Episode 8: Talking to Your Kids About Sex with Dr. Ron Levine

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Dr. Lori Buckley interviews Dr. Ron Levine. Ron has been a sex therapist for almost 30 years. He has spoken to thousands of parents, teaching them how to talk to their children about sex and how to raise sexually healthy adults. In this episode Ron tells us how to feel more comfortable with our own sexuality, and tells us what we should never say to our kids. He also provides us with a list of books and websites to increase our sexual and parental knowledge.

Transcript

Talking to Your Kids About Sex: Podcast Interview with Doctor Ron Levine

Announcer:  This program is intended for mature audiences only.

[Music]

Dr. Lori Buckley: Welcome to On the Minds of Men, uncensored sex talk. I'm your host, Dr. Lori Buckley. Today on the show, we're discussing talking about sex with your children. My guest today is Dr. Ron Levine. Ron is a dear friend of mine and personal mentor. He's been a sex therapist for almost thirty years and he is a wonderful speaker. A one over on his passions is speaking to parents and teaching them to talk to their children
about sex to raise sexually healthy and responsible adults.

Ron Levine: This has now been scientifically demonstrated in survey after survey so your
listeners have to know as tough as it is, as awkward as it is, as uncomfortable as it is, and we can talk about it all that if we want to, it's important to gulp, take that deep breath, and do it.

Ron Levine: What do I enjoy most about sex? What do I enjoy least? What am I most comfortable? What am I not? What do I find pleasurable? And what don't I? What about sex would I love? What about sex that I could rather do without? If we just talk to ourselves and then to a trusted partner, kick it around a little bit, you'll discover quickly not only that you'll be laughing and probably crying at some of the answers you come up
with, you finish the process you're gonna have a sense of confidence that you didn't have before you began.

Ron Levine: In my twenty-five or thirty years as a sex educator and therapist, I have never seen an instance in which a child has been harmed by their parents giving them
accurate and loving information about sex. Never.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Welcome, Ron.

Ron Levine: Thank you, Lori. It's absolutely a pleasure to be here.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Oh, I'm so glad you're here. Thank you for joining us. You know, I know our listeners have a lot of questions about the best way to approach the "sex talk." You know, they would really love some guidance and advice. So I wanna start by asking you what your definition is of sexual health.

Ron Levine: Well, sexual health is not different than other kinds of health. We have medical or physical health; everyone should know what that is. When our body is functioning without blockage or inflammation. Interestingly, the psychology field doesn't have a working definition of mental health, although, Dan Segal who wrote the book, Developing Mind, has a wonderful definition, which, this is on the topic, concept of integration. And simply put, an integrated brain is a healthy brain. Now, what is integration? Integration is the linking together of differentiated parts into a functional whole. That applies to anything in life. You take parts. Take a chair, take a radio apart, take anything apart, you have all, a puzzle apart, all on the floor. Those parts are nice, but soft of not useful. You put them all together in an integrated way, you have a beautiful puzzle, you have a chair you can sit on, you have a radio that works.

Dr. Lori Buckley: So how does that relate to sex?

Ron Levine: Now we get there. So the same thing is true about sex. I say healthy sex or a
healthy approach to sex is an integrated approach in which our mind, brain, body and
soul are not only present but are functionally working together as we both approach,
experience, then savor the sexual interaction.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Wow. I love that definition. I'm just thinking, okay. I'm just thinking about giving our children the "sex talk," you know, that's challenging enough. Now, you
know, we think about wanting all these things and of course we want all these things
for our children. But, you know, how do we that? That's the question. And that's why
you're here. And that's why I'm so glad you're here. Before we get into the how-tos,
why is it important to talk to our children about sex?

Ron Levine: It is important to talk to our children about sex for two reasons. Number one: we exist in a culture today in which children are horribly impacted and stimulated by the amazing impulses, videos, audios, movies, radio, billboards, magazines with sexual
stimuli. They don't know what to do with them. Two: Research has absolutely shown the
best way to help our kids with respect to protecting them from sexual danger and also
teaching how to have sexual satisfaction is parents communicating with, talking with their children, and sharing their own values. In a very fun book that I think your listeners will enjoys called "How To Talk to Your Child About Sex" by Linda and Richard Eyre. I just want to read you this one thing to answer that question. "The evidence is overwhelming that any parent who puts his or her mind to it, and who has the confidence of the right approach," which we'll talk about here in a few minutes, "and the right tools," which we'll teach you how to acquire, "can teach a child to view sex as positively and responsibly and that this communication between parent and child can protect our children from the devastating physical and emotion dangers of experimental, casual, or promiscuous sexual activity. This has now been scientifically demonstrated in survey after survey so your listeners have to know as tough as it is, as awkward as it is, as uncomfortable as it is, and we can talk about it all that if we want to, it's important to gulp, take that deep breath, and do it.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yeah, I absolutely agree with you. And you're right, let's talk about that. For some people, I mean a lot of people, you know, they grew up without their parents talking to them about sex and people have trouble even in their own sexual life to,
you know, communicating about sex. So how do we when we feel so uncomfortable and so ill equipped begin to talk to our children? And, well, that's a big question by itself. But I also wanna ask you when we do that?

Ron Levine: Okay, so when we do it is as soon as our children are able and we're able to talk but we'll come to that because it's age-related and you don't talk to a four-year-old
the same way you talk to an eight-year-old, the same way you talk to a fourteen-year-old. And that's where reading a number of good resource books that we can talk about comes into play.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Which I will have a list of on the web site that you can all go to at personal life media dot com. You'll be able to find that list of all of the recommended books that Ron has for you.

Ron Levine: That'll be fantastic because I will not only have a list of recommended books but I'll have a list of recommended Internet sources. So you'll be able to have access to
all the resources I have access to.

