I am pretty open-book parent about sex. Literally. I have used a stack of carefully curated books on bodies, boundaries, puberty, sex and reproduction to spark conversations with my son. While some parents may dread The Talk, I used texts with cute illustrations to have many The Talks, from baby-making to private parts to growing hair there to consent and contraception. Those conversations went places I never expected. for better and for braver.
And now I have a tween. It seems like the questions have gotten quieter while my son's concerns have gotten more worrisome and the risks seem bigger. My eager-to-learn boy has more trepidation talking about sexuality and, even more, what's happening with his own growing body. I find myself taking even deeper breaths before I broach topics that are no longer far in the distance, but present now or in the near future (oh, boy).
I've tried. I gave my son a tween-focused book that (yes) has the obligatory picture of a kid on a high-dive with an embarrassing erection. I dog-eared some key pages (body hair and healthy relationships) and suggested he read through it and ask questions any time. He blushed, nodded and put it at the bottom of a stack of fifteen books on his nightstand (where it stayed).
Then the big GASP! happened. At a school board meeting, the principal of my son's school announced that we were now required to teach sexual health and it would become a part of the curriculum in the next few months. The parents gasped -- for two reasons. One set of very vocal parents could not believe our kids were not already being taught sex ed (at least in sixth grade, as per our 80's upbringing). Another group's furrowed brows showed concern (could they opt their kids out? what would be taught? is it all age-appropriate? shouldn't this be a parent's responsibility to teach?). All parents in the room (I hope, I think) wanted their kids to have information, and all of us wanted to being on the upside of knowing what would be taught. Not all of us agreed on who should be the teacher (and that is fair).
As a school board, we did our own homework, studying the curriculum and listening closely as a health representative shared more about what instruction is appropriate at each grade level. Right there, in a cramped room in my son's school with his gym/health teacher and principal and other parents, I realized something big: My open-book policy is not enough.
The list of topics that my son can developmentally handle and needs to know and I think wants to know is far longer than I have brought up with him, even with pretty explanatory chapters on sperm-meets-egg and progressive illustrations with a woman on top. My check-ins and information, my insistence on properly naming body parts and my willingness to discuss any topic are not all that my son needs. It is a great start, a valiant effort, loving gestures of good intention. But not enough.
Enter Amaze. This sexual education organization doesn't deal in books at all. Instead, they create videos that are fun and funny and offer answers to questions and starters for conversations that parents and kids need to have to help foster healthy sexual identity, relationships and understanding.
Amaze asks us to be "ask parents," the kind of caregivers who are open (book or video) for conversations about even the toughest, most cringey stuff. Their motto is "More Info. Less Weird." and I do believe that the more we have these The Talks, the less awkward it gets (fingers crossed).
I care way more about my son and his sense of self, his mental and emotional and physical care, who he will be in relationships and how he will tend to his future partners, than I do about pressing play or turning the page on a topic like masturbation or menstruation. And you know what? Amaze's videos make it all pretty fast (many are, ahem, two minutes or less) and easy (bad phrasing for a sex ed post, I get that).
Yes, Amaze does have a video about embarrassing erections -- a witty animated music video to a song called, "How the Boner Goes" (pretty sure my kid will want to watch this one without mom in the room). There are others about boobs, sexual readiness, friendships, acne and all the chapters of tweendom and teenageriness and early adulthood that we all have desperately needed to discuss/were terrified to bring up.
I have watched all the videos, and before my sixth grader sits down in sexual health class in school this year, he will be getting some sex (and self and relationship) ed on the screen, thanks to Amaze. Who knows what conversations will come up after that! Whatever it is, I am in for being an "ask parent" and so open to expanding my policy to include these videos from a pretty awesome (and kid-friendly, parent-getting) organization.
This post is made possible by support from AMAZE. All opinions (and frank sexual health conversations with my kid) my own.
Would you watch these videos with your kids? And be super-honest, have you told your kids enough about sexual health, beyond the birds and bees?