Talking about sex with your children , and promoting healthy body image and good self esteem aren’t the preserve of Feminist parenting. But if feminism is , at it’s core, about equality and respect for all, including oneself, then promoting these positive messages to our children is key.
On June 15th, we gathered once again in The Workman’s in Dublin to talk about Raising Feminists. This time on Sex and Bodies : Promoting Positivity.
Meet the panel:
Hazel Larkin, Writer, MA Sexuality.
Dr Deirdre Cowman, Psychologist, Endangered Bodies Ireland.
Rebecca Flynn – Body Positivity Ireland, Snapchat superstar.
Taryn De Vere – writer, parenting coach.
The two key points , I think, are critical thinking and open communication. Get that sorted and everything else will fall into place.
- Critical thinking skills are key. Questions like who is missing from this picture? why is the girl being depicted in this way? why are there no people of colour in this movie? Ask your child questions when you are watching TV, reading books, listening to adverts. These are all teaching opportunities for you and learning opportunities for your child.
- Make pathways for clear communication. You can’t start suddenly talking to them about sex at 15 if you’ve never had open conversations before. The first time you talk about sex with your child doesn’t have to be the last: It’s not a case of having ‘the talk’ and never mentioning it again. This will be, hopefully, a conversation which continues and develops over the years. If talking is really difficult, for older children consider writing notes. The communication doesn’t need to be verbal, but it does need to be open and, crucially, non-judgemental.
Loving yourself is a political act
- Walk the walk. Be your children’s role model. You cannot promote a healthy body image message if you are not feeling that way about your own body. This is hard. We all have years of media messages and social conditioning to fight against. We remember things we heard or saw in our own mothers when we were young. We remember throwaway comments that strangers or friends or family members made about our bodies when we were children. So yes, it’s hard, for some, to really embrace ones own body, but we have to try, so that our children might not have to try quite so hard themselves.
What to do – Practical Advice
- Make a Plan. Burying your head in the sand won’t work, prepare yourself by thinking ahead of what you might say or do if certain situations arise.
- Books and story telling are a good way to start a conversation with young kids. One recommendation was ‘Where Did I Come From?’ by Peter Mayle. Panellist Deirdre Cowman also has a book on promoting self acceptance and postive body image for young children, The Magnificent Toby Plum.
- It’s OK to take time. If your child asks you a question you are unprepared for, it’s OK to tell them you need time to think about it and go back to them later. But you have to go back to them! Don’t hope they will forget. It’s also OK to make mistakes – but be honest with them about it, ” I made a mistake, I misspoke, I’m sorry and I’ll do better next time.” Saying sorry is also something our kids need to see being modelled.
- Use the correct terms when talking about all body parts: arms, legs, eyes, toes, penis, vulva, vagina.
- Social media is an additional concern for parents now. We often differentiate between social media and ‘real life’. But the online world is real life. The pressure to post selfies and even pose in certain ways is real, and has a real impact on children’s self esteem. Don’t focus too much on the form of the pressure, the solution is not to take your child or teen’s phone away. Social media, or real life, the message is still the same. Talk to your child.
- It’s likely that the education your child receives in School will be inadequate. It will almost certainly be hetero-normative, it may even be inaccurate. This underlines the importance of you having your own conversations with your child, and teaching them to question what they are being told. ( This might also include them questioning you of course, which is great, right?)
- Be kind to yourself. Parenting is hard.
If you want to read more of Taryn De Vere’s wisdom you can find her writing at https://medium.com/@taryndevere
Check out Deirdre Cowman’s work at Endangered Bodies https://www.facebook.com/EndangeredBodiesIreland/
Rebecca Flynn can be found at https://www.facebook.com/BoPoIreland/
and Hazel Larkin has written an actual book! https://www.amazon.com/Gullible-Travels-Hazel-…/…/1514757621