Grandparents and Other Caregivers as Sex Educators
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the
author and not necessarily those of Advocates for Youth.
As a grandmother of three and a professional sex educator, I find talking with my grandchildren about sex very different than it was with my own children years ago. Today, having lived through the sexual revolution, raised two kids, and gained some wisdom and experience, I relish being able to be more comfortable and open in talking to the grandchildren about sexuality. My oldest granddaughter recently took part in her mother's labor coaching team during the birth the newest baby girl. As I heard my granddaughter describe the birth experience to her great grandmother, I knew that this was a child who would probably grow up sexually healthy and responsible. It was so natural for her to use words like uterus and birth canal. Her Mom and Dad have done a good job!
However, Grandma is sometimes called on to tackle especially tough issues. My briefcase always has a condom or two in it, usually for use in training youth serving professionals. Recently, five-year-old Maddy asked for paper and pen, and I told her to look in my briefcase. She pulled out a Magic Marker and a condom package, brilliant red. She asked, "Dad, what's this?" Her Dad didn't bat an eye; he simply said "It's all yours, Grandma." So, I simply explained, "That's called a condom, and it is used when people don't want to have a baby." She was satisfied and began to draw happy faces. I know she'll need more information later on, but for now, her question is answered.
Grandparents and other caregivers can be wonderful sources of information and support to children. Grandparents and other caregivers can offer a safe haven and an opportunity to discuss sexuality concerns and issues when, sometimes, young people feel they just cannot go to their parents or why they don't have parents to go to.
Understanding how and when to take on the role of sex educator is vital because one out of 10 teenage girls will experience pregnancy before age 20. Fifty percent of all new reported cases of HIV occur in 15- to 24-year-old youth. And over 80 percent of young people have had sexual intercourse by age 20. Young Americans live in a sex-saturated society. Sex is used to sell everything from cars and face cream to colas. Sexual violence is accepted in movies and TV programs, but it's harder for entertainment industry professionals to get sexually responsible behaviors, like using a condom, past the censors. The Internet is a rich source of accurate, sensitive sexuality information, but users can also easily find, or stumble onto, prurient and harmful, not to say pornographic, sites as well.
Reprinted with the permission of Advocates for Youth.
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