Learn effective approaches, strategies and proven tactics on how to broach, tackle and meaningfully talk about sex with your teen, pre-teen or tween.

Lianne Castelino of whereparentstalk.com speaks to Kelly Swartz, a health coach, erotic expert and mom of three young children about how to approach conversations about sex, pornography and other related topics with your child — in a way that mitigates nervousness, awkwardness and embarrassment — while educating and empowering children with important information about their bodies, intimate relationships and the consequences of their actions.

During the video interview, Swartz discusses:

  • how to talk about sex with your teen
  • when is the right age to talk about sex with your child
  • how to overcome anxiety in discussing the topic of sex
  • lifting the stigma from the topic of sex
  • how to empower kids about their own sexuality
  • understanding sex and its portrayal on social media

Swartz, an author and founder of Awoken Beauty, delivers in-person and online workshops on a spate of topics including:

  • intimacy
  • sex after giving birth
  • infertility
  • erotic literature
  • teens and sex
Click for video transcription

Welcome to Where Parents Talk TV. My name is Lianne Castelino.

Today we welcome a mom of three, an author who is an experienced professional in the area of sexuality as a health coach and an erotic expert. She’s also the founder and CEO of Awoken Beauty, and native of Mexico City. She lives in Toronto with her husband, and children aged Five, four and two years old. She conducts workshops and coaching sessions with clients from around the world. We are delighted to welcome Kelly Swartz.

Hello, so happy to be here.

Well, thanks so much for joining us. And, you know, it’s always so interesting talking to somebody in your line of work. What made you pursue it? Just out of curiosity, what led you to it?

I guess I’ve always been focused on sexuality. I just did it, I guess in a roundabout way. I was always curious. I was always not judgmental. I was always the one that people would approach to ask me questions like, hey, do you know, right? Because sexually, we don’t really talk with adults or we or as children or as teens. And we don’t talk to me, talk to our peers about it. So I was always appeared that people would come and ask or tell me something that happened, so that I would not judge them, which I never did. I was always like, Oh, that sounds so interesting. Tell me more. So I’ve always been that person. And I’ve always read a lot on on sex, I just find it incredibly interesting. We’re all sexual beings. All of us humans, and the gamut. And just how differently sexually we are is just I find it fascinating. And sexuality. Yes, it is. To make children sometimes, but it is mostly for pleasure. And that’s just a fascinating topic, right? It’s just something that makes you feel good. But it also empowers you and speaks a lot about who you are. And it’s a really amazing way, which is the way I work, of getting to know yourself. So you get to know yourself through your own sexuality.

So we’re going to talk about how to speak to your teens and tweens and your preteens about sex in a minute. But I wanted to ask you, these days living through this pandemic, most of us have more time to talk and have more meaningful conversations. Do you think that that is having an impact on this subject matter?

In your view, I would think so especially if you’re locked at home and you don’t have your peers to talk to unless you’re just chatting with them. But it’s not the same. So if you have open communication with your parents or your siblings and we are in lockdown with and you’re isolated with then I do very much hope so that there is enough honesty and that there’s enough will there vulnerability, which is what we need, what to ask questions about subject matters that we just don’t know about.

I hope that there is and I hope that those important conversations are happening in doing research prior to this interview. You know, certainly one of the things that is inherent in what you speak to people about is having control of their situation and their emotions and trying to sort of use that control in positive ways. Well, right now, in this pandemic, a lot of people feel a loss of control. So what would you say in terms of advice to provide to people who are feeling this loss of control, as it relates to, you know, sexuality and their self expression?

Well, I would say to try something new. But especially self exploration, we usually think of sexuality, especially as women but also men encounter that we think of sexuality as something that is as related to somebody else. So depending on how I live my own sexual experience with somebody else, is how my sexuality transforms or how it is mirrored. But if we, but we don’t often, neither have the opportunity or even the, the idea of determining our own sexual self and our erotic self that erotic is the part of sexuality that uses our brain. So to determine that by ourselves, when we’ve never told like, hey, go go forth, explore yourself and see what you find. And I’m not only talking about self pleasuring or masturbation, I’m talking about something much deeper, I’m talking about intimacy, which is a deep connection. And so I would, in order to regain control, I would say to have some devote some time to that intimacy to the self intimacy and see what you find. Because we also think of our sexual selves, not only that we are mirrored by somebody else and that it always relates to our variances with somebody else. But we also think that it’s stagnant. That the way we’ve had sex or the way we think about ourselves sexually, at certain point in our lives will always be the same. And it isn’t right. If everything changes, right, our metabolism changes, our hormones change. Something that you’re used to like is not good for you anymore. The way you work out the friendships, everything changes in life, right, your sleep, so why shouldn’t sex change?

