Episode 97: How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex with Cath Hakanson
Brief summary of show:
In this episode, Cath Hakanson joins me to talk about a very important topic in today’s parenting age: how to talk to your kids about sex.
Cath Hakanson helps parents learn how to talk to their kids about sex with less cringe, and more confidence, so they can empower their child to make smart sexual decisions.
Cath is a qualified sexual health nurse, author, speaker and the founder of Sex Ed Rescue.
After a nursing career in sexual health, she used to think that sex education would be easy, yet she found herself squirming when her daughter asked her questions about where babies came from.
She knew then that her kids needed her help to thrive in this sexualised world, so she spent every spare moment researching the topic and questioning friends with older kids. She drew on everything she had learnt from working as a sex therapist, a STI and Women’s Health Nurse, an educator and researcher.
Listen in as we talk about:
[3:55] When to start the conversation about sex and sexuality with your kids
[5:20] Why there's so much shame in calling body parts by their real names
[7:15] How to start talking to your kids about the changes happening in their bodies without awkwardness or weirdness
[12:40] The impact of our kids watching porn and exploring sex online
[20:10] Talking to your kids about age-appropriate relationsips
[28:35] Where to start the conversation
Notes from Natalie:
Sign Up for Natalie’s Newsletter: https://marvelous-designer-6863.ck.page/fd348899af
Connect with Cath Hakanson
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cathhakanson
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thatparentgroup
Connect with Me
View Transcript for this Episode
[00:00:00] Natalie: Preparing our kids for an overly sexualized world. How to talk to your kids about sex and porn. Coming up next on the podcast.
[00:00:10] Natalie: Hi friends, it's Natalie. I appreciate you being here today. I am off to a running start in 2023 and the topics I have planned. While they're big, I'm excited to share them with you.
[00:00:21] I'm focused on helping you explore the latest in faith, health, and positive relationships. It's my goal to give you resources and ideas that impact your life in a big way, and please subscribe so you don't miss a single episode. My guest today is Kath Hackinson, a registered nurse, midwife and expert on sex ed and relationships As a parent herself, she knows all too well the struggles and challenges that come with talking to our kids about.
[00:00:50] She found herself squirming when her own daughter asked her questions about where babies come from, and she worried about saying too much too soon or inadvertently [00:01:00] encouraging her to be sexually active too early. But as Kath will tell you, the more she talked to her kids about this, the more open and honest their relationship became.
[00:01:11] Now she's here to share her journey. Also, her tips and advice on. Start and maintain these really difficult but very important conversations with our children. Also, we need to help them navigate this often confusing and overly sexualized world. So let me just also say this. , all of this might make you uncomfortable.
[00:01:34] I totally get it. Parenting is tough, but as you're gonna hear us discuss today, if we don't have these conversations, our kids are gonna learn about sex and all about sexuality from someone else, or even worse from the internet. We're gonna use words that. Might make you squirm. They might make you cringe.
[00:01:53] But again, better to talk about it now than have issues later that are even more difficult with our [00:02:00] teenagers and our younger children. We're also gonna talk about the impact of porn on our kids. Yep, it's a jam-packed episode today. We all need to take this very seriously, so buckle up. Prepare yourself to learn and grow as we dive right into the topic of sex education for kids with our expert Ka hackinson.
[00:02:19] Kat, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. This is a topic a lot of parents struggle with. So let's dive right into, um, maintaining good relationships, open communication with our young people. And we're gonna hit on lots of different ages today because we, I know we have to start these conversations early, but sometimes it's, it's those hormonal ages, the pre-teen and the teen where it's starts to become, um, more of a topic of conversations that we need to.
[00:02:49] Cath: Yeah, definitely. It's that age where you walk into the schoolyard and you see your friend, your child, and their friend walks by and they're wearing a [00:03:00] bra or they're, you know, six foot tall, and then it's like, oh, no, puberty's on its way. And that is the time that many of us think of it for the first time.
[00:03:09] I agree. . Do you think
[00:03:11] Natalie: it's important that, and, and I think the generation that we grew up in, at least here in America, I know you're in Australia, we didn't talk about these things very much. It was kind of like you figured it out through your friends and you learned on your own.
[00:03:23] But what do you think in these healthy relationships is a good time to start the conversations with your kids about sexuality, about sex in general, or hormones or all of these things?
[00:03:36] Cath: Well, according to the textbook, it starts from the very beginning. So I've just finished a book on talking to kids about private parts, and I've actually got a whole section in there on babies and toddlers. And as I was writing the book, I was sort of thinking about, you know, in an ideal world, , which none of us live in, but in an ideal world, conversations would start when kids are younger.
