Like most parents, I spend plenty of time thinking about my children and how much faster they are growing up than I did. I’m sure my parents and grandparents had the same thoughts as they stared at their babies, but when I think about the seismic shifts in culture and technology that have happened in my lifetime, I’m positive my kids face significantly more complex situations than I did at their age.
Yes — sex, drugs, and rock and roll have been in the picture for eons. But we’re in a brave new world when it comes to sex. Porn has sexualized our culture and upped the ante. Sexual attitudes, self-image, and what’s normal/expected for men – and women – are very different today than they were in the 1970s. And today’s technology is magnifying our sexualized culture – especially for tweens and teens.
I recently came across a trailer for “Sexy Baby,” a documentary that follows a 12-year old girl, a porn star hoping to become a mom, and a kindergarten teacher as each attempts to find her way in a world where all of us are told who to be, how to act, and what to look like. The filmmakers have this to say:
… we had intimate and candid conversations with kids in middle school classrooms, suburban shopping malls, nightclubs, college dorms, and even conducted an informal roundtable during a high school house party. While chronicling trends among small town and big city kids, we discovered this: Having pubic hair is considered unattractive and gross. Most youngsters know someone who has emailed or texted a naked photo of themselves. Many kids have accidentally or intentionally had their first introduction to sex be via hardcore online porn.
While it makes my head hurt, I have to wrap my brain around how I can help my kids navigate a sexual landscape that didn’t exist when I was a kid. Unfortunately, I can’t look to my own upbringing on this topic because my own parent’s silence was deafening.
A friend recently reminded me that “we still have control and responsibility at home. No worries… you will have way more positive and negative influence than anything else.” While that’s a bit daunting, it’s also encouraging. My take-away is this: my husband and I will need to work even harder to instill strong self-esteem, help create a positive body image, and get comfortable speaking candidly (and frequently) to our kids about sex. I hope that as our children grow, we’ll be able to have a relationship with them such that questions are asked and answered, information is shared, and emotions are discussed. But I also want to share with them the timeless truths about sex: it’s a very big deal with major consequences attached to a physical act (emotional ones just as much as STDs). It is also a wonderful thing. Over time, they’ll probably get much better at understanding and communicating about sex.
And then it will be their turn to worry about their kids growing up too quickly.
Let me know what you think.