘Words.’

If looks could kill, I would have been perforated by my friend’s laser vision. This conversation has been going on for the last three months. Her son’s hormones are yawning and waking up, and she has been reduced to a fidgety, nervous bundle, ever since. She knows that the much talked about ‘talk’ is required, but the birds and the bees do not come easy. They mostly tweet and buzz around her head at dizzying speeds making the words more jumbled. Truth is, words are difficult, but there are certain things that help tame the birds and the bees:

1. What’s in a name? Sometimes everything.

When we call a penis by a million unique nicknames that each family seems to have derived, we are attaching some amount of awkwardness and shame with the body part. Yes, a penis, a vagina or an anus are all private parts, but they are not enrolled in secret services, and referring to them by their real names will not compromise their position. All it will do is make the child less hesitant in talking about the ‘forbidden’ stuff with the parent, and enable us to lose inhibitions.

2. Stop shaming

‘Shame! Shame! Puppy shame!’ Familiar? Kill the phrase. And leave the poor puppy out of lessons on modesty. Each time the toddler decides to go full monty, or the preschooler forgets to put on certain important articles of clothing, do not make a fuss. The idea is not to get them ashamed about their private parts. The idea is to get them to learn the social norms about clothes. This can be done without the long ‘haw,‘ ‘or the ‘shame song.’ Simply telling them about it works most of the times. Making a fuss, on the contrary, would get them to repeat it for a moment in spotlight.

3. Always answer questions

‘What is this?’ The younger one had asked holding the instruction pamphlet from a box of tampons in one hand, a few years back. No stories were cooked. Facts were stated and he surprisingly took it well. Questions will always be there. Whether you get to answer them or some friend from school, will depend on how you react to the question. Stay calm and state facts. If it is a bad word’s meaning the child wants to know, read out the meaning from the dictionary, and tell them why it is a bad word. If it is about sex, do not drag the stork in.

4. Get some books.

Luckily there are many good books out there that talk about hormonal changes, bodily differences, and sex. Get them. Read them yourself. Read to the children. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, read it aloud in private to get the inhibition out. Never rush through text the way our teachers did back in ninth grade’s reproduction chapter.  Pause. Make eye contact. Answer questions. And then move on.

5. Never get worked up

Children come with built-in sensors. So when you discover the child getting curious about sex, or when he hurls the most inappropriate question at the most inopportune time, do not break into a sweat, blabber, distract, or worse, shoo them away. That does two things – gets them more curious, and makes sure that they do not come to you for answers.

6. Be logical

Maintaining moral high grounds as far as teen sex is concerned never works. Keep morals and religion out of it and talk to them logically about it. Acknowledge the fact that it is perfectly natural to be attracted to another person. Talk about the pros and cons of a premature relationship, and chances are you’ll have a teenager who can make sensible choices, or at least learn from his mistakes and move on, rather than spending enormous amount of energy and time hiding things from you.

7. Talk about the unmentionables

We are usually quick to pat our backs once we have ‘educated’ the children about sex.  It doesn’t end there. In fact birds and bees are just a start. Talk about pornography. Even if you have a thousand layer Internet security at home, they have friends who are laced with mobile phones and handhelds. Talk about masturbation, infatuation, love, curiosity, and sexuality. The more casually these things are discussed, the easier it becomes for them to adjust.

8. Babies do grow up

I know that this is the most heart breaking part of parenthood, but they do grow up. The awkward teenager who is waiting for his voice to crack is at the threshold of adulthood and is a seething cauldron of hormones. The sooner we acknowledge that, the lesser the shock would be at discovering him getting interested in things beyond superhero toys and Lego. Always be aware of the issues that are central to the child’s age group.  Never assume that ‘my child is too innocent to think about all this.’ Again, innocence has got nothing to do with sexual development.

9. Development! That is what it is.

Somehow we blank out when a child steps into adolescence. We acknowledge the growth in terms of height, and playfully pull the child’s ear when he stands next to us and tells us that he is taller, but we shuffle when we sense other changes. We need to stop burying our heads in the sand. We have all been through it.  However, despite the first hand experience, it helps to read up about the changes that adolescence brings. This aids in shutting the tiny voice up that keeps telling us that, ‘he is just a baby!’

10. Accept poor choices.

We have been telling them that it is important to make mistakes, that errors teach us, and that failures are the stepping stones to success.  Now is the time to walk the talk. He is a teenager. He will make mistakes. We all did. Be calm. There would be heartbreaks as well as caught-red-handed moments.  I’d rather have the boys come and tell me about it. I’d rather offer them hot chocolate as they pour their hearts out. I’d rather not find out accidentally and then go in to a loop of, ‘how could you? You should be focussing on your career!’ The heartbreaks are not pointless for them. For them the world has halted. It is up to us, the parents, to set it back in motion.

There are no right words, no script that you can just read through and get it done and over with. It is a process. The only way to know that you are doing the right thing, using the right words is whether or not they come back with more questions, and whether or not you and I have that conversation with our little ones and not so little ones over and over again. Although choice of words is individual to each one of us, the common thread is honesty. So as long as we are true to them, they will come back, and there will always be lots to talk about.

Originally posted at : Mycity4kids.

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