What I Want You to Know is a series of
reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their
personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the
unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to
this series,
click here. Today’s guest posts is by Dr Janet Rosenzweig.



As a sex educator, I’m used
to being the odd person out. Unless hanging out with colleagues, I’m
usually the only person in a group who will speak frankly about
sexuality issues. As a grad student, I’d get annoyed when peers spread
misinformation and I’d freely offer corrections. Luckily, I found an
outlet working as a health educator and got paid for my advice and
opinion. I recall providing workshops for foster parents struggling to
handle sexual issues with the children placed with them. I emphasized
the PLISSIT model, developed by Jack Anon and widely endorsed by
sexuality education groups. This is based on a belief that most sexual
problems can be dealt with by giving someone permission to be sexual
(that’s the P) and limited information about how their bodies work
(there’s the LI). A very small minority of people need specific
suggestions (SS…) and fewer yet need intensive therapy. I encouraged
these parents to give their kids permission to be sexual and the
information they needed to understand their bodies. These parents needed
the P and LI as well; like any other aspect of parenting, we don’t
suddenly know how because we gave birth.

And then I became a Mom. In
retrospect, I realize that I practiced what I preached. I still giggle
at the memory of my son, barely age three, demonstrating that he was
integrating a conversation we’d had about male and female bodies. We
were visiting my father and step-mother, rather staid people with
plastic slip covers on brocade couches, when my son stared first my dad,
then at his wife and looked at me to exclaim ” Grandma — gina, Grandpa
penis, yes?” O yes, I replied, that’s right! Boys and men have a penis
and girls and women a vagina! The only thing that matched my pleasure
at his insight was the intensity of my step-mothers agitation…..
“Where did he learn to talk like that?!” she sputtered, red faced and
upset. I never did find an explanation that she found acceptable. I
know that I gave my son permission to ask whatever he wanted and
limited information appropriate to his age.

Later, as he reached the
“Mom we need a ride” phase, I was privy to all sorts of conversations
observed from my rear-view mirror. Jokes about girls were gently
squashed. Misinformation about erections was corrected. My intervention
was limited to kids whose parents I knew; otherwise misinformation was
corrected in private as soon as we got home.

I recently learned that
my son and his friends freely helped themselves to the college level
sexuality text books I kept in my office. I knew only to leave books
accessible that I was OK with him seeing, and it worked. A boy will
reach an age when his Mom is the last person with whom he wants to
discuss sexual arousal, and he needs to know where to go to get his
questions answered.

Any parent can prepare themselves to be the
primary sexuality educator for their children. We’ve known for years
that parent-child communication about sex helps kids make better
decisions about sexual activity and promotes their sexual health. Now
that so many sex abuse prevention programs focus on stranger danger
without mentioning sex, parent child communication about sex is critical
to sexual safety as well! I feel so strongly about this that I wrote
The Sex-Wise Parent to help every parent do just that; talking about sex
with our kids is not easy for so many of use, but you don’t need to be a
professional sex educator to do it well; just an informed and loving
parent.

Find more information at www.SexWiseParent.com