I had been looking for purpose in my work in response to the social and political climate in our country. I was angered, stress-ridden over my family’s safety, and feeling marginalized in my everyday life. Free speech turned into hate speech too often and I wanted to uplift messaging that I believed in. I had worked in marketing for almost a decade and had yet to find a role that spoke to not only my skills, but also my morals. That was when I came across an opening for AMAZE.org, at Rutgers University, my alma mater. AMAZE offers an online community and age-appropriate animated videos for kids ages 10 to 14, plus a number resources for parents and educators to help facilitate open communication about sexual health and coming-of-age topics.
As a new parent, I had the desire to cultivate safe spaces for my child to learn and as a black mother, I understand that may not always be the case for my biracial son. AMAZE provides a safe space for families and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to engage a community where teachers, parents, and their children are having open conversations about sex. Also, as a self-love advocate and open-minded individual, I thought it was incredible to find content that could help preteens during some of their most pivotal moments in life. At that age, you’re trying to figure out who you are, not to mention the drastic changes happening on the outside and within — it can be overwhelming. AMAZE sincerely addresses these issues, questions, and facts without judgement.
Being a toddler mom, I do have quite a few years ahead of me before I feel the need to share the full details about what my future teen may experience, however, there are some important sexual health facts that I want to help my son understand:
Learning that “no means no” is the start to understanding what consent is. Hendrix is very affectionate, so when he says goodbye to his friends we encourage him to listen to what they say and notice body language. That way he understands fully if they want to just wave goodbye, give a high five or share a hug. Sexual consent has been top of mind within the last year and I believe starting at the basics early on will help my son make better choices.
2. Self-Acceptance and Self-Love
Hendrix is biracial and we want him to be proud of who he is, even if he doesn’t look exactly like mommy or daddy. We let him pick out his clothes for a feeling of independence and self-expression.
3. Naming Body Parts
We avoid nicknaming body parts. If we can teach our son to know where his ears and toes are, he should also know where his penis is and understand that mommy doesn’t have a penis, but does have a vagina.
4. Love Is Love
At his age, we’re helping him understand that some people have two mommies or two daddies. It hasn’t come up that often for us just yet, but as he gets more curious, we hope that he will recognize and appreciate that love happens across a spectrum of sexual orientation.
Sharing sex education knowledge with my son won’t always be easy, but I believe that having these talks sooner will help my child feel more comfortable in communicating his feelings or questions when he’s older. The more knowledge that he has, the better equipped he will be to make smart decisions. Are there topics that you’re avoiding? What tips would you like to share with other readers? I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments and encourage you to visit https://amaze.org/parents/ for animated videos, FAQs, and conversation starters.
Shazmin Taylor in a few words is a mom, wife, writer, chef, and generally exhausted human being. Prior to joining the AMAZE project, she managed digital content and social strategy for a variety of publications and B2C clients that include The Knot Magazine, HarperCollins Publishers, and IHOP.
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Story image provided by author. Cover photo by Jhon David via Unsplash.
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