Over the past few days, I've blogged about the importance of Dad-Daughter communication and trust in the process of developing a healthy sense of sexuality in preteen and teen girls.
Many people think that mothers are (and should be) the exclusive source of "sex talks" for daughters.
That mindset is shortsighted on several levels; the truth is that fathers have valuable perspectives to offer, even when it comes to the birds and the bees.
Start by providing the facts about sexuality very early through everyday occasions that arise, whether or not they directly involve our daughters.
We have two cockatiels. And one day Alex comes over and said “Dad! The gray cockatiel is on top of the other one and he’s killing him!” I looked and said “Alex, they’re not killing each other. They love each other and they’re mating.”
“But Dad! Look what he’s doing!” So I dropped right next to her so we could both watch. After the birds were done and just flirting, we opened up the encyclopedia. And I read to her exactly what was going on: This is what is called mating. This is making offspring. And I explained, not the actual, physical act, but said that the same thing that happens with moms and dads happens to birds and every other animal that God makes. When Mommy and Daddy love each other, they love each other so much that you’re here. And your brother is here. It’s is the same with the birds -- in a couple months, they’re going to have little babies because they love each other that way.
Like Frank, we Dads have to talk about sexuality and not just sex. Our responses to everyday events (mating cockatiels or impending menstruation) and use of simple metaphors will show our daughters how natural sexual behavior is, how sexuality can be an expression of and a path toward true intimacy, and how to make sense of their own sexuality and sexual feelings.
Open, positive conversations about sexuality also give our daughters a better foundation from which to deal with some of the world’s ugly realities, like sexual assault and abuse. It’s much easier to balance the positive and the negative when we consistently paint the whole picture, and not focusing only on the perilous scenarios. Still, if we’re going to be honest, we can’t leave our daughters unaware of sexual dangers. Just like we must master the “plumbing” diagrams, we need to understand the nasty pitfalls girls face if we hope to help our daughters make sense of them and know how to respond. Some of these realities are tough to look at.
(Adapted from my book Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter.)