[00:03:57] And that would be little things like you are in [00:04:00] the shower and they go, where's your vulva? And you go, oh, I've got a penis. Or, where does a baby come from? And things like that. So, We have this, children have this natural curiosity and they display these behaviors and that's sort of the perfect time for us to come in.
[00:04:17] So that what we are doing, cuz sex education isn't like this thing of a, a list of things that some academic is made up that we talk about. It's actually a whole lot of conversations that are wrapped around. Child development and also their natural curiosity and also conversations that we might wanna have to keep our kids safe.
[00:04:39] So ideally, conversations should start when they're little and they should continue through right until they leave home and even afterwards as well.
[00:04:48] Natalie: And then there's not this, um, aura of shame around it or, oh, I can't talk about that. Or, I hear experts often say, like, your take on. calling things something other than what they are.[00:05:00]
[00:05:00] So, you know, goofy names for body parts and things like that, that you hear sometimes that there's some level of shame around that. Like we can't say the real word. .
[00:05:10] Cath: No. And we've got no good examples. Like I could probably count on one hand how many people I know who actually had positive conversations with their own parents as a child growing up, and I don't know about you, but I know with my own parenting, I reflect on what.
[00:05:28] my parents did with me and what I don't wanna do with my kids, but I also look at my other friends and I learn from how they parent. But sex education is like this private part of parenting. Mm-hmm. . So we don't have memories to draw back on, but we also don't go to the park and see someone doing sex education with their five year old.
[00:05:47] Yeah. So we can't learn from what other people do. So it's like this. Thing and then we've got all these shame and memories and things as well about it. So it does make it a hard topic to talk [00:06:00] about for a lot of parents,
[00:06:01] Natalie: and it's not for grandparents who might be listening or you know, our parents. It's not that they did something wrong, they didn't know any better.
[00:06:08] We learned so much.
[00:06:10] Cath: It was that generation where it was one talk, which we think about is totally crazy. Most people, you know, to get everything you need to know about how to have healthy, loving relationships in a. 10 minute awkward conversation isn't enough. So luckily we have realized now that one conversation isn't enough and it's about lots of conversations.
[00:06:34] Natalie: So if we start those conversations when our children are very small and then they grow into the age where, okay, now it's real. and yep. My voice is changing. My body is changing. My friends are talking about this. I'm thinking some people listening are at that stage and they maybe haven't had those normal conversations when their kids were little.
[00:06:54] What advice do you have for them to launch into these conversations without the weirdness of [00:07:00] their kids being, Ooh, mom, I don't wanna talk about that.
[00:07:03] Cath: There's lots of different little things you can do. First thing you can do is go grab a book. There are some fantastic books for kids on puberty. There's even comic styled ones, and there's more touchy feely, new agey ones.
[00:07:18] There's lots of different types, so you can grab a book and you can say, Hey, I saw this book at the bookshop today. It's about growing up. How about we sit and. Tonight and we read a chapter every night or we read it on the weekend. Um, so you could start a conversation that way. And then it can be just a matter of grabbing what we call teachable moments, which is, you know, you see an ad on the television for pads or tampons and you go, oh, that's period product.
[00:07:44] The blood's red for a change, not blue. And then you might talk about how crazy it is that we advertise. , these products about blood, but we have to have blue blood and or you might talk about deodorant as you're walking down the deodorant island of the [00:08:00] supermarket. So it's about just grabbing opportunities to talk.
[00:08:03] But the easiest way is probably with the book because you can then read through the information, answer their questions, and talk about what this all means. Absolutely.
[00:08:14] Natalie: And it gives them a chance to feel like there's a little bit of a guidebook and it's not you just bringing things. Yeah.
[00:08:21] Cath: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:08:22] That's good. And it normals normalizes it well, I think. Mm-hmm. with books, when it's in a book, it means that it, you know, it's something every day that other people will have and talk about as well. What
[00:08:32] Natalie: are some of the other issues? I, I, you know, we are facing as parents now, such different issues where it might have been when, when we were young.
[00:08:42] kids were exploring sexuality differently or maybe they saw a Playboy magazine or you know, the, the Sears catalog where women were in bras and it was like a big deal. Or, but it is everywhere. I mean, for kids who aren't having these conversations, they just pick up a phone or they just [00:09:00] sit down on the internet and things are coming at them that we would not have ever been exposed to.
[00:09:06] How as. Can you advise people to deal with that? Because I read once, and I'm sure you have the statistic, that by the age of eight kids have seen some form of pornography and just haven't told you about it.
