Steps I am taking to be a ‘Sex Positive’ Parent to my Toddler…

Sex Positivity is all about embracing sexuality and understanding that sex and everything relating to it, is a natural part of life as a human being.

Share

Like most of us at Mummykind, you may have grown up in a family environment where not even a word about sex was ever uttered- leading you to experience feelings of shame, guilt or discomfort about a wide range of completely natural sexual subjects. Sex positivity and awareness of sex isn’t exclusive to contraception and the big talks that we may have once had as a teenager. Sex Positivity is all about embracing sexuality and understanding that sex and everything relating to it, is a natural part of life as a human being.

 

 

I stumbled across a fantastic page on Instagram @sexpositive_families (some of their infographics and quotes are featured on this post!) several months ago- it promoted the importance of sex positivity in families, especially in parenting and since then I have made a conscious effort to be the most sex positive Mummy I can be! We all want our children to be happy and healthy,  I think its massively important to remember that raising healthy children goes beyond what they’re eating and how much exercise they get- Their mental and sexual health is massively important too! 

Needless to say- “sexual health goes beyond just puberty, basic human biology and very occasional sex talks.” When we start sexual health talks and awareness early, we give our children awareness that affirms they are neither strange nor wrong for any of what they are experiencing. 

Obviously the Mummykind kids are between a few months and three years old, so the sex positive parenting steps that I am going to recommend will mainly cater for this age.


As parents we have to tell little white lies all the time- about father Christmas, about the tooth fairy, about how long 5 minutes is- but sex, relationships, sexuality and bodies are some of the things we should always try to be honest about. 

  • Do not ban any words at home, no matter how uncomfortable they might make you feel.

Children need to know they can trust you and talk to you about anything- use proper words for body parts when and where possible or opt for words that cant mean other things. We call a vagina a ‘nuna’ but often use the word vagina anyway. Words like ‘cookie’ for example have alternate meanings and this can lead to confusion and abuse being missed due to being misunderstood. 

 

  • Let your child be naked.

If my daughter is at home and she wants to be naked, then she can do as she pleases. Her being comfortable to be undressed is important. I don’t deliberately go around naked at home, but I don’t hide away when I am. I have a full figure, stretch marks and scars and I want her to see that is normal and okay.

  • When your child doesn’t want to hug or kiss someone, don’t make them!

“Make a habit out of asking permission before you touch them or share affection with your children, Respecting their boundaries’ highlights the importance of their bodily autonomy and lays a crucial foundation and ‘understanding of consent.”

@sexpositive_families reminds us that common consent violations can include-

“Being tickled past the point of comfort, being hugged or kissed without their permission, telling a family member to “stop” without it being respected, being told to eat food past the point of being full, having your personal items looked through without being asked for permission or being told to show affection to another person when you did not want to.”

  • When you catch your toddler exposing or touching their body parts, don’t freak out.

Exploring your own body, including your genitals is a valuable part of sexual health that often begins at a young age. A child touching or fiddling about with their genitalia shouldn’t be discouraged, but more reiterated that there is a time and place for doing so. For example if your child is playing with his penis, you could try saying “We don’t touch our penises in the living room darling, if you want to do that why don’t you go to your room or the bathroom?” … touching and exploring their own bodies isn’t the issue but the place they decide to do it often is! Kids understand when things are compartmentalised and so offering an alternative that is safer and more appropriate to explore themselves should make sense and feel normal to them, a bit like “No eating whilst using the toilet”.

  • When they ask about private parts, don’t shy away from the subject.

I was shopping in Aldi when I picked up some sanitary towels- my daughter decided to shout “ARE THEY FOR YOUR BOTTOM MUMMY?” although I felt a little embarrassed, I wanted her to have no shame around the subject or use of sanitary products so I proudly proclaimed “YES, yes darling, these are for my bottom… Lady days!”.. No matter where and no matter when, try to never shy away from your child questions about their body, your body or otherwise!

  • When your child asks about intimacy, try to explain it in a way that makes sense and is appropriate to them.

“Why are they kissing?” “Why are they holding hands?” – Talk about how when people want to touch each other it can make them happy to do so, but it could also make them sad if it was unexpected or made one of them uncomfortable. ‘Safe Touch’ and ‘Unsafe Touch’ can be taught from early ages. Try to avoid making physical contact and affection sound like a negative, but more focus the child’s attention on what other lovely things they could do if they’re feeling like they want to kiss somebody that it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to kiss – like pick a flower or draw a picture for them. We are all such emotional beings, discussing these emotions with our children can only make them stronger.

My daughter is almost three and has always followed me around as I go about my day to day. If I shower, she’ll be in and out as I do- the same as when I use the bathroom. If she sees any blood or any use of sanitary products, I tell her that it is for my ‘lady days’ – I have PCOS and really suffer when I have a period and knowing that my daughter could experience similar when she is growing up made me want to be as vocal about my experience as possible. I talk to her about my cramps, I talk to her about the bleeding when and if she sees it and I talk to her about my use of sanitary products. If I am feeling unwell for gynae reasons I will discuss it as if it was a cold or flu. I don’t want my child to feel any once of shame for a natural process. I want her to know it is normal and it is okay.

Your response to your child saying these words lays a foundation for their understanding of consent!

