Creating Sexual Legacy – How to talk to your kids about the Birds and the Bees: Part 3 (Episode 184)
When do you have "the talk" with your kids? For many families, discussing the "birds and the bees" is something that sparks dread and discomfort for parents as they try to navigate how to cover it all when it's so complex and...adult. The daunting thing? Intentional or not, we are creating a sexual legacy our children will carry on.
This week, I sat down with Jessica Connelly of Moon Daughters for yet another week, and we talked about creating a sexual legacy - both coming to what that is for ourselves, AND for our children.
*This is the third in a 3-part podcast series on "The Birds and the Bees: Navigating Powerful Conversations for Lasting Legacies with Our Children" If you missed Part 1, you can access it here, and Part 2 can be found here.
A Quick Recap:
I am back again this week with Jessica Connolly of Moon Daughters. Again, if you haven’t checked out last week’s episode, be sure to check that out first! We talked all about cycle wisdom, and she shared a lot about how much we are connected to nature - to the seasons, the cycles, the moon, and more.
So again, in part 1 of this series, Nathan and I talked about how to open the door to ongoing conversations about sex and sexuality in your home, and we shared our most favorite resources to support ongoing dialogue. Then last week in part 2 we covered the cycles and seasons and our nature connection. I’m excited to share with you all about this brand new course on creating a sexual legacy this week.
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The Elephant In The Room
As a refresher, Jessica Connelly is the mama of four daughters, ages 13, 10, 7 and 4 years old. This conversation about raising daughters, femininity and wisdom, and all the things we experience as women is so present in her life with all the different developmental stages.
She states, “I think we're living in a time where a lot of women want this kind of deep wisdom, [yet also] combined with modern science.”
The nitty-gritty, day-to-day raising of children can be enough. Yet you can’t raise empowered daughters (and sons) who love their bodies without addressing the aspect of sexuality. It may be the elephant in the room...and yes, it’s an elephant. It’s not going to just disappear. This is a critical component of who we are as humanity.
The Sex Expert
Jessica partnered with a sex therapist, Cherie Katt, who is an expert on questions of sexuality. Their Sexual Legacy course focuses on each age group bracket so there is a meaty guide for each stage of development.
Jessica and Cherie approach this from a very holistic perspective, meaning our sexuality is about all of us - body, mind and spirit. It’s not simply a light switch that can be flipped on at 11 or 12. It’s not like you just have “the talk” and then your job is done and “good luck” for your kid!
Sexuality doesn’t start at puberty. It actually starts in the womb. Yes, even in the womb, babies are exploring their bodies. They are sexual beings from the first moment, as they learn and discover our own bodies.
What Cherie and Jess address in the course is this shift in perspective - that this is a growing aspect of who you are from the beginning of time and continuing to develop for the rest of your life. So it isn’t a finite beginning and end, and a new approach to address what you want your child’s sexual story to be - and develop.
Our Sexual Legacy
Our children are developing into and creating their sexual legacy every day, same as we are. What stories are they writing about it? Do they see their bodies as good and whole, or broken and a burden? Are they carrying your pain or wounds? Are you passing down an open approach to discussing it, or that this is a taboo topic to be avoided?
Pay attention to what you may be carrying with you. Are you holding on to shame, trauma, or even just avoidance of this area in your own life? How are you intentionally preventing that from being carried on as the legacy you yourself pass down?
Just like our family legacy, we are creating a sexual legacy whether we are intentional about it or not.
Children are going to explore their bodies. Oftentimes there is a completely innocent discovery of self-pleasure at a young age. And, depending on our experience as mothers and fathers, we're going to react a certain way. There is grace for this - we aren’t going to get it perfect all the time. Yet our reactions can set a foundation for what is okay and not okay - to talk about, explore, and more. Simply bring awareness to the fact that your responses and reactions pave way for the story you are creating as a foundation here.
As adults, we can recognize now that we can be in charge of our story. And, we can decide what kind of story - or legacy - we want to leave. In simply acknowledging that we are giving our children a sexual legacy, it may prompt the need for healing yourself...which ultimately benefits you both. It’s a beautiful cycle.
“For instance, in the two to five-year-old module, we talk about when our daughters discover their vulvas and they discover self pleasure. That is usually a trigger for a lot of people, because there have been a lot of stories around that and how we should handle that.
We give some tips about how [to navigate this] in a gracious way. Because we're not perfect. We are responding from an automatic place, and we give some tips around actually preemptively understanding that there are going to be triggers, and then, reorienting our beliefs about a certain thing, and actually normalizing it from the perspective of a sex therapist. [For example], normalizing the fact that having a body is a good thing and that sexuality is a force for good in the world. And if we believe that as a core value, then we react out of that instead of this automatic, “Oh no, don't do that!”
Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers, another sex therapist, talks about how our first shame is sexual shame. Oftentimes it’s that baby in the bathtub that finds their body parts - their vulva or their penis - and then immediately are shamed because someone else's sexual legacy told them that wasn't okay. The process of normalizing this conversation can be difficult.
Even using the correct terminology can be hard. I swear we look around and whisper if we dare to use a private anatomical word. So we create cutesy little words for your “secret” code for their bottom and breasts and more. And then we have children confused when a “unit” is both something used in math and what they call their private parts, or a “button” goes on a shirt but is also their breast?
Using correct anatomy terminology, normalizing conversations about your body and theirs, having ongoing conversations about sex and sexuality...this is a process that can be greatly hindered by what shame we personally bring to it. Recognize the deep work we need to do as parents to ensure we don’t pass a legacy of emotional shame and baggage on to our children.
Affirmations for The Win
We will still have those knee-jerk reactions. Especially if we have trauma and shame in our own story, there will be triggers. There may be something your child says that takes you back to these moments in your own history - and at that point, you are no longer with your child; you are there in that pain or shame again.
Sometimes a simple affirmation can bring you back to center. You may have been shamed for exploring your private parts. And, as you walk in on your daughter exploring hers, your mind takes you back to your own moment. Instead of addressing her from that reactive space of a triggered emotion, shift to an intentional affirmation, like “humans are sexual beings.”
Just keeping in mind that humans are sexual beings is your reminder that this is perfectly normal - that this isn’t your story, and you’re seeing this from a place of science and intuition - we need to know our bodies.
When you can depersonalize the situation, you can be more proactive in creating the intention vs. the reaction.
Reframe Your Focus
Pay attention to what you want vs. just how you’re feeling about it. Reframe what you want to create:
“I believe sexuality is a good thing. I want this to be something that connects us on a deeper level instead of separating us.”
Making that intention ahead of time can really help. AND, it’s a-ok to take a breather if you’re not ready for a question or a response.
“None of this is polished. We’re all just figuring it out. But the more you bring intention and awareness to this part of their lives that has so commonly been shrouded in darkness and shame - little by little, you're letting the light in, and your own reactions are going to change. They just are. I promise it just works.”
Sexuality Vs. Sexiness
How do you distinguish between sexuality and sexiness? There may be a fear that opening the door to these conversations, especially with our youngest children, means we’re setting them up to be sexually mature before they are ready for it.
There is definitely a deep misunderstanding that can run deep in our culture that sexuality is more about the sleazy, sexy porn world vs. a beautiful and innocent aspect of our humanity. And that’s for good reason. Unfortunately many generations have known horrific experiences where it was anything but innocent and loving.
It’s commonly understood that sex means intercourse. That’s really how we’ve understood sex to be more than anything else. Yet if you zoom out to this broader understanding of sex, it is this:
Sex is about connection and pleasure
The Holistic Approach
Think about that - if we were to whittle it down to the what is that pure beauty in it, sex is about connection and pleasure. And this is something we as a society tend to ignore in our go-go-go society. And yet talking about sex and sexuality from a holistic perspective means that many of the conversations won’t actually be about sex at all!
Take this example Cherie shares about in the course:
When Cherie's daughter was 8 or 9 years old, she met a new female friend at school, and they really connected. She came home and immediately exclaimed, “I met this new friend and I want to have a sleepover! Can I sleep over at her house tonight?”
Cherie, as a sex therapist, had the awareness here to know that this conversation she was about to have with her daughter was really about boundaries, and completely translated to sexuality.
So she did have a talk with her daughter that went a bit more like this:
“Oh yeah? That's so great! I'm so glad you met this friend and yes, you could totally have a sleepover. But, before we sleep over at her house, why don't we plan a park date? I can meet her mom and her and we can all have a picnic. That could be so fun, you know? And then, maybe she'd come over to our house and then maybe you can go to her house after that.”
Even two innocent 8-year-old girls don’t need to hop in the sack together, even if there is nothing sexual going on. This is an actual healthy way to interact and engage in human intimacy for everyone. Learning how to get to know someone and open the door slowly to who you are and all of you vs. just jumping in.
That is part of how you leave a sexual legacy - by training and teaching your daughter how to actually engage in intimacy with other people. Eventually this situation will be more adult, and may potentially lead to sex - and this foundation of setting boundaries around where and when she is more vulnerable is important. This can go in her bank of wisdom for later on in her life.
