Having THE talk with your Children is all about answering questions

Having THE talk with your Children is all about answering questions

An Interview with Self Studies Co-Founders Sarah and Lauren

Having that conversation with your children can be uncomfortable and uncertain, even for those working on sexuality themes professionally. Does interlacing conversations about your job and sexuality make those conversations more awkward or easier? Does it mean that you know what to do and what to say, or does it make no difference at all?

Co-founders of Self Studies are both mothers, Sarah has two boys aged 9 and 6, and Laured has a boy who is 10 and a girl who is 8 years old. Right before the Self Studies’ event with Anna Marah Jansen from De Sekswijzer on giving the talk to your children, which was held in Amsterdam at the end of June, we had a talk with Sarah and Lauren to see how they are dealing with their children's questions and curiosity at this age.

You work in the sexual wellness industry and are co-founders of Self Studies which curates sex toys, intimate hygiene products, games and books on sexuality, as well as written content on sex, relationships, and intimacy. Do your kids know what you do and how much of what you do at work do they understand?

LAUREN: "They are aware that we have an online shop and occasionally a physical store that focuses on wellness and sexuality. They have a basic understanding that we sell products related to sex and sexuality, but they are not aware of the specific details or functionalities of these products."

SARAH: "Since they are still young, their understanding is limited. If they were teenagers, it might be different..."

LAUREN: "Even though they are young, they do have some knowledge. They ask questions, and they understand that our work relates to sex. Sex is a topic they hear about to some extent, not just because of my work, but also through what they see on TV and from their friends, especially those with older siblings. Most of their questions stem from those sources. While sex is present in their lives in some form, they don't have a comprehensive understanding of it."

SARAH: "When discussing our work, I explain to my children that it revolves around taking good care of oneself. Self Studies also offers supplements, books, wellness products, as well as menstrual and pelvic floor care items. When I mention 'pelvic floor' to my son, he has no idea what it means. So, I explain it in terms he can understand, such as 'there are toys that can help your body after having a baby and provide support.'"

 

You started Self Studies about 3 years ago, your children were very young then. How did you explain to them what you do then and how do you explain it now, if and when they have questions?

LAUREN: "At that time, three years ago, they had no understanding of it. However, over the past few years, they have been exposed to our brand Self Studies more often. We have stickers, postcards, and our bikes prominently display the phrase 'You come first.' Naturally, they have become curious. Nowadays, we discuss it a bit more than we did three years ago. However, I don't delve into excessive detail with them. I focus on sharing the important aspects, the things I believe they need to know. If they have questions, I do my best to answer them all."

SARAH: "They were much younger back then, so the questions have increased as they've grown. The other day, my son made a remark about how sex is for having babies, and I responded by saying, 'Well, it's also something that grown-ups do for fun.' I explained it within the context of 'when people love each other, this is what happens.' His reaction was priceless, with a face that said, 'Gross! That's not the answer I wanted or expected. Eww!'"

LAUREN: "I get similar reactions when my children see me giving my husband a kiss. They always respond with 'eww!' Everything is still very 'eww' to them. One valuable lesson I've learned over the past few years, especially from our conversations with Anna from De Sekswijzer, is the importance of answering their questions. When they have queries, it's crucial to provide answers because otherwise, they may seek information from various sources, which we want to avoid."

Do you have any advice for parents who work in sexuality-related jobs, how to talk to their children about it?

SARAH: I think you just have to be as honest and clear as possible. Probably not telling them about all the bits that they don't understand, but explain what they can understand and answer their questions. I think that also gives them a bit of confidence if they are teased by their friends or if people ask them and want to know more details, so they themselves already understand and know. I think the worst thing would be to try and hide what you do. We feed them more information, bit by bit, as they get older. When they get to 12 or 13 years old and really understand more about the toys, I would explain that there are toys to use with somebody, to use with yourself, or your partner. And then just explain it piece by piece as they mature.

LAUREN: I think it is important you feel how much they can handle and to talk appropriately for their age and sexual development. If they are six, you would tell them something different then when they are ten. You should be sure about them and their development as much as possible: What do they know already? How far are they in their sexual development? And then be as transparent as possible for that age category.

Are you worried your children might get their sexual education from the Internet, and thus get some inaccurate and potentially damaging information? What do you think that could be? How do you think parents can prevent their children from getting such inaccurate knowledge?

LAUREN: "I am definitely concerned about the Internet and the abundance of unreliable information available there. There is so much misleading content that they can come across."

SARAH: "Absolutely. Instead of waiting for our kids to develop curiosity and search for answers online, we take proactive steps to stay ahead. However, we also consider their level of curiosity and understanding."

LAUREN: "I tell them: 'Whenever you have questions or curiosity, about this subject but also about other things, come to me or your dad. Avoid resorting to the Internet because there is a vast amount of false information out there.' I emphasize the importance of relying on trustworthy sources rather than some sources on the the internet, which can be a sea of misinformation."

Your children are going to enter their teenage years at some point. Are you worried about having conversations on sexuality with them then? How do you think you can prepare for that part of parenting?

SARAH: "The foundation we are laying now, step by step - being open, honest, non-judgmental, and addressing their questions - is setting the stage for us to be able to have discussions about sexuality when they reach their teenage years as well."

LAUREN: "In terms of Self Studies, I also want us to create something that my children can be proud of one day. Undoubtedly, we will face some challenging phases when they become teenagers. They might feel embarrassed or uncertain, especially considering our involvement in selling sex toys. I don't expect the societal taboo and stigma surrounding sexuality to disappear completely in a couple of years. When they start high school, they might not feel overly enthusiastic about telling their new friends that their moms sell sex toys, haha. And that's okay. However, I look forward to building something that they can look back on in the future and say, 'Wow, our moms did something really cool, pioneering in this field and working to destigmatize it!'"

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