  • Listen to anything that your children want to tell you. If you don’t listen to the small stuff now, they won’t tell you the big stuff later.https://www.instagram.com/p/BqBNKK9B_mB/

In summary- “Sex positive parents are parents who raise children that are prepared to make informed choices about their bodies, relationships and sexual health.” “The best sex education is given over a life time, not in one talk or occasional school lessons.” @sexpositive_families

Here are some of my favourite Sex Positive Parenting resources

https://www.instagram.com/sexpositive_families/

https://www.instagram.com/the.vulva.gallery/

https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/10-ways-to-support-sex-positive-kids/

https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/womens_rights/1466718-Sex-positive-parenting-blog

https://theswaddle.com/sex-positive-parenting-toddler/

**Please note that Sex Positive Parenting isn’t exclusive to any gender, despite a variety of resources suggesting that it is mainly something that parents of girls need to think about**

A special thank you and shout out to @sexpositive_families who have been quoted throughout this post. Their work is invaluable and you most definitely need to check them out!

Remember that if words fail you, there are plenty of appropriate books that can be purchased online for various different age groups that can say what you might be struggling to. @sexpositive_families have devised a fantastic reading list that covers a wide range of subject to a multitude of ages, find it here.

 

Frank Fridays : the realities of being a disabled parent

I’m honest with my friends about my health struggles, and I also write for The Mighty about some of my experiences. Now I feel it’s time to open up to you, the Mummykind family.

The truth is that my health is often poor, but I don’t make a habit of advertising it. Honestly, I find it so difficult to be honest about my struggles as a disabled mum, because so often people hit me with ‘if you’re disabled, don’t you think it was selfish to have a baby?’. It stings because they don’t understand that I’m a good mum, only that I have difficulties and that must mean I’m a bad parent, right?

Newsflash. EVERYONE has difficulties. It’s how you deal with it that matters.

I’ll try and keep the medical jargon to a minimum while explaining some of what I have to deal with day to day – having dealt with some of my conditions since birth I’ve been told that I sound like I ate a medical textbook!

I currently have seven conditions diagnosed, with more in the pipeline (lucky me, eh!)

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome – This is one of my most prevalent illnesses. I was born with EDS, and while every day is different, most days are an uphill struggle. EDS is a rare condition that affects connective tissues. Connective tissues are present in skin, organs, blood vessels, muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones (so basically everything). Symptoms I deal with every day are loose, unstable joints that dislocate every day, chronic pain, easy bruising, muscle weakness, fatigue, and problems with internal organs.

Orthostatic Hypotension – When my new Orthopaedic Surgeon heard I had this, he said ‘really? But you aren’t old!’. Well, newsflash Mr, young people can have Orthostatic Hypotension too. Put basically, when I change position from lying to sitting, or sitting to standing, my blood pressure plummets to dangerous levels, and I lose consciousness and faint.

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome – the cells in my body that react when you have an allergic reaction are over active, and my body spontaneously develops new allergies all the time, even to something that was safe yesterday.
Gastroparesis – my stomach can’t empty itself as effectively as other people’s can, which means food stays in there for far too long. Glamorous.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis – I’m super tired all the time! Yay!
I also have Celiac disease and Asthma, but those seem pretty pale in comparison!
Now that’s out of the way (and well done if you’ve got this far, medical stuff can be snooze inducing!) hopefully some of what I’m about to say will make more sense!
I think it’s important to start with the fact that the realities I experience living life as a disabled parent will be very different to someone else’s. Life is so variable, and what’s difficult for me might seem like a walk in the park to someone else, and vice versa.
The biggest reality I’m trying to deal with right now is that parenting my daughter is nothing like I thought it would be. Though I try to do the best I can, there are days like today where I really can’t function enough to look after myself, let alone my little one.  I’m blessed to have my husband at home with me all the time (fainting unpredictably means I can’t often be left alone) and my wonderful John is often left to care for my little climber while I have to rest. I often feel a real sense of guilt because I’m not living up to the perfect image in my mind of what a mother should be. I’m faced with the reality that I can’t do all I want to for her all the time. And that’s ok. It doesn’t make me a bad parent for having to take a step back and recover my strength. It’s a good example of self-care to set my daughter, if anything.
It also strikes me that my monkey won’t grow up in the same way other children will. While it’s great that both her mum and dad are home with her all the time, it worries me that I’ll miss out on important things later down the line because of my health. Because my illnesses are so unpredictable, i’m often fine in the morning and struggling in the evening, or the other way around, and that can be difficult to understand for one so little.  I might not be able to take her to the park when she wants to go, and I might have to watch her play from a distance rather than getting involved.
Not being afraid to ask for help is a big lesson I’ve learnt over the last few months. It is practically impossible to look after a crawling explorer while you’ve got a hip that is constantly dislocating, you’ve got a migraine which is making you vomit and see stars, you’ve taken enough prescription medication to tranquillise a horse, and you’re dealing with an allergic reaction from something (and it really could be anything at this point). When I first asked for help, I have to admit that I felt a little ashamed, as though I was being naughty for asking for help. But that’s when I realised we have the saying ‘it takes a village’ for a reason. And in our family’s case, it really does.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. While I may have painted a bit of a dreary picture, I get to see my daughter grow up in a way most people don’t. With any luck, I won’t miss any firsts, and while physically I might not be able to do as much as I want to, I’m still able to raise my daughter to be a kind and considerate human being who is already being exposed to diversity at a young age.
While I may struggle more than most, my struggles don’t define me, and more importantly, they will never beat me.
If you’re intrigued by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, check this awareness video I was involved in!
What realities are you struggling to come to terms with?