It’s never too early

This week the Talk early, talk often series continues on the SAAM Blog with a guest post from Annie Gebhardt, MPH, Training Specialist at NSVRC.

When I started reflecting on what this year’s SAAM tagline, “Talk Early, Talk Often,” means to me as a brand-new mom, I figured I was off the hook for the time being. Right now, my conversations with my 5-month-old mostly consist of us repeating “aaauuuuu” and “haaaaaahhhggooo” back and forth to each other. Not a lot of opportunity for talking about healthy sexual development in there.

But then I realized that while M doesn’t have much to say about his sexuality yet, other people in his life sure seem to. When he was just six weeks old, my mom and I spotted a baby girl about his age while we were at the grocery store together. “She could be M’s girlfriend,” my mom suggested. More recently, my friend jokingly-but-suggestively told to M to “give her a call” when he reaches 18, and another family member quipped about having embarrassing pictures “to show M’s first girlfriend” someday. These were well-intentioned comments from people who love M and want the best for him, and they were meant to be cute and inconsequential. But they also took place in a larger societal context that will teach my son, as he grows up, that as a boy he should 1) only be interested in girls sexually or romantically, and 2) only really be interested in girls sexually or romantically.

As a parent, I’m concerned about the messages M will get about sexuality. As an advocate and prevention practitioner, I’m concerned about the messages we all get. So I want to start talking early and talking often, not necessarily with M just yet, but with the other adults in our lives who will help to shape his attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors around sexuality – his own and other people’s. I can use these teachable moments to start conversations about healthy childhood sexual development, and to challenge gender stereotypes and heteronormativity, so that when M is ready to talk about healthy sexuality, his family and his community will be ready too.

What are some teachable moments you have used to talk with other adults about healthy childhood sexual development and healthy sexuality? Please share in the comments!