Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Had To Have The Sex Talk With My Son And I Lived to Tell About It

I had “The Talk” with my son. We both survived, barely. He is twelve now, and I know what you’re thinking: WHY are you just now having this discussion with him? Do you live under a rock? Don’t you know what kids are capable of getting into these days? Do you want your kid to be a statistic?

Believe me, I get it. But you have to understand…I have tried to have The Talk with my son before this, many times. Each time, he politely rebuffed me.

My son has High-Functioning Autism. It is as the name implies. Some professionals call it Asperger’s Syndrome. It means he has trouble with social cues, reading body language, some processing problems as well as trouble controlling his impulses, like anger. He is easily embarrased, so it didn’t surprise me that he did not want to discuss his burgeoning sexuality with his mother. This is the kid who hides his eyes if I take him with me to mall and we happen to pass the lingerie store. There have been no shortage of attempts on my part to usher him into the ways of the world. He always swore he was not interested.

So when I found that he had been googling, “penis” and “breasts” I figured, protest though he may, it was time. I am a smart woman. I have safe search on, so he didn’t find anything except Wikipedia pages…no trauma. I get that kids, boys in particular, can be curious. I am just thankful that no damage was done! And I am also grateful that I have enough technical savvy to know how to lock down the computers!

So, how do you talk with your son about something you both find highly embarrassing without losing your mind? The answer, it seems, is just do it. Do not make a big deal about it.

Five Ways to Discuss The Subject Without Wanting to Run and Hide

1. Be as matter-of-fact as you can. Lay out the information without a lot of emotion, as though you were tutoring someone who speaks a different language. We are talking autism here. That is, after all, what you are doing.

2. Refrain from idioms, editorializing, and heavy opinion. All of these will be ignored by a kid with autism. He probably won’t get most of them, anyway. It is easy to get “on a roll” and end up losing the kid halfway through the process.

3. Don’t bother asking, “Do you understand?” He probably won’t admit it either way. Just lay out the information as best you can. If you are good at reading your child, you can elaborate if need be.

4. This is a good time to explain society’s views on women, respect, pornography…just try to do it without making the kid feel belittled. Did I like that my son googled body parts? NO. Did I tell him I don’t want him to do it anymore? YES. Did I make him feel like a bad person? Absolutely not. Kids need guidance, and that’s what I gave him.

5. Refrain from what I call “Aesoping” even though it is very satisfying as a parent. This is basically when you say, “I told you so!” Kids learn from their experiences. You can certainly point out the learning, but don’t rub their nose in it. That only serves to make you feel bigger than he is. One-upping a child doesn’t make us better, it makes us bullies. And with a kid with autism, it makes him shut down.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m no Pollyanna. It’s not all roses and sunshine around here. I was floored when I found out my son had been …exploring google. It wasn’t easy. But instead of making it about me, and my parenting, and what I am doing right or wrong, I made it about my son. Having a child going through puberty is difficult. I can only hope I have set the groundwork for my son, and that if he does have questions later he can ask instead of looking in all the wrong places for answers.

All in all, it was a painless process for us both. But I have to admit: I am very glad that I only have one son! Somehow, talking to the girls is just so much easier.

Tina has two children on the Spectrum and one who is a quirky teen. Autism Sucks is her brainchild. She also blogs at her personal blog, Send Chocolate Now.