So how do you turn ‘finding a used condom’ into an opportunity to teach your child something important? Watch the video below to get some ideas on how to turn a used condom into a chat about condoms with your child.
You can read this article, to learn more about what a teachable moment is.
You’re walking down the street and your child points something out to you and says, “Hey mum, what’s this?”. You go over and have a look and of all things, it’s a used condom! What do you do? And how can you turn a used condom into a teachable moment? Let’s find out.
Hi, I’m Cath Hakanson from Sex Ed Rescue and teachable moments are these everyday opportunities where something might happen and you’ve got that opportunity to turn it into a moment of teaching, ie a teachable moment.
So, your child points out a used condom. You’ve got a couple of opportunities. You can ignore it and talk about it later on, because you don’t need to grab a teachable moment every time. You just grab them if you’re in the mood for talking about something. You can either go ‘Hey, I don’t know. What do you think it is?’ And see what they say. They may already know what a condom is. Or they might already have an idea about what it is and you can talk about whatever it is that they say. They might say ‘I think it’s a balloon but it’s a funny shape’. And you might say ‘I don’t think it’s a balloon. What else do you think it could be?” So, it’s up to you as we all handle these situations differently but it’s a great opportunity to talk about a number of things.
First thing we might say is ‘That’s a used condom. When we find them, we don’t pick them up and we don’t play with them. They’re dirty and they’ve got germs on them.’ So tell them about that. So that’s a safety thing because you don’t want kids coming home with a bucket full of treasures and a couple of used condoms in the middle of it. They’re not really very nice to play. And then, you can tell them what a condom is, what about what it is, why adults might use them and answer any of their questions.
The trick for having a conversation about this stuff is to talk about it in the exact same way that you might talk about other things. So, your child might say ‘What’s that?’ and you say ‘It’s a dead bird’ and you might have a talk about why the bird might have died in your normal everyday voice. So, when we’re talking about that used condom that they found, you want to make sure that you’re talking to them in the same way that you would be talking about anything else.
Now, some big fears that a lot of parents have when talking about stuff like condoms, is that you’re going to sexualise your child and make them curious about sex. Kids are more likely to get curious when you don’t talk to them about something. So when you hide stuff or you go ‘How dare you, that’s a condom’ or ‘That’s rude’, That’s a grown-up thing’, ‘Kids aren’t supposed to know about condoms’, ‘ ‘You’re going to get in trouble when we get home, I’m going to tell your father.’ You don’t respond that way because that’s going to make your child curious about what the fuss is all about. It’s also going to make them scared to ask your questions about stuff like that. Kids aren’t stupid. They pick up very quickly that certain stuff is a taboo, because, we all want to fit in and merge with the crowd and fit into society because it’s part of our basic instinct to survive. So kids are the same. They work out pretty quickly that some topics get parents and teachers upset, and you want to be the sort of parent where your kid can come to you with questions. So that’s why we need to be able to answer those questions and to be able to give them information about stuff when they find it.
Is it going to make your child curious and want to go find out more about condoms and start putting them on their penis and stuff? Highly likely because you’re talking about it, as I said, in a normal everyday way. You also might add in that it’s an adult thing and that that stuff is made for grown-ups, they’re not for kids to play with. You might say, ‘So if you find one of these again, come and tell me and I’ll get rid of it for you. Don’t you touch it.
What else? I’m trying to think what else we can talk about. For the under fives, you could just say something like, ‘It’s a condom’ or ‘I don’t know, it’s a bit of rubbish, let’s get rid of it’. You don’t have to give them the details. For under fives it is often beyond their level of comprehension. You could be saying that it’s a rocket ship or it’s a sprocket from the motor of the car When they are 5 to 8, you can give them that little bit more information and then as they get older, even more information. Again where they might be more curious and start asking you questions about why would grown-ups use condoms, do you have condoms for girls. So you might then provide them with more information as well.
And remember, if you don’t know the answer, just say ‘I don’t know and how about we go and look it up’. I’ve got a couple of resources and online resource which is where you can type in a question and put that age of your child that will tell you an age-appropriate response. I’ve also got a book that gives age by age descriptions of how to talk about different stuff depending on how old they are and what they’re curious about as well.
So, I hope that helps. Finding a used condom is a great opportunity to have a chat with your kids about sex as well as what to do when they do find them.
I'm Cath, a sex educator living in Australia with my husband and 2 kids. I help parents to talk about sex (with less cringe and more confidence) and empower their child to make smart sexual decisions. To find a better way to talk about sex, you can join my community of parents and visit my shop for helpful resources.