Now speaking of sex, as it relates to families, and certainly to children and families, when ideally should parents and caregivers begin thinking about having that conversation with their children?

I think it depends on the child and the family. I can tell you, my eldest knows about sex. She’s five, because she asked us where babies came from. So we explained, so it’s like, Okay, well, there’s this. All these ways to have that you can have babies, which include IVF, which include surrogacy, which included you know, sperm donation, but the most typical way of having a baby is through sex. And this is what sex looks like. Or, I mean, we explained that we didn’t show it to her, but we explained what it looks like. And she knows her correct anatomy, which is so very important. And, and she said, Oh, I want to have sex. And I said, That’s fantastic. But it’s only for adults. You cannot have sex until you’re an adult, the same way you can’t drink wine or you can’t beer, so you can’t have sex until you’re adult. And she’s like, Oh, okay. And that was it. So she’d been, there was no taboo around it. And we haven’t talked about it since that was like a one time conversation. She may bring it back again, at one point, or she may not. It’s not something that I will bring to the table for her. But I but she asked me my other two don’t know what sex is because they haven’t asked. They do know again, their correct anatomy. Right? They know that. My girls know they have a vulva, they have a vagina, they have clitoral, it’s really funny to see a two year old say, Look, my Buddha by Booba.

My boy knows he has a penis and testicles. And they know like who in the house has what. And they also know that they’re their private parts. And then nobody can touch them. Not Not us enough, nobody around it outside the house and keeping them safe or saying like if anybody asks you to be touched or to touch them, or whatever you need to tell us so just and not scaring them, but just giving them the information from like very young. And that’s I find that incredibly important to prepare them for the world because you can’t protect your children. Right? You don’t know what can happen outside, and who will be in touch with them. But they also know that their parts are pleasurable, and they touch themselves as all children do. I’m sure you saw your children when they were toddlers in the bathtub touching themselves because it feels good. So talking about how it feels good. And that’s great. But you shouldn’t touch each other. And also, you shouldn’t do it in certain parts of the house or in certain places. You don’t touch yourself at school. You don’t touch yourself at mealtime. It is private, and it is intimate and it is sacred it is yours. Which means that you don’t go flaunting it around not because it’s wrong. But because it’s yours. And it’s intimate.

And and that’s something really interesting is that it only takes about three or four times to tell somebody something negative about sexuality or their own bodies, and they start internalizing it. So if you correct, like, yes, you don’t want your children to be masturbating in front of you. But if you correct it negatively like saying, Oh, that’s disgusting, or that’s dirty, or that’s like you shouldn’t be doing that. Then they, if you repeat it a few times, then they will internalize it and they will start having negative thoughts about themselves or about pleasure about sexuality. So the correct ways having a conversation with them was like, Oh, that feels good. That’s fantastic. You can do it in your bedroom with a you know, when you’re in your bed at night. That’s a great place to be touching yourself. And that’s okay. And it feels good. And it’s fantastic. And you wash your hands before you wash your hands after. And that’s that and without putting any judgment or negativity around it.

It’s so interesting on so many levels. I’m curious, what about families where the children don’t ask, you said that your daughter asked and that’s what led you down that road? What about if they don’t ask?

So they don’t ask, I would think I’m around eight or nine is a good time also their bodies will start changing soon. So it’s a good time to start talking about sexuality. And you can have you know the birds and the bees conversation or You can do it more expensive.

So, so starting to put things on the table, and that one thing that is incredibly important is to make yourself available to have those conversations, because children do wonder, and they do, do they are curious about it. And they want to have questions. But they want to ask if they think it’s bad, or they don’t get upset, or they will judge them or that you’ll tell somebody else or you will make fun of them. But if you make communication with them very open, and very safe, then they will come to you. And that’s something that’s primordial. I used to make these talks and I will retake them in 2021. Because 21 will be a simpler year, I hope. I used to have these conversations, these workshops with young girls and their parents, so their parents would be present. And when I started designing them, I thought they shouldn’t be because that’s the way also I grew up is like, oh, no, you don’t like your you don’t want your mom around when you’re talking about these things. And then I retracted that, and I said, No, that’s wrong, because after this workshop, they will have so many questions. And the person that should be going with these questions should be their parents, because they should know that it’s not taboo, and that their parents are a safe place for them to go and ask. And because they should, it shouldn’t be, they shouldn’t be looking online for things they shouldn’t ask their peers, because they will always get the wrong information. And that just like, you know, goes on, it’s like a domino. So bringing it up, like, hey, just like sitting like that you can use a movie or you can use a television show that has something sexual in it and be like, hey, do you know what that’s about? You know how that is? Or even just bringing, like, you know, where babies come from? Right? That’s like the easiest, Where do babies come from? How are they made? Do you know anything? Have you heard anything about that? Well, let me tell you, you can buy some books to help you explain. There’s like books like oh, it’s so, so amazing. Or it’s not this story, which are basic books. But they’re cartoons. And they explain things really well.

