Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Teachable Moment: Keep Calm it is just a VULVA!

Second installment of TPG's student intern, Michelle Asby's blog...enjoy!

Teachable Moment: Keep Calm it is just a VULVA!

We are an affectionate family. We hold hands, kiss, walk around the bathroom nude without hiding our bodies, and talk about body parts using their anatomically correct terms. I’ll never forget teaching our first born about her body as she pointed to her different parts. Head, eyes, shoulders, knees, toes...vulva. You would have thought my husband saw a ghost when I told my daughter she had a vulva and a vagina. “What on earth should I call it,” I asked. “I don’t know, but hearing my 2 year old say vulva or vagina is kinda weird.” he says. “What is weird is that you are a 30 something that still blushes at the word vulva, grow up!” I retorted back. Three kids later he is still ”weirded-out” at his kids’ talking in correct language about their genitalia. This idea of calling our genitals pet names to me is absurd. I learned this lesson in the 3rd grade when one of my classmates came yelling across the playground that her “winkle” was bleeding. We had a male teacher and he kept asking what a “winkle” is looking to all of us kids for answers. Nobody knew what a “winkle” was and before you know it we were yelling out guesses as to what a winkle might be and none of us said vulva or private part! A female teacher finally understand and took the student to the bathroom. She returned to class later in a whole new outfit, unbeknownst to us she had gotten her menstrual period. Days later she told us blood was coming out onto her underwear. This was my first lesson in getting a period.

Lesson Learned: Prepare your kiddos for the inevitable. Be preventative as opposed to reactive as much as possible. Using the correct anatomical name and functions for body parts should start at infancy. Learning and understanding that the body changes and grows all the time is important for all kids to know. Many female children begin puberty between ages 8-12 years old. Talking to your children about their body changes and puberty is important in their healthy development.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Teaching youth media literacy and cyber smart skiills

With smart phones and chrome books replacing jump ropes and wagons, parents are often lost in the technology universe that their kids eagerly use as a playground. Its ever morphing toys: Facebook, Twitter, Snap chat, Whats Ap,... all these cyber toys often leave parents scratching their heads. Parents quickly realize that the lessons before them are more complex than teaching their kids 'how to cross the street'.

Adults are faced with teaching our youth to become media PIs, deconstructing the hidden messages from the overt stories. To top it off, we are also charged with helping our youth to cautiously use an everyday tool, the internet and the associated technology in all its forms with caution. How do you teach responsible use of such an innocuous and powerful object?

Kids need to learn how to become critical thinkers. We must remember that even mature and intelligent youth often developmentally lack the insight we have as adults. We must provide learning opportunities for them to learn to decode media messages. We must help them hone their abilities to not only use technology but the much needed skillset to responsibly navigate is vastness.  Until that time, we must wade them into the cyber pool.

Two smart parent tech tips include:
  1. Learn the 'safety settings' for you child's technology. Set them with you own private security code. Graduate these to less restrictive settings as the child ages and shows more critical thinking skills.
  2. Tech Turn In: Set a time that all technology must be turned into you each night. This prohibits late night unmonitored wandering into uncharted territories.
We reached out to Lisa Schulze,  a youth sex ed expert, for additional advice. She shared some valuable parent resources. Check out:
Common sense media, Edutopia, and PBS kids.

Parents often see their kids as their 'little babies', na├»ve and free from sexuality. However, our kids have many faces, just as we do. Their sexual curiosity, their flirtatious nature, their sexual voice is often exercised in privacy with their friends as they develop social skills and a sense of self. Parents often are not privy to this other side of their children. They are sometimes blinded by a misguided idea that youth are sexually innocent and they somehow believe it is their duty to protect their kids from sexuality.

A more holistic and sexually healthy version recognizes that our children are sexual beings from birth. Our job, rather than protecting children from their inherent sexuality, is to shepherd their evolving sexuality, guide their journey as safely as possible, increase their sexual literacy, and minimize their sexual shame. Its an awesome and sometimes terrifying responsibility... being a sexuality teacher. But every parent is by default a sex ed teacher. It may be one of the most important parenting job roles. It is a job made more important by the bombardment of our children by hidden media messages and the tempting calls of a technology landscape that is often a new frontier for most parents. The good news is that as adults we don't have to become experts in these arenas, we just need to stay a dozen or so steps ahead of our children.




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

TEACHABLE MOMENTS: A PARENTS ALLY IN NURTURING A CHILD’S CURIOSITY

TPG is excited to announce a new blog series from our student intern, Michelle Asby. She will will be sharing musings on her journey raising sexually literate children. Come along for the ride...

TEACHABLE MOMENTS: A PARENTS ALLY IN NURTURING A CHILD’S CURIOSITY

One of my biggest lesson as a parent is understanding my impact on the greater life of my children as
their first teacher, friend, love, and even adversary. What an incredible opportunity we have being their “first” everything. We get the privilege of teaching them all about the world and the complexities within.

The role we take on as parents is so far reaching it has no end! Knowing this, we must arm ourselves
for any and all questions especially those related to sex and sexuality. I am a mother of three amazing
creatures that all came into this world firing on all pistons! Their incredible curiosities make for some
hilarious discussions and teachable moments. Embrace these moments with dignity and grace, but most importantly honesty. Here are some of my favorite most teachable moments related to sexuality.

Teachable Moment: The Mating Game

During a trip to Florida in May 2011 there was an extremely high volume of flying bugs that swarmed us at the beach it wasn’t long before our daughter asked, “Mom, why are those bugs’ butts stuck together?” Sure enough each bug was coupled with its mate. The bugs were so thick and such a
nuisance we asked nearby beach goers what they were. We learned that they were called “love bugs”
and clearly it was mating season. At age 4 a simple response of “that is a probably a mommy and daddy bug that are mating” was enough to appease her. My eldest continued the conversation asking “what is mating?”. At this point my husband drifts off to his “manly” duties of carrying the coolers and setting up our chairs for our beach day; leaving me to answer to the curiosities of our children. I glare at him and after a quick cleansing breathe I explained that “mating is a natural process that animals do to make babies.” She was happy with the response and went about still following her curiosity catching the love bugs and inspecting this mating ritual up close and personal.

Lesson Learned: Keep calm and answer the question. I don’t claim to have handled this situation
perfectly, but I do know that running from it, like my husband, or bringing shame or discomfort to the
question was not in their best interest. I did my best to honor the question with an honest answer for
what I felt their development allowed for.