Celebrating Mother’s Day 2021

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Celebrating Mother’s Day 2021

May 7, 2021

Happy Mother’s Day! Everyone experiences parenting differently, but for many, motherhood is an exciting and fulfilling journey. We know that parents are the primary resource that young people look toward for information about sex, love, and relationships. So, to celebrate Mother’s Day this year, we asked six mothers how they have (or plan to) talk to their kids about these important topics. 

Robin [Cora and Luke, age 3 and 13 months]

Have you begun talking about how to share toys/space; boundaries when playing with friends; or anything else? 

We talk to both kids (even though Luke doesn’t really talk) about how to take turns with toys, attention, and pretty much everything. We have introduced the concept of sharing and use that language but recognize that sharing is a more complex concept and developmental skill that they are likely not ready for yet. We also respect that there are items, such as a favorite stuffed animal, or times where there is no expectation of sharing or turn-taking. 

Have you and your partner talked about how you want to handle the “firsts?” First crush, first talk about sex, etc.? 

We are hoping to lay the foundation for future conversations about sex, love, and relationships with conversations now. We talk about respecting other people’s bodies, asking before you touch someone, and the importance of respecting their answers. We try to model the language (“Can I pick you up?” or “Do you want a hug?”) and respect their answers to both show respect for personal space and to give them agency over their own bodies. 

Hannah, [Arthur, age 1]

Have you and your partner talked about how you want to handle Arthur’s first crush, talks about sex, etc.? 

My husband and I actually talk about this at least once a week! It's very important to us that Arthur feels comfortable in who he is, and so even though he's a way off from exploring his sexuality or having a crush, we have a lot of conversations about what we can do to make him feel supported when he's older. 

One of the ways we plan to do this is by being very open about sex and sexuality. By talking to him often about what these things are and what they do or don’t mean, our hope is he won't think sex and sexuality are shameful or embarrassing. If we create an open and honest atmosphere for him where these topics are discussed, then (we hope!) he'll feel comfortable with whoever he is, and he'll know we're here to help him if he ever needs us.

Kimberlie, [Larson, age 4]

Have you begun talking about how to share toys/space; boundaries when playing with friends; or anything else? 

We do have to talk to him about consent with hugging his friends. He sometimes will go in for a hug without asking which is not okay, especially since he is a lot bigger than most of his friends. We talk to him about consent and that he needs to ask his friends if they would like a hug first, to wait and listen to their answer, and that it’s okay if they say no. 

The other thing we have to talk with him about is touching his penis. We want him to have a positive body image and to grow up feeling like he can talk to us about anything. We always tell him it’s all good if he wants to touch his penis but there are appropriate places to do it and it’s something he can do when he’s alone. This is a constant conversation in our house right now.

Lyndsay [Ruby and Leon, age 12 and 8]

What conversations have you and your kids had around sex, love, relationships, and birth control? Have they asked any questions that you think resulted in a really good conversation? 

We decided to pull our kids from public school last year, because of the pandemic. My daughter is going through so much right now—the loss of her friends, the loss of connecting with her community, and all the social/emotional/and physical changes that come with puberty. It has been hard to know how to support her and what she needs but having her home and with me 24/7 has made us very close. All the emotional processing and exploration about relationships and changing bodies that she would normally have done with her friends she now turns to me. This has been an amazing opportunity to frame our discussions about sex, relationships, and sexuality in a super healthy and affirming way. We talk a lot about how to set boundaries, ask for and give consent, what healthy relationships with ourselves and others look like. I model those for them in a very intentional way in how I interact with her and her brother every day. 

My son gets to be part of conversations he wouldn’t otherwise be privy to because we are always together. Hearing my daughter and I talk about periods and consent and privilege means he gets to ask questions and explore these things earlier then he would otherwise, and I love that. Although we would have had these discussions regardless of the pandemic, the opportunities I have to talk with them about things that I believe are critically important to their lives and worldview are so much more frequent and seem to occur more naturally throughout the rhythm of our day.

Marisa [Nora and Jacob, age 15 and 13]

What conversations have you and your kids had around sex, love, relationships, and birth control? Have they asked any questions that you think resulted in a really good conversation? 

Over the pandemic months, some pretty random and ordinary moments with my son and daughter have evolved naturally—and with some maternal prodding—into conversations about relationships, boundaries, and consent. My kids don't really ask me direct questions about sex and relationships, so I am the one who steers things into deeper waters if the right opportunity arises. 

A few weeks ago, my son and I talked about how he was going to stick to his plan to wear his mask and keep his distance while hanging out with a group of friends. It morphed into a conversation about how he is going to face a lot of situations—romantic and otherwise—that will challenge him to stick to what’s right for him regardless of what his friends are doing. He talked about how hard it is to do that without making a big deal out of it, it or without seeming like you’re judging your friends. Then we talked about the possibility of hurting someone’s feelings who might want to go farther in a sexual situation than you do. It was a natural progression grounded in a situation that was real to him now, which I think helped him imagine future scenarios in a more realistic way. We left it at that for the moment. One important thing my kids have taught me is that knowing when to stop the conversation is just as important as knowing how and when to start. I can tell when they’ve had enough, so I know when it’s time to move on and not risk having a one-sided “talk.” I want to show that I respect them by giving them the space to process what we’ve been talking about on their own time.  

Alexandra [Julia and Zoe, age 19 and 16]

What conversations have you and your daughters had around sex, love, relationships, and birth control? 

I began talking with my daughters about sex at a young age. In elementary school they would ask questions, and my husband and I would always answer questions honestly. We would provide as much information as answered the question, but hopefully did not overwhelm with details beyond their grasp.

Once in middle school, the conversations got more complex and we read some books together about puberty, sex, body changes, etc.  

I think if you asked my kids, they would tell you I was too open and willing to talk about sex with them, but I think they ended up being well informed and we tried to keep the conversations sex- and body-positive.

Have they asked any questions that you think resulted in a really good conversation? 

In middle school, at the beginning of the puberty journey, one of my daughters came to me in tears because she thought she had breast cancer because she felt 'hard buttons' on her chest. It was the start of breast development, of course, and this led to a great conversation about body changes and what to expect over the coming months and years.

Again, in middle school and understanding vaguely that I worked in women's health and reproductive health, one of my daughters asked me specifically about what birth control was and how it worked. This led to a great conversation about sex being not only for 'making babies,' but also being about pleasure in a positive, consensual relationship. It also led to a deeper conversation about what constitutes a positive and caring relationship. 

How about a conversation that happened that you now wish had gone better? 

When one of my daughters came to me and told me that she wanted to go on birth control because she and her then-boyfriend were considering becoming sexually active, I was caught off guard at first and I think my initial shock showed and served to embarrass my daughter at a time she was showing great trust and vulnerability by coming to me. I do regret that. I re-grouped and we had a good conversation, made an appointment with a doctor for her, and I’m extremely grateful that she trusted me enough to ask for help and guidance.  

This month start a conversation with your child around sex, love, and relationships. Because #TalkingIsPower. To spark a meaningful conversation today (and in the months and years ahead) take a look at some of our past Talking Is Power resources and get ready for new resources to post every day this month.