They’re very also just lost a word. But there, they aren’t gender neutral. They don’t only talk about one kind of family, which is very important, because not all families are made the same way. So we’ve talked about pleasure, I think most I don’t know if that happened to you. And when you ever had to talk with your parents or I don’t know, sex ed or that nobody ever talks about pleasure, or, or sex feeling good.
Did you have that experience? No, I did not.

Right. It’s like, okay, here’s the here’s the sex. Here’s the sex talk, right? This is how you make babies, here is how you don’t make babies. And here are STDs. And that’s, that’s about it. And nobody talks about it having to feel good, and it should feel good, like sexes should feel good. And if it doesn’t feel good, then you need to figure it out, and you need to work on it. And if we’re never told that it should feel good, then you’re never going to demand that it feels good. Right? Most girls have really terrible experiences. I’m not talking about abuse, but I’m talking about just like really black experiences, because they’re they don’t know or they don’t think that they should be having some other kind of pleasure. Or they’re being performative. Because if you only the only kind of education that you’re getting is from television and from the internet, then that’s wrong education, that’s performative education. Right, then we can talk about porn a little bit, if you want.

But before we get to that I want to ask you just mentioned at the Internet, so the chances are in many families, by the time they actually if they have this conversation formally, the kids are probably going to know a lot about this already, or think they know a lot about through social media and the internet. And they’re sort of unfiltered access in many cases, to both Is this a good thing or a bad thing and helping parents then further that conversation?

Well, I think first of all, there needs to be an education on the internet. I’m like, you know, my kids are still young. So I’m talking about non-experienced, just experienced, but with clients and but not with my own experience with my children, but there needs to be an education on the internet. And by this I mean like teach your children what what is allowed, what is not allowed and what they may encounter which is not okay, so yes, absolutely have like, if filters work for you, like go ahead and have filters, if it’s but one of the things and that applies to the internet as well as pornography is explaining that what you see you cannot unsee Write that video that your friend wants to show you. You will never be able to unsee it. And it is your prerogative and your agency to say no, you don’t want to see it, not because you’re weak or not, because you’re not, you know, mature enough to see it. But because actually you’re mature enough to say no. In regards to that, and explained also to the kids that the Internet has, like not not it’s not all truth is not all veracity. So you can’t you don’t know what you’re reading unless you know you’re in the right pages. So in things as important as sexuality, or as health, like you go first to a source, and the source for these kind of conversations are parents. So even I mean, they may have already access to this, but even like talking about what the internet is, right, the internet, just because it’s on the computer or on a website doesn’t mean it’s the truth, which is a harder sell, depending on how old they are definitely for sure.

Let me ask you this, though. You talked about the workshops that you give and and the speaking that you do with families? What are some of the common pitfalls that you encounter? Or that parents encounter that you speak to on the subject matter? And how do you instruct them to overcome it with tips and strategies?

Well, embarrassment is one of them. You just feel very embarrassed to talk to their kids about sex, or, or being very shy about it, or even being. I had this one parent who was like, “Well, I don’t want to talk to my kid about my sex life. Why would you talk to your kid about your sex life like that? That is not what we’re doing here. You’re talking about sex your kid had, like, shouldn’t there is no reason why your kids should know about how many times you have sex, what your sex life is, like, like they that’s private, that’s yours, and you should talk to them about privacy and the importance of privacy. But so, that’s the one thing, right one, that’s one, I think one of the biggest caveats is the embarrassment, or they like not feeling self assured. And that’s one of the things like if you don’t feel assured of the information you have go and look for it first also, right. Even as adults, we don’t know everything. We don’t, we were never really educated on sexuality. We were never really taught. I mean, I’ve encountered so many women who don’t know, their correct anatomy until they’re pregnant. And they’re giving birth, and they’re telling me like things about them are breaking apart. And they didn’t even know they had them, right. Or how many of us grew up thinking, you know, that, like, we have a vagina? And that’s what we have? And it’s like, No, actually, there’s so many other parts because nobody ever taught us.