[00:09:19] Cath: Yeah, and it's because that's the age of curiosity be, and this is the whole thing that when you look at healthy development of children, they get that some kids start to be curious about bodies.
[00:09:32] They're noticing that if they see, you know, I hope on the bus with my son who's 13, and we'll go through North Bridge, which is a nightclub area, and someone will walk. Dropped dead gorgeous and very voluptuous sexual clothing. And he'll turn around and look and you can't blame him and he's getting aroused or stimulated by these images, or it's attracting him.
[00:09:55] I don't think he's getting aroused in the bus with me, but he's seeing stuff. And [00:10:00] this is at age of like 13. It's natural curiosity that this, I was noticing from the age of about nine or 10. So they're starting to. Bodies because even though puberty's not happening on the outside, changes are happening in here.
[00:10:13] And so they might notice that they see someone walk past with big breasts and that their penis feels a little bit funny or they feel a tingle down there, and then it happens again. So then they come home and they'll Google big boobs or something. Mm-hmm. . And they'll find and guess what comes up? Yeah.
[00:10:30] Yeah, yeah, yeah. And. Interesting because parenting is so different nowadays because of the internet. And at the end of the day, if we are not talking to our kids about sex, someone else is gonna be doing it. Yeah. And they're gonna be saying stuff that you may not want them to know or hear as well. . Yeah, it's, it's scary
[00:10:50] Natalie: because someone else is teaching them and we don't even know they're being taught that.
[00:10:54] And, you know, we can, we can protect them in some ways, and we know maybe what they're learning in school, but [00:11:00] boy, it's, it's everywhere. And, and we can't take it away from them. We can't, we can't take the internet completely away from them. It's how our society functions.
[00:11:09] Cath: Yeah, and this is the thing we need to teach kids about the, the great parts of the internet.
[00:11:15] It's like social media. There's a lot of positives for social media. Mm-hmm. , but there's a lot of negatives as well. And this is why we need to be talking to kids about this sort of stuff and making sure that, you know, I believe that as soon as you hand your kid there, that your phone at the supermarket or when you're sitting at swim lessons or something, that you should be having conversations with them.
[00:11:35] Cuz I've had so many parents reach out to me and their kid has been sitting on the, on the bench next to them with their phone watching porn and they've been totally unaware of it until, you know, one day they grabbed the phone off their kid to text someone and then here's this. Porn mainstream. Um, it just happens from such a young age that we need to be having these conversations.
[00:11:59] [00:12:00] Um, cuz if we don't, that's when we start to see problems presented. Yeah. With how our children behave.
[00:12:39] Natalie: Well, let's talk about that a little bit more. So a kid maybe comes across something on the internet, they don't know. I mean, they might have a feeling this isn't right. What do we do? And what if, what if parents find out this has been happening and they, they're trying to stop it, but now the kid is addicted.
[00:12:59] Mm-hmm. [00:13:00] because they, they like that arousal or it's, you know, I mean, there are major ramifications of this
[00:13:05] Cath: through life. Porn is interesting. From my experience, the kids that have to deal with it on their own, it can become problematic because they're dealing with these feelings that they dunno what to do.
[00:13:17] And we are talking about brains that are still developing. Yeah, they have problems with impulse and making smart decisions and stuff. Um, so porn can be really problematic for that. But what I've noticed for the kids that are having conversations with their parents and have. Some knowledge of media literacy where we can watch a movie and something happens.
[00:13:39] Like we were watching some movie the other night, the Kingsman with my kids, and there was a character who had prosthetic legs and she was doing all this crazy stuff with it, where in fight scenes. And I was saying to my kids, wow, do you reckon people can actually move like that with these legs? Cuz they looked quite springy.
[00:13:58] But then we had a [00:14:00] conversation that, yeah, okay, it's a TV show and. A movie, so I doubt very much she can do it in real life. But that's media literacy. And if we can have these conversations with our kids, um, they then go to see something on, they might then see pornography and hopefully there's a little voice in the back of their head that's saying.
[00:14:20] okay. Not everything you see on TV is real. So how much of this, of what I'm seeing actually will happen in my bedroom one day with someone. So we can have conversations with kids about interpreting media, but then we can also have conversations about being a good person, about being ethical as well. And this is why that having ongoing conversations with our kids, being open, honest, positive.
[00:14:47] Talking about stuff like this means that you can watch a movie with your kids and there'll be a sex scene, and you can talk about how that sex scene isn't lifelike like Outlander. Um, they pride [00:15:00] themselves on the fact that their sex love scenes are more realistic. than most things on tv. So I could be watching that with my daughter and we could be talking about it and I could say, Hey, I read the other day that on Outlander, their sex scenes are supposed to be realistic, I guess.
