Many sexuality educators emphasize to parents and other care-givers that kids need “ask-able” adults. Hopefully as parents many of us are working toward being an ask-able adult that our child can turn to with difficult, embarrassing or even mundane questions. As a faith-based sexuality educator and parent, I have found the most importantly qualities needed to be an askable adult are being present and willingness to admit we don’t have all the answers but will accompany the child as they continue to search. For these two reasons, I want to share the Rookie Magazine campaign, Ask a Grown Woman/Man.
Rookie Mag has asked celebrities (mostly comedians) to answer questions from young women about dating, sexuality, relationships and more. Some videos are better than others, but they all have two things in common: the celebrities are present, taking the questions seriously and none of them act like they have all the answers. Many of the Grownfolks share personal experience, admit that these issues are difficult, and encourage the young women to value themselves!
In the most recent video, Stephen Colbert exemplifies being an askable adult. Why?
Colbert doesn’t over simplify these complex questions. He breaks them down and addresses multiple issues with each question. He also focuses on the various types of relationships that we all balance related to friendship, family, parents, social pressures, sexual partners, romantic interests, and so on. He is also gender inclusive in his answers where appropriate. Most importantly, he never shies away from sharing his values. He talks about deserving respect, being honest, listening, open communication, and mutual support.
I doubt Stephen Colbert sat down and thought, “Hmmm, how can I be an askable adult?” Instead, he just did a great job. Some of us need more encouragement and practice. In Sex + Faith, I suggest six steps for answering sexuality related questions.
Step #1 : Breathe
Notice Colbert didn’t just jump into answers. He took a second and thought about what he would say, he even paused during his answers.
Step #2: Clarify the question
Break it down just like Colbert did. Make sure you understand what is being asked.
Step #3: Provide accurate, age and ability appropriate information.
If you don’t know, say so. Then go look up the answer together. Speak directly to the person, just like Colbert did. Use language and examples they associate with so the conversation is familiar.
Step #4: Share your values
Colbert does this well as I noted above. If you are from a particular faith tradition, you might want to tie your values directly to teachings from your faith tradition.
Step #5: Follow up
This is tough for Colbert, but as parents you’ll see your kids tomorrow or the next day. Revisit the conversation and thank them for coming to you. See if they have more questions. Or just remind them you are always around if they want to ask something.
So, go ahead and practice!