So to in order to speak to your kids,inform yourself first. And that’s a great way of doing it. Because then you’ll feel more self assured to laugh about it. We text we take sex. really seriously, we think it’s like it’s such a serious topic. And we shouldn’t be like very morose and talk about it and be very common. And it’s like, No, you should laugh. Like, it’s kind of silly. Like say if you think about it, it’s like two naked bodies and all naked bodies. They’re beautiful, but they’re also kind of they’re beautiful, but they’re also kind of silly. And the whole sexual act is kind of silly, right? So you can laugh about it. And it’s okay to end in laughter is, is is one of the best tools to talk about sex. To feel more comfortable with it. You’re right. Yeah. Yeah. I mean,
I think you’re you hit it right on the head, when you said it, it tends to be a very serious conversation, when it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Yeah.

So you mentioned this earlier, and I’m interested to know, your take on it. You know, with the unfiltered in many cases, again, access that kids have these days to pornography on line. What is your assessment of the impact of some of those images that they may or may come in contact with?

Yeah, well, yeah, it can have really great impact. And again, the big conversation that needs to happen is about responsibility, right? Is it you’re responsible for your brain, you’re responsible for yourself, and you’re responsible for what you see or you don’t see. And if you see, and if you search for things, or if somebody gives you access to certain things, then Joseph won’t work.

So when it comes to the access that kids have, potentially to seeing porn online, what are the impacts in your estimation on a teen or tween having seen these images?

Well, they’re a great impact. And again, the first conversation that needs to happen is about responsibility. You’re responsible for your own eyes, you’re responsible For your mind, you’re responsible for your sexuality. Therefore, even though you have access to all these things, doesn’t mean that you should, right we have access, I have access to, you know, I don’t know, five kilos of chocolate. Should I eat that, all the five kilos of chocolate? Not necessarily, would it make me feel like terrible afterwards? Probably.

But should I know what kind of chocolate it is? Should I know the ingredients? Probably. Right.

So that’s the first thing and again, the responsibility and the agency that you have. I’ll give you an example. That is that is completely unrelated. But I think it gives you like, really great information. So I have this friend who works in the cannabis industry. And she is very shy and her husband are incredibly open about their cannabis use and about what they do in their care. And they have kids, two of them are teenagers, the youngest is much younger. And the teenager has been like they know about cannabis. Because the parents talk about it. They’re actually edited one of the womrn is an educator on cannabis. And he has been around one of the teenagers, his peers who smoke cannabis, and he won’t, because he knows what it does to his brain. And he’s like, No, I don’t want it right now. My brain is still developing. When might when I’m older, I’ll try it. But right now I’m okay. And it’s because he has the information. Right? And it is not taboo. And is that like he’s not being a bad boy. And he’s not like being like super mature or whatever. He actually he’s being incredibly mature because he has information and he’s doing and he’s having agency, in the same way with pornography, and with the access to internet is, you know, you can find a lot of things, but you really want to find them. And second of all, is the explanation of what pornography is. And that’s when there’s a lot a huge fall.

Pornography is not sex. Pornography is a representation of sex in the same way that movies and television, you would never look at a movie or a TV show and be like, “Oh, that’s life.” That’s what life is like, you’re like, no, that’s a show I’m being entertained, right, or that’s a movie and being entertained, you don’t expect, you know, like, somebody flying in or like or time probably like it. That’s instant. pornography is the same pornography is every presentation. So if you explain that, then you don’t believe what you’re looking at as truth. So you’re not expecting that to be right. In the same way.

Again, another example, you grow up with Barbies, and you think that that is the truth of a woman’s body, and then you grow up and you don’t have that body because that is not the truth. That is every presentation, which is actually like, very wobbly representation of a woman’s body. So, so the first thing is to inform and to tell your children like that exists. And you may see in first, um, or at some point, some adults, young adults may want to see pornography, you can direct them towards the correct pornography, which is pornography that doesn’t use people that pays their actors. Well, that doesn’t depict women terribly. That doesn’t only have fake bodies. So there is pornography, that is not, there’s not so terrible in that sense. But again, it’s just a real presentation. So also knowing that it’s not sex, because what may happen is all these boys and girls watching porn, and then expecting sex to be that way. So you like, Oh, well, then I need to be very violent. Because a lot of pornography can be very violent, I need to be very violent. And the woman should be very Enough talking about heteronormative. Remember who the woman should be like, in the throes of pleasure, because she’s having come all over her face, or she’s being used or she’s like, on she needs to, and, and 16 year old girls don’t act like that. Or 17 or 18, or 20. Like they’re not, they’re not porn actresses. They’re women. They’re young women, they’re different, their bodies are different, they should never be expected to work like that to be like that. But that’s if the only frame of reference that you have for sexuality is porn, then there’s a problem. Because again, it’s fantasy. It’s the same way as if all I have in my life are books, or and I’ve never really interacted with other people. And all I have is TV and books and then I start interacting. And I expect them to be exactly as I saw them in the movie, and they’re not like why isn’t everybody like by acting like in friends or live or Seinfeld, or whatever.