[00:15:15] And then we could talk about how, you know, on movies or important, it's not realistic. So you can sort of segue into other conversations. But the main thing with I guess, pornography is that we need to be having these conversations and kids struggle when they first come across pornography. because I, I struggle myself.
[00:15:36] Mm-hmm. , when I was writing some content for my porn course. I remembered this website that I'd found and it had, Natalie had the best information about the porn talk for parents, and I was thinking to myself, well, if I can find this website, why reinvent the wheel? Because they had great info. So somehow I found the bit of paper that had the name plugged it in.
[00:15:57] the site had expired and a porn site had [00:16:00] bought it. [00:17:45] Natalie: I would encourage parents like, okay, so they're listening and they're like, oh, I can't believe you're talking about this. I can't believe you just said that. Like, I know it's uncomfortable, but I encourage parents, as you said a minute ago, either you do it or someone else is [00:18:00] going.
[00:18:00] as hard. I mean, nothing about parenting is easy, really nothing. Yeah, and so have these hard conversations because it will, it will, it will change your kids' future.
[00:18:12] Cath: It's worth it. It's definitely worth it, and it's not as if you're gonna be having deep and meaningful conversations. once a week for the next five years about porn.
[00:18:21] You might only need to have like a couple of more deep and meaningful, but it's just those random comments that you make. Yeah, that let kids know that you can talk about this stuff and to get them thinking about what they see on the media can help dramatically with. B when they come across school? Well,
[00:18:40] Natalie: it's as you said a few minutes ago, like when, okay, so we both have 13 year old kids and you know, they're hearing these things at school or somewhere.
[00:18:50] They're going to ask someone because they need to know. And if they don't feel comfortable and they don't have a friend who, who knows what a friend is telling them, [00:19:00] um, they're gonna sit down like everything else, they're gonna Google. They're gonna Google it because they just need to understand why things are happening in their bodies, um, or why they feel a certain way.
[00:19:12] Oh boy. Okay. So I wanna talk about, I wanna talk about healthy relationships, um, because I think that, especially at this tender age is hard too. We hear so often and people will joke around again. We both have 13 year olds. Do you have a boyfriend? Do you have a girlfriend? And I'm thinking, Oh my goodness.
[00:19:30] They're 13. They do not know what having a boyfriend or girlfriend or relationship is about, about they're, they're worried about getting their homework done today.
[00:19:39] Can you talk a little bit about healthy relationships and what that means and age appropriate and things
[00:19:46] Cath: like that? Yeah, healthy relationships.
[00:19:48] It's a core part of sex education. So a lot of the middle school and high school and senior school programs will talk. They're real rebranding it now. Not calling it sex education, but they're calling it [00:20:00] respectful relationships or healthy relationships. So puberty is very much that age where friendships start changing and they're wanting to fit in.
[00:20:09] They're trying to work out who they. , but they wanna fit in and follow everyone else. Mm-hmm. , they get bullied and picked on, and they're also starting to want to be grown up, which means they're starting to think about romantic friendships and relationships as well. And we've now got a lot of research that tells us that domestic violence is often a, I wouldn't say, I just say it's almost a value, it's a value that's instilled, um, during school age.
[00:20:35] C. Teenage years. So there's a lot of research now that says that if we can have conversations with kids about respectful relationships, consent, um, how different people get along, all that sort of stuff, that can have a big impact on how they then make decisions as a young adult and as a teenager sexually.
[00:20:54] So as a parent, where does that put us? I guess it's about just talking about [00:21:00] relationships in general. So if you're watching a TV show, like. Vampire Diaries. Mm-hmm. and some of those Buffy shows. Um, a lot of the shows from the eighties or nineties that tweens and teens like to cult watch are fantastic for talking about healthy relationships.
[00:21:17] I watched a Doris Day movie the other day, calamity Jane, and there were examples of no concern and the way they treat women. So watching TV shows like this and just talking about things as it comes along can just help with. respectful relationships, things like having pets, teaching kids to be respectful of their pets.
[00:21:40] Teaching kids to understand their feelings from a young age so that they're feeling angry. They can vocalize that because when they're in a romantic relationship with someone, they're gonna be having feelings then and if they can't even vocalize or name you. happy, like some of the basic emotions, they're gonna struggle with some of that sexuality stuff.
