As part of our Two Minutes for Prevention series, Stewards of Children® author Paula Sellars provides additional insights and experience about the topic covered in the video below.
No matter what their age or how it comes up, talking with kids about sex and bodies feels like a risk. For most of us it just has that edge.
A lot of people think of risk and hazard interchangeably. Like, “Despite the risk, he dashed into oncoming traffic.” Or, “Put up a Wet Floor sign to alert everyone to the risk of falling.”
But here I’m talking about a very particular brand of risk, the deliberate, conscious, productive kind – what you might call personal risk:
• It’s a new action you’ve never taken before.
• The outcome is unknown.
• It’s a conscious choice that is aligned with your intentions.
• The risk is uniquely yours.
• Fear, or a body sensation of edginess, is required.
To me, that’s productive risk. Let’s break it down.
But before we do, think about a child you love or care about and imagine a conversation you want to have, or feel you should have, about something related to sex or the body. Just choose the child and the topic now.
Ok, good. What we’re doing here is creating empowerment by taking apart and acknowledging what’s going on inside ourselves when we take the productive risk to talk with our child about all things sex.
Personal risk is a new action I’ve never taken before, and the outcome is unknown. That’s pretty straightforward. The idea is not to imagine all the ways the conversation could go, but simply to accept and embrace that this whole conversation is breaking new ground, and the child’s participation creates an element of mystery. After all, the conversation will be created by both of us, and is by its nature unpredictable.
With a small child, it could be as brief as answering a question. With a teen it could be a real sit-down. But either way, the exchange contains its own dynamism and the child is the x factor.
My 9-year-old niece Jacey has been talking about other girls kissing boys. So far I’ve never talked to her her about boys or kissing, and it could go any number of unexpected directions. And that’s ok with me.
Next, the conversation is a conscious choice that is aligned with your intentions. A conscious choice by definition requires us to take a step back from the action and first reflect on our intentions. That’s the conscious part. Intention, the way we mean it here, is the overall feeling we are aiming for. We consciously choose the feeling we will bring to the interaction. Our intention guides the spirit of our conversation.
I want Jacey and me to feel open, enthusiastic, and connected. I’m not going to push; I’m going to be light and curious. I want it to be a 2-way conversation, and I want to learn something about her. I’ll pack a snack and we’ll go to the park so that our conversation has time to evolve.
The risk is uniquely mine. This seems simple, but it is also profound. This dimension of risk taking is about ownership and self-esteem. The risk is personal. It’s unique to the relationship we have with the child.
It might not be a risk for my friend Barb to talk to her daughter about kissing, but my niece has lost her mother and I’m stepping in to support her. I’ve never been in this position before, so it’s all new to me. But I’m rising to meet this challenge, and this conversation is my way of approaching it. I acknowledge myself for being willing.
Fear, or a body sensation of edginess, is required. What? It’s rare that we think of fear as a good thing. But here’s the truth about fear. Unless we are actively worrying, which is never useful, fear is a signal that all of our energy is coming into our body in the present moment. That’s what fear is.
There’s two kinds of fear – biological fear and psychological fear. Biological fear is running away from the tiger. A threat comes upon us, and we react right now, instinctively. We get the heck out of there for our survival. Psychological fear happens when the mind recognizes it’s in a new situation, and that it can’t control everything. The mind itself feels threatened, and may start telling us to avoid, withdraw, procrastinate.
But at the energetic level if we pay attention, fear is a quickening in the body, an uptick of energy. We’re alert. Something new is happening. Yes, we’re growing.
And if we can befriend this present time uptick, connect to our intention, and go forward with our risk, we might just teach something to our child – and learn from him or her.
We might build something a little stronger between us. Open a door a little wider. Whether she’s three or 13.
Because right now in this risk-fear present moment is the opportunity for deeper connection, rapport and mutuality. And it will plant seeds in the garden of his life.
But don’t go it alone. Another way we support ourselves in taking risks is to get and give support.
What’s your risk with your kid?
What’s your new conversation with your child?
What’s your intention – the spirit of it?
What’s does the edge feel like to you?
Say it loud and proud.
In the spirit of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, let’s talk to each other about the risks, big and small, that we’re taking with our children to protect them, educate them, and build their empowerment.
Brave hearts, let’s hear it! Comment section open.
Paula Sellars is Executive Vice President of Phoenix Possibilities Inc., a company that fosters social change and leadership through the skills of personal risk. Formerly a family therapist and cranio-sacral therapist, Paula specialized in family systems, adolescence, and trauma recovery. She designed and executed program content for an adolescent day treatment center, worked in supervisory capacities inpatient and outpatient psychiatric settings, and has worked extensively with families with sexual abuse dynamics. Paula is the author of Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children®, a child sexual abuse prevention Docutraining® that uses consciousness training to effect behavior change. As a consciousness trainer with Phoenix Possibilities, Paula teaches the Cliff Jumping® Program and other leadership development programs for individuals, couples, and organizational groups. As a social change agent, she weaves her knowledge of the Enneagram, Spiral Dynamics and the Cliff Jumping Program to move communities to action. She is also a Oneness Blessing Giver through Oneness University in Chennai, India. Paula inspires vitality, spiritual connection, integrity and personal fulfillment.
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