Last spring (when my oldest was in fifth grade) I learned that there is a pre-sixth grade vaccination schedule, and I thought—my kid is not going to be be happy about this. That concern was immediately replaced by another when I learned that among these vaccinations is the one for HPV.
“HPV, as in human papilloma virus?” I asked my friend.
Yep, age 11 is when they recommend it.
But,…but…HPV is an STD, right?
But these are CHILDREN we’re talking about!
A quick google told me the CDC recommends it at this age so they’re protected well before they become sexually active.
Breathing: you may return to normal. Sort of.
Around the same time, this video made its way around social media exploring how sex education works in the Netherlands. There, kids are educated about sex, sexuality, bodies, and relationships beginning as early as four years old and continuing throughout their schooling.
They take a proactive approach, using kids’ own curiosity about their bodies to teach them how they work. They also encourage them to explore their values related to their own sexuality, and give them tools to speak up for themselves against peer pressure.
We started talking about sex with our oldest when she was 5 and super curious. She was… less than thrilled with our super candid, anatomically-correct responses. It was awkward for everyone, not gonna lie. But I’m glad we were open with her.
I am LIGHTYEARS away from being ready to think about any of my kids being sexually active.
While curiosity about bodies and sexuality and relationships is natural, experimentation is a choice. It’s just one among many options, actually.
In retrospect, I can see that it’s an option I chose for at least two reasons: affection and taboo. I didn’t grow up in an affectionate family, but I longed to give and receive physical affection. My friends and I would hold hands, link arms, and hug a dozen times a day, like many kids our age—totally normal and non-sexual.
The hush-hush, fast-forward-through-that-part-of-the-movie, taboo-nature of sex in my home culture sent my curiosity soaring. Once hormones figured more prominently, my need for physical affection joined forces with my curiosity around sexuality in risky ways. And the purity culture in which I was raised brought shame to the party, ushering in years of believing I was damaged goods.
Obviously, I don’t want this for my kids and I don’t think you do either. We want them to feel and believe and know their infinite worth. We want them to make choices that align with their values and who they were created to be.
I want my young kids to have all the physical affection they need from their family, so whatever they receive from friends or significant others is extra—not something they seek out to fill a void.
I want them to know there’s nothing they can do to make us or their creator ever stop loving them, or ever love them any less. Ever. The time we have with them as they’re growing up and making choices that affect who they’ll eventually become—it’s so short, relatively speaking. And it only takes a few moments to tell and show them how loved and valuable they are. As we do that day in and day out, we help to instill in them an ever-stronger sense of our love and their value—equipping them to make choices that align with who they are.
Because one day, they’re going to leave. Your kids and mine. They’ll go off to college, a shared apartment, a gap year backpacking in distant countries—whatever it is, one day they’re going to leave. We can’t afford to stay silent about their value and gamble on them figuring it out some other way. We can’t afford to withhold affection or kind words. We have to tell them and show them.
TODAY. And every day.
How do you talk with your kids about this? Leave a comment and share the wisdom and encouragement!