Having worked over 15 years addressing allegations of sexual misconduct with teens and college students, I tend to proselytize to anyone who will listen about the need to talk with children early and often about respect for others, healthy relationships, and healthy sexuality. A common response from parents is "I don't know how to start" the conversation, and they are often unsure how to make the conversation with their children meaningful, ongoing, and on point.
There is a book for that. "Sex, Teens & Everything in Between, " by Shafia Zaloom (Sourcebooks 2019), is the book every parent of a teen or upcoming teen must read. It is the book that teenagers should read as well. Ms. Zaloom has a practical and effective approach to talking about love, sex, and relationships. She addresses very real questions and issues facing parents and children.
When presenting on this topic, I have found that it is important to give as many examples of behavior as possible, otherwise it is just theoretical. Ms. Zaloom excels at giving examples and identifies what we need to understand from each example. She provides examples of healthy relationships and identifies why they are healthy and provides examples of unhealthy relationships and identifies why they are unhealthy. The word she uses throughout is one of my favorite: ethical. She introduces this concept of ethics into how we treat and communicate with others. This is an effective approach.
Ms. Zaloom notes that children need to learn about healthy relationships early and that if they don't, it can result in problems, both emotionally and legally. She points out that, by the time children get to college, "they've already established patterns of sexual behavior," and the consent programming that college students receive is too late. This education needs to start earlier.
For those who don't know where to start, Ms. Zaloom provides practical tips and resources. Throughout the book, Ms. Zaloom includes questions parents and caregivers can use to ask their children and engage them in directed and meaningful discussion. She notes that studies have shown that children DO want to talk with their parents (believe it or not!). Here is your guide for doing so.
Most importantly, Ms. Zaloom aptly illustrates how important it is to have healthy relationships and connections. The book is not just about avoiding sexual assault; it is mainly about the richness of relationships. Ms. Zaloom reminds the reader that connecting with and being ethical towards others is part of a loving and fulfilling life. Of all the things parents spend money and time on, giving children tools for a loving and fulfilling life should be prioritized.
Read this book.