Welcome to yet another school year!
Congratulations on setting your student up for success. I’ve wandered the halls and sat in on classes the first couple days of school and your students are all well-equipped and appear to be ready for the school year. I’ve seen highlighters being used, homework assignments being filed away in binders, and chandeliers hanging in lockers, which is a very classy touch, I might add.
As your school counselor, I will be here to help your student keep organized. I will also help your student navigate the world that is academia and make sure that she/he will take all the necessary courses at the appropriate level, setting her/him up for success in college. I will also be here to help your child navigate her/his socio-emotional well-being so that they not only survive their elementary to high school years, but also thrive during those years. With me by their side, your child will have an advocate in the world to help manage the trials and tribulations that come with puberty (both pre and post). However, there is one thing I need from you, most committed and involved parent. I need you to talk to your kids about sex.
That’s right–sex. I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “My kid’s not having sex so it doesn’t matter,” or, possibly, “Isn’t that your job?” And yes, some of it is my job. But I will come and go from your child’s life while you are in it for the long haul.
But, I get it. Truly, I do. I look at my 13-month-old and I think to myself, “There is no way I will ever say the words ‘anal,’ ‘shaft,’ or ‘Syphilis’ to you, my sweet baby.” But here’s the thing–regardless of whether or not you want to talk about it, you know how to talk about it, or you think it’s relevant for your child’s age, your child is being talked to about sex. Whether through the media (thank you Miley), magazine covers at the grocery store, or billboards advertising breast implants complete with before and after shots, your child is curious and will talk to someone about it. Setting a precedent at an early age that that person should be you and not, say, the Internet, will only be good. Otherwise, your child might be getting misinformation about, for example, what their menstrual cycle truly is and how it affects their body. Or, if you have a son, your child might be getting misinformation about what a menstrual cycle truly is and how it affects a female’s body. Maybe if your child knows what PMS really is, they won’t throw the term around as a casual gender-specific insult that could result in the public shame of another child.
The benefits of opening up a dialogue about sex, reproduction, choice, and love are endless. Once a child has an understanding of her/his body and its functions, then that child can progress to having ownership over her/his body and therefore, make healthy choices about their bodies. Trust me. I hear their conversations at lunch and in the hallways. Your children are having conversations about sex. They are talking about, for example, “virginity” as if it is something they “lose,” like their keys or their eyesight.
Opening up the lines of communication at an early age (starting with using the correct terminology for body parts and functions during the toddler years) will not only provide your child with the foundations of a healthy sense of self, but also lay the ground work for continual open dialogue with you, their parent. For, as you know through experience, there is no such thing as “The Talk.” It’s a continual conversation that truly never ends.
Thanks for bearing with me, dear parent. I appreciate your continued partnership in the success and well-being of your student. I know this is tough stuff, but together, we can make it through.
Whitney Fisch, MSW
Sex Education Teacher