Intimacy Has Many Levels
When your children know how to do friendships and ease into different levels of intimacy with another person, whether it’s sexual or not, it is still a part of our sexuality. This broadens our understanding of sexuality from nakedness and fooling around to things like boundaries, intimacy, human connection and pleasure.
We want to teach our children that pleasure is okay. Not just sexual pleasure, but any pleasure - a good meal, snuggling up near a fire, or doing something just for yourself.
These are foundational building blocks for all relationships as they grow. When you look at our completely non-sexual day-to-day life, there are so many opportunities for helping our children build relationships, understand consent, and learn respect for yourself and others.
Keep Your Faith
Another thing to address here is the fact that we all may come from different backgrounds and belief systems. We can carry on our faith traditions and have cultural beliefs around sexuality while still allowing for openness and possibility in our conversations with our children. Regardless of what religion or culture you are from, at the core of our beings, scientifically, we are sexual in nature, and the more we understand this as a normal and beautiful part of who we are, the better we can frame our beliefs and values around this as well.
Look around in nature and you will see affirmation on this natural tendency with many, many other creatures on this earth. Children are seeing animals have intercourse in nature, pleasure themselves, and more. Addressing the natural tendency doesn’t have to conflict with your spiritual beliefs. And, be careful about what spiritual beliefs you really do want to hold on to if they are laced in shame and/or trauma.
You can still hold sacred your own values and beliefs in a way that still honors our bodies and respects who we are as people.
200 One-Minute Conversations
In the course, Jess and Cherie talk about how “the talk” isn’t really a one-and-done, but more to be looked at as “200 one-minute conversations.” It’s those little, super simple, light-hearted comments and conversations just as much as going deep into the logistics of it all.
If you are willing to engage in mini conversations over and over with your children about all things sex and sexuality, not only are you creating a foundation for your children to able to openly share and process with you, you may actually be re-writing your own story in the process.
Learning The Language
Instead of just one talk, or even disjointed conversations, look at this as learning a language. Just like they learn and develop a vocabulary that builds and develops over time and as their motor skills and maturity level grows, the same can be said for learning the language of their sexuality.
In the womb, our babies are hearing sounds for the first time. They are feeling their bodies literally as they are growing and developing in the womb. Then they come out and they are observers in life, soaking it all in. Then, there comes a point when they start creating a voice for themselves, and learning to identify not only the word, but the feeling and emotion surrounding it. Their vocabulary deepens over time, as do the questions and complexity of it all.
I could make the same analogy, yet, instead of words, discuss our growing relationship with our own sex and sexuality.
If we can shift our approach to learning the language of our lives, it opens the door to an ongoing - and growing - dialogue that keeps on going as long as you are on a path of growth and discovery.
It’s not a script you go through and then memorize by a certain time. Take any adult who has been in more than one relationship to understand that - the language is nuanced, constantly changing, and different for every interaction.
This Isn't Just For Women
While the Moon Daughters platform and courses are geared toward mothers and daughters, I strongly feel it is a message everyone should hear. We are all impacted by a woman somewhere in our life - and the more we understand the beautiful intuitive complexity of all that is female, the better we all can connect. And, we are just as passionate about helping our daughters learn and understand what is going on with males as we are for them to learn their own bodies.
We set a foundation of knowing ourselves first - yet, the better we can understand those who aren’t our own gender, the better we are going to be able to interact with them. So educating ourselves on both is so, so important.
Creating Sexual Legacy
Some additional resources for you
- Part 1: The Birds and the Bees (Episode 182)
- Part 2: Moon Cycle Wisdom with Jessica Connelly
- Check out Moon Daughters
- Creating Sexual Legacy Course
- Moon Cycle Wisdom for Mothers And Daughters
- Have Life Seasons Gotten You Stuck In A Funk? (Episode 179)
- How Do I Bond With My Child? (Episode 167
- How do I equip my kid to “adult”? (Episode 89)
- 7 Seconds will change your communication and connection (Episode 62)
- Juliet Talks Feelings: Wisdom From A 7-year-old (Episode 165)
- What Are You In Control Of?
- Feeling Angry Today?
- What Are Your Non-Negotiables In Your Family? (Episode 73)
Your Weekly Challenge:
We are beautiful beings in this life. And life is happening regardless of whether we’re driving or not. What type of life do you want to live? What type of legacy do you want to leave for your children? And how are you being intentional about that?
Where are you going to choose to move forward with your family, and what resources can you have to help support you along the way?
Pay attention to where you may be stuck, and don’t be afraid to reach out if you aren’t sure to move forward. The more we understand about ourselves, the more we can recognize how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us, Namaste.