Sons are sweet and wonderful when they are little boys, but they do grow up, and all too soon, into young men. Keeping them sweet and wonderful as they grow to manhood is quite a challenge. It seems these days that all children grow up way too fast; much faster than we did. Single parents; mothers in particular, often begin to feel quite awkward when their sons begin to enter into the ‘tween’ years. Gone is the little boy whose major interest was trucks and soldiers and dirt. All of a sudden, your boy is now looking at girls and snickering at off color jokes. And then worries about just what exactly he is looking at on the internet follow soon after. As part of the parenting team (even more so if the boy’s father is not in the picture), it falls to mother to instill sexual values into her son.
While we would like to keep them little and innocent as long as we can, it is important for single mothers of sons to realize that by the time their son is about age ten, he is on the cusp of sexual awakening as a young man. Many mothers (single or not) are surprised to learn that between the ages of ten and twelve, most boys have begun to masturbate on a regular basis.
Even if you have not spoken specifically about sexual values with your son, he has picked up a great deal of your views on sexuality already. How you carry yourself, how comfortable your son feels in approaching you with his sexual questions (or just questions about girls in general) and how you casually talk about sex all communicate your values to him. And, of course, especially your own sex life communicates more than just about any words what your sexual values are. Your son watches how all the men in your life treat you, especially the men you have been in relationship with. While you certainly do not share your sex life details with your son, there is much information he is gleaning by simply observing how you behave in your adult relationships.
Most ‘tweens’ have gotten the direct facts of life from their school health classes (or the infamous ‘sixth grade talk’). Hopefully, they have also gotten direct, honest answers from you as well when they come to you with sexual questions about sexual anatomy, biology, and behaviors. If they have not, it is never too late to begin to foster such a direct, calm, and honest response to children’s sexual questions. Depending on how your own experience of parent-child sexual information sharing went when you were a child with your parents, you may have more or less the same style as they did. Which means you may have to work at improving your ability to stay calm and collected to give good, accurate information to them.
While accurate information about the basics of sex is important, so are the values we hold and communicate about sex to our children. Most parents would agree that they want their children to grow up to have fulfilling and stable adult relationships, including sex. And so the task becomes how to communicate your values about sexuality to your son.
Because of their age, as much as because of the relationship, talking about sex with your children is challenging. Sex is quite naturally, for most people, a very private thing. In addition, when we talk about sex with our kids the implication that we have had and continue to have sex is of course strongly implied, which can be embarrassing for both child and parent. And so to protect your and your son’s sensibility about privacy, care must be taken to avoid breaking personal information boundaries while still conveying the values you wish to talk about.
For example, you may wish to talk about the value of love as a prerequisite to sex, or that sex should be saved for marriage. If your son obviously knows, for example, that you were not married when you had him, you may feel at first that it would by hypocritical of you to stat that sex should be saved for marriage. If it is an important value you want to share with your child, be brave and admit to the obvious, and then outline why you want him to do things differently in his life.
You need not go into sexual detail or detail your own sex life to covey to your son what you feel the place of sex is in life and relationship. Again, being brave, sharing your idealized view of the values of your sexuality may stand in some contrast to your own history. Entering into direct discussion of how a person’s ideal vision quite often does not live up to reality is also in order. This can lead to exploration of the idea of how we all make mistakes and do things we may regret, as well as the value of forgiveness.
Perhaps one of the most powerful things a mother can do to transfer her sexual values to her son is to insist upon and teach him gentlemanly behavior. Being a gentleman is not just some old, quaint tradition, it is a very valuable teaching tool about respect and sexuality. By exercise of the skills of a gentleman, a boy learns the specific behaviors that demonstrate respect for and abiding values for women and sex. It is in gentlemanly behavior that an artfully subtle messaging about sex is taught to boys through particular, seemingly innocuous behaviors.
Think for a moment of how a gentleman knows how to shake the hand of a lady (he takes her fingers into his upturned palm and gives a gentle shake, rather than the squared hand-pump between men). This is a subtle message to a boy that women deserve to be treated differently than their buddies, with gentleness, respect and specialness. Of course, if a lady has just negotiated a business deal, the squared-hand pump is more appropriate, but in social situations, a lady still like to be treated like a lady, right?
Teaching boys to always ask before they touch, and that when a lady declines your attentions, you must back off as a matter of personal integrity not only makes them a gentleman, but can protect them from making future sexual mistakes…and just might land them a wonderful girlfriend or wife! Or, consider the fact that a gentleman always holds the attitude of ‘ladies first’. Ladies first? “Yes, ladies first… always…and in everything.” And if that is not a sexual value statement, nothing is!
Esther Strong from UK on October 26, 2012:
It's good to have some guidance with difficult topics we must broach with our children. Gentlemany behaviour goes a long way.
Criss from Southern California on October 18, 2012:
I think the sex talk should start at a young age with age appropriate information. (there were kids in my nieces 4th grade class having sex at school) I do not think that sex talk is difficult or unnatural and if you start talking early, it will be a normal conversation. Even though I think teens should wait to have sex, sometimes this want is not strong enough to stop them from having sex; so mothers should also teach their sons about protection. They should also encourage their child to talk to them and ask questions, and make it clear that no question is out of bounds. If a child feels safe talking to mom, they are less likely to seek out the information elsewhere. Sex is a big deal and it should be treated as such.
H Lax on October 14, 2012:
I am a single mom to a sixteen year old boy; and, while I have discussed how he should treat girls and sex and of course how he should wait for it, I still have fears of the consequences he could face if he doesn't. I found this refreshing and an inspiration to get me to bring up the subject with him again just to make sure he remembers the guidelines I think would be appreciated by any girl and her parents and will keep him from facing consequences that could make his life more difficult. Thanks for sharing!
Ryan on October 10, 2012:
I'm a single dad with kids. I'm actually comfortable talking about sex with my 12 year old daughter. I make it a point to explain simply so she can understand. I'd rather be the source of information than something she googles or gets from her friends.
being single is quite difficult but it is not impossible.