[00:21:59] So there's [00:22:00] a whole lot of stuff that happens around healthy relationships, and A lot of parents are worried about it because of consent. A lot of moms of. Boys are worried they don't want their son to grow up being disrespectful and allowing, you know, a girl to get gang raped by a bunch of guys just because they think it's something fun to do.
[00:22:21] And they also don't want their daughter to be that victim who's. sexually assaulted as well. Mm-hmm. . So a lot of parents are quite concerned about having these conversations. Um, so there are a lot more books now that are coming out and stuff, but the problem is, is that, well, you know, you've got a 13 year old and you've got two older kids.
[00:22:41] They get an age where if you ask them to read a book, There's no way they're gonna read it. So we have, and it's crazy. There's like, we
[00:22:49] Natalie: have to have the conversations. We can't force them to read ,
[00:22:52] Cath: so many consent books out there for teenagers. Mm-hmm. And I, I think it's probably more sex educators and parents that are reading 'em rather than the [00:23:00] teenagers.
[00:23:00] But still it goes back to that. Conversation and ongoing as well. Um, luckily if kids, oh, mind you, you're in America. It's different. Um, but even in Australia, we don't always get decent sex education, but. The thing is now with social media and stuff, and even TikTok, there's a lot of education happening on TikTok, on YouTube and stuff as well.
[00:23:24] So hopefully, I think what will happen is they're sort of the places where a lot of teenagers are getting. This information, but we need to be coming in and sharing our values as well, because at the end of the day, that's what it comes down to. My values about how I believe people should be treated, or what I want my kids to do, not necessarily the values from the TV shows that they're watching or the kids they're going to school with.
[00:23:51] Natalie: I mean, I love social media, but I don't want it to be the educator of my children, uh, because there's a lot that, you know, [00:24:00] these, the shorts, the, the ten second things they can learn a lot in 10, 15, 20 seconds. Um, that might not be the values you have in your family.
[00:24:08] Cath: Yeah. Oh boy. I think sometimes just wanna say one thing.
[00:24:12] Yeah. Sometimes as parents we see the glasses being half empty. Mm-hmm. , we look at all this stuff and it's like, you know, bus goes past with a Victoria's Secrets model on it. Or I went for a walk the other day if my son only two days ago, and there was a condom on the street and we stopped and looked at it and I said, do you think someone's used it or they were just being silly with it?
[00:24:33] But this was just two days ago on the foot bath. Three houses away. Wow. And sometimes we see the glasses being half empty. So I could have gone home from that and I could have thought, oh, you know what? I think we need to move to another part of Perth. You know, maybe living in a nightclub area, where isn't the best place to grow up kids?
[00:24:51] Or I could turn around and see the glasses being. You know, um, half full. Mm-hmm. not half empty, and I could go, wow. I have got so [00:25:00] many opportunities to talk to my kids about the, in the negative impact of drugs, the negative impact of alcohol. Safe sex, prostitution, homelessness. I could, I see all these opportunities and they're opportunities for me to talk rather than to sit there and despair.
[00:25:18] So I just wanna say that, that, you know, we are talking about all this stuff and people could be listening and thinking, oh God, this is just too hard. But it doesn't have to be. And I think it's about us seeing all this sexualization and all this negative. is actually a prompt for me cuz I'm like you, I'm busy, I don't, you know, I've got this checklist of things I've, I feel I should do as a parent and I've got more of than enough mommy guilt going on about the things I haven't done.
[00:25:45] And to then for me to say, yeah, you should be having all these conversations. But seeing. Life is a glass half full. Yeah. All this nega negative stuff out there makes my job as a parent so much easier because it provides me lots of [00:26:00] opportunities to talk to my kids about. Well, and
[00:26:01] Natalie: as you said that, yeah, I'm thinking, okay, I don't, I have my to-do list right here on my desk.
[00:26:07] It's not on my to-do list to talk to my 13 year old son about condoms and sex. Right now, it's not on my to-do list. I, I know it needs to happen. However, if I was walking down my street and I saw a condom on the, I. . I think the first thing I would do would be, I would find something to pick it up with
[00:26:24] I wouldn't just beat it up and I would throw it in the trash without him seeing it. I think that's what I, and I think that's what a lot of parents would be like, oh my goodness, I can't believe that's terrible. But yet, turn that around like you just said. and use it because it's not on my to-do list to say, oh my goodness, let's get something to pick that up with.
[00:26:42] Why? And use that, as you said, as a prompt. Um, that's not what I, I don't think I would've naturally done that, but I'm, I'm, I'm seeing things differently in knowing that I have to have these conversations. So use those opportunities. Hopefully that doesn't happen, but maybe it's a TV show, [00:27:00] or something else.