I am holding the phone in my hand, sweating and pacing around my bedroom. I’m 21 and I’m working up the nerve to call my parents. I am going under general anesthesia in 14 hours for minor, elective surgery, and I figured they should know. I am terrified to tell them because the surgery is something in my private area, you know, the down there region that we don’t talk about in my family. I had been suffering with vulvar pain for a while and my OBGYN suggested this surgery might help. If I tell my parents about Vulvodynia and the problems I’ve been having, they might draw the conclusion that I am sexually active. And we don’t talk about that in my family.
So I make the call and it goes fine. And I have the surgery and it goes fine (although it’s not how I cured Vulvodynia but that’s a story for another day). What was not fine with me was how ridiculously nervous I got to tell my Mom and Dad. I was willing to go under general anesthesia and not even tell them. What was I afraid of? Ruining my good girl image? Making them uncomfortable? My parents are kind and loving and they went outside their comfort zone to give us “the talk” and tell us what we needed to know. Unfortunately, what came through more clearly to me, was their discomfort with the subject. I learned, not from their words, but from their obvious discomfort and lack of communication, that they didn’t want to talk to about sexuality.
At 21, I decided this wasn’t okay and I created a mission: To help open up the lines of communication between parents and children on sexuality and other difficult topics. I wanted to help other kind, responsible, parents with something they know is important, but aren’t really sure how to go about teaching it. It’s hard to teach age appropriate sex education that is factual, relevant and relaxed, if you’ve never seen it done. (I knew for sure I would not be immitating my 6th or 8th grade teachers!)
What I didn’t expect was how much this field of family life education would change in 20 years. The quantity of sexual images and content on TV has skyrocketed. The information today’s 9-12 year olds have, blows me away. (I have 10 year old girls asking about penile dysfunction and the “man who had the baby”. One savvy, 12 year old blew me away with the correct spelling of “pseudohermaphrodite.”) These kids have lots of information but they need help with filtering all the messages in a way that works for them. Kids need to hear their parents talk authentically about their values. Kids are hungry for information on intimacy, relationships, listening to their instincts, and solving problems with peers. This new ability for kids to mass distribute private information over the Internet, requires a whole new set of values and etiquette and parents don’t even know where to begin.
I do not teach sex ed to parents and kids because it comes naturally to me (although I do find it ridiculously fun). I do it because I feel called to. I relate to parents who want to do the right thing but get embarrassed, put it off, giggle or tease rather than educate. I also relate to the kids: embarrassed, curious, and grateful that someone explains it in a way that makes it entertaining and relevant.
I am so grateful to all the parents who have trusted me with this very important topic. I thank you all for helping me fulfill my dream of helping parents and kids stay connected through the teen years. -Torie