4 Rules for Masturbation: Vital For Every Kid's Sex Education

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4 Rules for Masturbation: Vital For Every Kid's Sex Education
Is "the talk" looming on your parenting to-do list? Don't forget to address masturbation!

No one likes talking about sex with their kids—much less talking about masturbation. The thought of having this conversation with our children leaves most of us—even us so-called experts—with hot faces, pounding hearts, and sick stomachs. We begin rambling about the birds and the bees while our children look on with horror and embarrassment. My mom avoided the conversation altogether by placing an ancient, black and white Dear Abby pamphlet about reproduction on my bed with a note saying to let her know if I had any questions. Nowhere in that book was any mention about masturbation,how to say no when I really liked the boy but was not quite ready, or even what feelings were normal and what were not. No wonder most of our population walks around believing that sex is shameful!

As a therapist specializing in sexual abuse, I have heard terrible stories of the shame caused when sex is used as a weapon. But the reality is that even without these traumatic experiences, most people have some experience of sexual shame. Many times, it is these experiences that shape us in how we feel about ourselves and how we interact in relationships. As parents, we strive to shape our children into their best selves. Just like we teach them how to share and resolve conflicts, I believe, this means we should also be giving them some guidance about how to embrace themselves as responsible, respectful and, yes, sexual beings.

 

So, what are these rules?

1. Never masturbate when you are sad, mad, or anxious. Sex-and masturbation are things that should enhance a mood, not change it. Masturbation is something that as much as 80-95% of men and women (depending on age and gender) practice regularly. (NSSHB, 2010). If a pattern is created where sexual orgasm is connected with anger, sadness, or anxiety, this can cause significant problems in relationships and functioning. Let's say you consistently masturbate to self-soothe when angry. Then you find yourself staying in a conflictual or maybe even abusive relationship because the sex is hot.

2. Always masturbate privately. Just like we wear bathing suits to cover private places, we shut doors to do private things. Masturbation is not appropriate in public places or places where someone might walk in or realize what the other person is doing at any moment.

3. If you get a rash, you're doing it too much. All good things turn bad when they are done too much. I mean, even too much water can kill you. Masturbation is no different. You should never miss important events or obligations for masturbation. If your schoolwork, relationships, or physical health are being compromised, you need to cut back. 

4. The fourth rule is for you, parents. Whatever you do, practice this conversation until you are able to do it calmly—on the inside and the outside. This is an uncomfortable topic. I specialize in this work and still these sorts of conversations with my own kids leaves me with knots in my stomach and tongue-tied. If you are part of a two-parent household, consider taking turns practicing. A quick video on your smart phone can be invaluable. If nothing else, utilize the age-old mirror technique. But, however you practice, make sure you do indeed practice…out loud and with the ability to observe your body language. Remember, only 7% of communication is from the words spoken, the other 93% is communicated through body language and voice tone (Mehrabian, 1972). If you really want to send the message to your children that their body is not shameful, but should be treated with respect and that they can approach you with their questions, you need to say this with relaxed, comfortable body language.

The bottom line is that sex education is hard. Following these simple rules will get you started on a conversation that will help ground your children in a secure relationship with their sexuality…and with you. Good luck!

______Navigating life can be a hard, lonely business. Sometimes a little strategy, a few new tricks, and an ear to listen can be just the thing to get you moving in a better direction. I believe everyone can be their best selves and dedicate my practice to wholeness and healing.

______Mehrabian, A. (1972). Nonverbal Communication. New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction.

National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB). Findings from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, Centre for Sexual Health Promotion, Indiana University. Journal of Sexual Medicine, Vol. 7, Supplement 5.

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