Talking About Sex with Your Child with NLD
By Beth Margolin
When my teenage son was six years old, he asked me how babies get out of their mother’s belly. My three year old was also there at the time, and I was proud of my answer. “When you were ready to be born, we went to the hospital and the doctor took you out.” That, I was sure, was enough of an answer for now.
But it wasn’t. Within seconds, my elder son, already diagnosed with a Nonverbal Learning Disability, began to imagine all the parts of my body from which he could have emerged, all terribly torturous. He began to shake and panic. Seconds later I was telling him exactly how he came into this world, correct terminology and all. He relaxed. After all, he didn’t have that part.
But we both learned an important lesson that day. He learned how babies are born, and I learned that if my son has a question, I need to answer it. Straight and to the point. Whether it is uncomfortable for me or not. Because if I don’t tell him the correct answer, he may imagine an incorrect one, or worse, get a wrong answer from someone less educated than me (his friends).
Now that my son is a young teen, I am glad I have developed this honesty with him. He really does come to me with questions when he hears things from his friends. When he asked me what a crude word was for a specific sexual position, I prayed that I had enough makeup on my face to hide my blush, and I told him, very specifically, what it meant. I then put it in perspective for him, telling him that when I was his age, the most romantic thing my boyfriend could do was hold my hand.
While I cannot control the words he hears from others, I need to help him process what they mean in his life.
My biggest fear would be to ignore his questions, let him believe the bravado of the locker room, and end up in a position with a girl where he is going too far, too fast, and everyone gets hurt. Using these embarrassing questions as a teaching tool can ensure that your values are communicated while your child feels that his or her needs are met.
Our children with NLD miss important social cues and can easily misinterpret valuable information. Locker-room or slumber-party talk, where everyone is trying to be ruder and braver than the next, where no one wants to be caught exaggerating so they don’t exactly look at you, is the perfect place for these misreads to occur. Is that word really okay to use in public, in front of friends? Is she blushing because that really happened, or is she lying? Was that a dare or a question? I know that my son needs to talk these things out to figure out what it all means. He needs reassurance about what is right and wrong, and these are great opportunities for me to let him know what we, as a family, believe; to talk about responsibility, love, commitment; to ensure that I am raising both a smart young man, and a gentleman.
When a girl that my son liked began texting him, he did not know how to respond. I helped him compose a text back. At dinner, he repeated a horrible word that he heard, but I did not freak out. Instead, I explained exactly why it is offensive to hear. Am I trying to be a cool Mom? No. I am using my son’s inability to understand social cues to help him. Do I enjoy explaining the terms from The Joy of Sex to my 14-year-old? Nope. But I am glad that I am here to clarify, explain, and add moral values when I have the chance—even if I have to buy more foundation to cover my blush.