Let’s Talk Month: 4 Critical Messages to Share with Your Son
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Let’s Talk Month: 4 Critical Messages to Share with Your Son

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October 20, 2016

Written by Earnest Goggins, Fatherhood Program Coordinator at The Parenting Network

October is Let’s Talk Month, a national public campaign designed to encourage parent/child communication about sexuality. What does a father of an eight-year old girl know about talking to a boy about sex? The short answer is nothing! What I do know is a father’s responsibility is never limited to his own children. As an adult male it is my responsibility to be a role model not only to my daughter, but to my sister’s kids, my neighbor’s kids, and any child who may look up to me. My work as a program coordinator and facilitator for The Parenting Network’s Fatherhood Program has taught me how great the need is for adults to have open conversations with kids about sex, sexuality, and gender. My experiences thus far as a father and uncle have continued to reinforce how important these discussions are.

I have six sisters and seven nieces and nephews who look up to me as their role model. Recently, I had a talk about sex with my 13-year old nephew Trevion. Remembering how I was at age 13, I knew our conversation would focus mainly on sex. (If you can remember the song “I Get Around” by 2pac from 1994, you can understand my limited perspective when I was that same age). In favor of not jeopardizing my “cool uncle” status I decided I would not lecture Trevion. Instead I would focus on four critical messages I think will help every father, uncle, or step-dad have a successful discussion with their son, nephew, or neighbor about sex:

#1 Media influences sex: Trevion and I talked about sex and violence in movies and music videos. I asked about his favorite entertainers and their messages. I also talked to him about pornography and sex on television and whether or not he felt what took place on TV is what happens in normal sexual encounters. My goal for this was to help Trevion understand the subliminal power of media to influence his ideas about sex and increase his ability to distinguish reality from entertainment.

#2 Puberty: I spoke to Trevion about puberty and physiological changes that occur such as acne, pubic hair, muscle growth, and the mysterious wet dream. Trevion did emit an uncomfortable laugh when I mentioned the last one. I also told Trevion that being attracted to someone was normal but also shared how there are healthy and unhealthy ways to show physical attraction. I gave him examples of healthy ways and unhealthy ways to show affection such as verbal, physical, or sexual abuse.

#3 Consequences of sex: I asked Trevion why he thought animals had sex. “It feels good! Animals can’t help themselves,” he shared with excitement. I agreed but said that on a basic level animals have sex to reproduce for the survival of their species. I then asked him to tell me the consequences of him having sex. He said, “Becoming pregnant.” Trevion laughed when I asked, “Can a boy get pregnant?” I laughed too and explained to him that although we (men) can’t physically carry a baby, we are in fact responsible for those pregnancies. We also talked about the differences between STD’s and STI’s. He was shocked to learn all STD’s aren’t curable and a person could suffer physical harm or die from STD’s such as HIV-AIDS.  

#4 Right versus wrong: I ended our discussion with a simple way he could tell the difference between right from wrong in a relationship. I asked, “How would you want your mother, sister, and cousin to be treated in a relationship?” He unequivocally stated his mom should be respected and his sister and cousins protected. I asked him to imagine himself as a father. Would he be ok if his own daughter was dating a boy like him? He laughed and said, “No.” I asked him why. He admitted he had some things to work on. I supported him by sharing that we as men all have things to work on. If he ever wanted to know if his actions were right or wrong in a relationship, he should first ask himself three questions: Would I want my mom to be treated like this? Would I want my sister to be treated like this? Would I want my daughter to be treated like this? I said your answer to any of those questions will reveal if you are treating others with respect or if you still have things to work on.

After that, I gave Trevion a hug, pushed him in the back of the head and told him to pull up his pants.

Learn more about the United Way-funded Fatherhood Program

Check out our Let’s Talk toolkit for tips on how to start the conversation

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