Breaking the Silence

by Erin Luginbuhl, M.A.

This week, millions of Americans will feel the pinch of the IRS on April 15th, if they haven’t already, while several politicians are slated to join the 2016 campaign field.  No doubt both topics will come up at the water cooler in passing small talk, despite the old adage which says it’s impolite to talk about sex, politics and money.  I often have sensed the awkward tension surrounding these culturally taboo topics.

Think of your own home for a moment.  Do you, as I sometimes have, inadvertently follow this adage, particularly in regards to sex and money?  Both carry much pleasure, pain, power and unfortunately shame.  According to author and researcher Brene Brown, shame needs three things to grow exponentially:  silence, secrecy, and judgment—the very things our cultural adage encourages.

Take, for instance, what Dr. John Chirban has to say in his book How to Talk with Your Kids About Sex: Help Your Children Develop a Positive, Healthy Attitude Toward Sex and Relationships.  In it, Chirban addresses the importance of having an ongoing conversation about sexuality with your children and notes most parents engage in “telegraphic exchanges”.  He provides an example of a father and child at a sporting event when the child notices a billboard for Viagra accompanied by a picture of a man smiling.

Chirban writes, “Your child asks, ‘What’s Va-gra? Vi-a-gra? What does that mean’ to which you probably can’t come up with a better response than ‘Let’s just watch the game!’  Though it may seem minor at the time, this communication essentially sends a telegram to your child that reads something like this:

DEAR CHILD—I’M UNCOMFORTABLE WITH TALKING ABOUT SEX (STOP)

PRETEND NOTHING HAPPENED (STOP)

DON’T ASK IN THE FUTURE (STOP)

SUPPRESS CURIOSITY (STOP)

XO—PARENT”

Though this seems like such a simple exchange, there truly are bigger ramifications—for silence and actions communicate just as profoundly as words.  In college, I recall reading one of Suze Orman’s many money management books and was struck by her words, “We all know that kids are sponges.  They don’t do as you say, they do as you do”.  Perhaps in your own home, your parents were silent on the topics of money and sex and, unknowingly, you have simply followed course.  Talking about sex and sexuality is hard, uncomfortable, and awkward, especially if you have yet to sort out your own understanding of its impact on you personally, but it’s not too late to offer your children and your family something different.

Dave Ramsey, financial guru, often praises individuals who call into his radio show for their debt free scream as they, specifically families with children, have chosen to change their family tree and offer an experience in which money now offers freedom instead of slavery.  In the same way, Chirbin offers suggestions and strategies to assist in creating comfortability and emotional safety as you engage your family in honest, healthy conversations about sex and sexuality.  For these very conversations can shatter the bonds of shame and secrecy and cultivate wholeness and life.

So, let’s lay to rest impropriety and rewrite that old adage which keeps us silent and offer something different to our children.  Let’s build open relationships that eradicate shame instead of encouraging it.  Let’s offer something different to our children that they might experience freedom as they move into the future.  Now that’s a topic worth talking about.

 

Categories Article | Tags: | Posted on April 15, 2015

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