Sex ed is every day.
Sex ed is teaching children, of any age, that their bodies are their own; it is making sure they know what bodily autonomy is (whether or not they know the word), and that they have it, and everyone else has it too.
Sex ed is answering their questions about pubic hair, and armpit hair, and facial hair, and breasts, and penises, and vulvas. (Sex ed is making sure they know words like breast and penis and vulva because they’re a part of your every day vocabulary.)
Sex ed is telling kids that most women have vulvas but some don’t, that most men have penises but some don’t. (Sex ed is telling them that penises and vulvas and men and women aren’t the only ways to be.)
Sex ed is knowing that when a kid is cranky and you need a moment’s respite, YouTube has abundant birth videos as well as cartoons.
Sex ed is setting boundaries around your body: “Yes, you may kiss my face, but please don’t lick my mouth; yes, you may pat my breasts but don’t brush my nipple; yes, you may watch me pee, but don’t touch my genitals.”
Sex ed is setting boundaries around behavior: “It’s fine to touch your penis/vulva/clitoris/testicles, but not while nursing/on the plane/in public/in front of your Grandparents.”
Sex ed is exposing children to the multitude ways of building a family: sex, and IVF, and adoption, and blending, and donors. It’s exposing children to the multitude variations of what family means: two parents of different genders or same, one parent, more parents, grandparents, others; families without children, families without blood relation, families without legal protection.
Sex ed is kissing: the way we kiss our kids, the way we kiss our partners, the way we kiss our parents; it’s the kissing they see in movies and the kissing they see on the streets and the kissing the see when we leave the door open, or they hear and wonder about in the dark. Sex ed is what we tell them about all the ways of kissing.
Sex ed is the other things they hear in the dark, and in the day time; sex ed is in where and how much and when we enact our sex lives, or not. Sex ed is the bed-side drawer we keep off limits (or don’t), and it’s the answers we give to what’s in there.
Sex ed is demonstrating that our bodies can give us pleasure; it’s hugs and back rubs and gentle touches. Sex ed is never teaching them to accept unwanted pain.
Sex ed is honoring their nos; sex ed is teaching them how to say yes.
Children are always learning; they are learning from what we say, and from what we don’t. If we say nothing, they are not learning nothing, they are learning that some things are unspeakable. Sex ed is not a one time course (though those can be great); sex ed is not a conversation to schedule, or put off, or plan out: sex ed is every day.
Do it well.
Sex and sexuality education resources. Learn, so you can teach your kids:
Scarleteen (highly recommended)