When We Protect Our Loved Ones, We Cause Harm

When We Protect Our Loved Ones, We Cause Harm

When I began my professional career as a sex educator and therapist, I found myself in social spaces answering many questions about when the right time is to discuss sex with children.

Many of the people asking were surprised to hear me say, day zero. Information is not binary - it isn't all the information on a subject or no information at all. There are age-appropriate ways to discuss sex and sexuality, and ways to determine what children are ready to hear. 

These folks would then follow up with: but how do we protect their innocence?!

While innocence is a full discussion in and of itself, I want to focus on the protection part. Childhood is temporary. Parenting is not about raising children; it is about raising future adults. It is about preparing these children for the world they are in and how to navigate the world that will be; a world that is unknown to us. This requires teaching resilience, maintaining curiosity, and working through obstacles, among many other lessons. While it may be easier to just do and fix things for children, it does not prepare them to do and fix for themselves. It doesn't prepare them to seek out help and to provide help appropriately.

It all clicks for these parents when I say, you cannot shield your children from any information. The internet is free and available and even if you put locks and passwords, they will find a way. The same way we found ways to learn "forbidden" information before the internet. It is better for them to get accurate, real, and honest information from their parent than misinformation from their friends and the internet. This also fosters stronger bonds between parent and child. 

This topic is not exclusive to parenting relationships. We hear about people holding back information from their loved ones to protect them all the time. This is not the same as not sharing something that is private or not yet processed. This is something that is willfully withheld because we don't believe that those people can "handle" the truth. Ultimately, we miss that we are taking informed consent out of their choices, we limit opportunities for them to be supportive, we harm the intimacy in the dynamic because what is not said is often the heaviest and most present.

There is a lot of nuance in determining what is shared and what isn't. Just understand, that knowing information can hurt, cause worry, etc. But it also gives people the time and space to process information in emotionally safe ways, instead of that information being revealed in tense and urgent circumstances. 

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Please note: Due to the personal and confidential nature of therapy, I will not answer personal questions or provide advice. Please do not email me for professional advice