So let me ask you this, I imagine that this space has evolved tremendously in the time. You’ve been in it certainly with the onslaught of social media and all these other platforms that we have access to. Where do you hope that this conversation gets to? I mean, what does success look like for parents and families where this conversation still is? Or this discussion still is embarrassing, you know, a struggle in some way.

I hope that again, it’s less embarrassing, I hope that there is more information out there. I’m working on that. I promise that 2021 will be spaced, but you can always reach me. And I’ll be very happy to guide you through that difficult conversation. Like I’m happy to be that guiding the holding hands so that you and your child can have that conversation. And then after I’m gone, you can continue. So I’m just there to introduce like, like to coach you through it. I’m hoping that and like, porn is fun. But if you’re an adult, and you’re watching the right things, and you know what it is, right? Sex is fun. But not if you’re a child, if you’re a child, there’s not like sex has nothing to do in your worlds like you should. But you are a sexual being even as a child, but you should know what it’s like, what is intimacy, what is privacy, what your body feels like, what your body is, body image, which is an incredible part of sexuality, right? What does your body look like? Why are you judging your body? Why are you judging yourself? What does the way that your body looks? Does that mean that you will have good relationships or bad relationships? Or are you entitled to have loving and positive relationships? Because of how you look? Well? That’s that’s kind of Yes. Right? It has nothing to do with your physicality. Right? So all those conversations are incredibly important, right? In the body positivity, and 90 or button neutrality, right? To not judge either positive or negative because of bodies right?
Whatever its shape, size, color. Now, I have gone way off topic. You asked me like a tiny question.

I know, it’s a large topic, for sure, it comprises all kinds of different things. But let me ask you, is there anything that I haven’t asked you with respect to teens, sex, families, this conversation that you’d like to add?

Yes, peer pressure. So it is incredibly important to talk to your children about peer pressure. That because our friends are having sex, or they’re having some kind of sexual relationships, does not mean that you should be happy that your children should be having them, because maybe they’re not ready, and they shouldn’t, nobody should have sex and you’re not ready to have sex, it doesn’t matter if you’re 16, you’re 25, you’re 45. Or if you’re 70, if you’re not ready to have sex, you should not be having sex, not because anybody else tells you you should be.

So be very careful with peer pressure. And to be very self assured that whatever you’re doing is for your benefit, and that it’s for you. And every section, every sexual beam looks different. So because somebody is having some kind of sexual experience doesn’t mean you should be having it. Or if you have a similar sexual experience, you will have the results will be different, because that’s just how they are. That so peer pressure to be careful with that and to talk about it and consent, obviously. And that’s like a big one, right? You always ask, I always say, you always you’re always entitled to change your mind. And to say no. If you’re in a situation, always, always you can always change your money doesn’t matter how advanced the situation is. It doesn’t matter. If you want to impress somebody, that you are the agent of your own body, and you will need to take control of it. And you take control of this situation. Even if again, if it’s advanced. If it’s like, like that’s that T metaphor. You have you heard that tea metaphor. So consent is like tea. So you can ask me for tea like would you like some tea? Sure. I would love some tea. So I’m preparing the tea. You still want tea? Yeah. And then I bring you tea and it’s like, I don’t really want to anymore. But the tea is right here. I made it for you. Yeah, but I don’t want it but take it No, I don’t want it anymore. No, thank you. So in that respect, so consent is the same. And consent has also different levels. I’m really expanding here. It is not only physical consent, but also emotional and technological consent. So it’s not okay for your peers or your buddies or your loved one and the variety to have a girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever you will call texting you and sending you snapchats or Instagram, whatever tic tocs at 11 and 12 and 1am.

Because not just because you have a phone and you’re available doesn’t mean you’re available.

Well, we certainly could go on Kelly, it is a massive topic and I have no doubt that you have educated and empowered parents and families who listen to this interview because it is still a taboo topic, depending on the culture, you know, the age of the children, all kinds of different factors, as you know better than I. But thank you so much for your time and your perspective today. Lots of food for thought. Thanks so much.

Thank you, Lianne.

Related links:

AwokenBeauty.com

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