Dr. Lori Buckley: I love that.

Ron Levine: The first step in being able to talk to our children about sex is becoming
comfortable with our own sexuality. So I say there's simply four things we have to do.
We have to know ourselves, our own sexuality. We have to know our child, their
temperament, the way they are in the world so we know exactly how to approach them. We have to know the accurate information. That'll be on the web site. We have to know the process, how do we talk? And I'll give you some tips on that. So quickly, for example,
knowing ourself. Lori mentioned about how we all grew up being either sexually
educated or not educated although even not being educated is sadly, being educated
just in the wrong way.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Exactly.

Ron Levine: So, listen to this question and see what it sounds like for your listeners. When I asked my other about sex, she.. finish the statement, write it out. When I asked my father about sex, he.. finish the statement, write it out. When I first heard about
sex from.. whoever it was, he or she said.. what did they say? And regarding sex I
wish my mother or father would have.. Now if you just take this little exercise, you'll already enter your own world about the parts of your sexual education that were incomplete, that didn't happen, or they happened were uncomfortable. Your awareness of
that will allow you to feel more comfortable in sharing your actual values with your
son or daughter because you can say to them something like, you know, when I was your
age, we didn't talk about sex with our parents and I wish we had.

Dr. Lori Buckley: So in a way it's actually an advantage to be aware of the messages you got or didn't get and to even, you know, let your child know that it is uncomfortable for
you.

Ron Levine: That's not only an advantage, I think it's essential.

Dr. Lori Buckley: I agree.

Ron Levine: So for example, if you want just one more, some questions we can ask ourselves about our own sexuality. What do I enjoy most about sex? What do I enjoy least? What am I most comfortable? What am I not? What do I find pleasurable? And what don't I? What about sex would I love? What about sex that I could rather do without? If we just talk to ourselves and then to a trusted partner, kick it around a little bit, you'll discover quickly not only that you'll be laughing and probably crying at some of the answers you come up with, you finish the process you're gonna have a sense of
confidence that you didn't have before you began.

Dr. Lori Buckley: You know, that is such a great exercise for couples. Forget whether you even have children, but just a really great exercise for you to do alone and then to have communicate with your partner. I think that that's really fabulous. I like that a lot.

Ron Levine: Thank you, Lori. I think it works. It certainly worked for me and my wife when we talked about it and educated our kids. I think it'll work for your listeners.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Great. Thank you. This is good stuff. I hope you'll all listen to this again, rewind it, and write that stuff down because it really is important to have that
knowledge for yourself before you can possibly feel comfortable with talking to your
children about it.

Ron Levine: This is true.

Dr. Lori Buckley: So you said that, when, you know, it's all different depending, the content of what you say to your children is different depending on their age. Is there any time that's too young to start talking about sex?

Ron Levine: Actually, there's not. It's interesting. We talk about our fears about why we don't talk to our kids about sex and I've thought there are four of them. There may be more. The first fear is we won't know the answers. Well, that's what the list at the end of
the show and the web site is gonna take care of that. And the other is, the major fear
that parents seem to have is that talking about sex will lead to sex. Parents are always afraid if I tell my kids and they're not ready or if I tell my kids what they don't know, then they're gonna go out and do it. It's an understandable response from parents, it's just scientifically inaccurate. Every study again, about this has shown the more we talk our kids about sex, the less likely they are to engage in it too early. Why? Us talking to them about it takes away the taboo. Second, us talking to them about it means in order to find out what they're curious about they don't have to experiment to get the answers. They can just come ask us.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Right, I know you probably have experienced this, too, in your practice with patients that you see or people that you speak to that I find that to be very consistent. People who have had the most communication with their parents tend to be, make better choices.

Ron Levine: Yeah, there's no question, again, study after study, there've been any number of them, but they all have been consistent in this one regard. Parents who talk to their
kids and teach their kids about sex actually accomplish what they want, that their
children will postpone sexual decisions until probably their late teens or early twenties, and kids who don't talk are so curious, and also have the distraction cause it's taboo, that they have to start experimenting earlier.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Now I know there are some listeners that are thinking, and so what's what wrong with that? I, you know, I lost my virginity or I had sex for the first time at a young age and it didn't hurt me. That was a positive experience. I would imagine that it
might be different when you're thinking about your daughter, but what do you have to
say to those people?

Ron Levine: What I have to say about to those people is what we've just learned in the past five years about the human brain, which is patterns we establish in our brain early in
childhood follow us into adulthood. The child brain and the teenage brain is a very
underdeveloped brain. We now know that our brain isn't fully developed, fully mature,
until age 25. The teenage brain is undergoing reconstruction, as we call it. So if we decide to have sex at an earlier than I think it useful and helpful, what happens is we engage in habits that are not helpful to satisfying sex. We're impulsive when we're teenagers, our judgment isn't so good, we take risky behaviors, all of which a teenager's supposed to do, but are not very good foundations for satisfying and comfortable and pleasurable sex. We started in teen ages. Those patterns and habits become ingrained in our brain. We bring them into our marriages, into our later relationships and wonder why it's not going so well.

Dr. Lori Buckley: That makes sense, and I think that that is a fabulous answer to kind of put it all into perspective. Well, right now we have to take a very short break. I'm Dr. Lori and I'm speaking with Dr. Ron Levine and we will be right back.

Dr. Lori Buckley: You're listening to On the Minds of Men. I'm your host, Dr. Lori. We're talking to Ron Levine about talking about sex with our children. So before the break we were talking about when is the best time and why is it important to speak to them at an early age. You know, one of the things you talked about that I think is so important is creating an atmosphere where our children feel safe talking to us, where they'll come and they'll talk to us about these things. We know that that's a difficult thing.
I know I never wanted to talk to my parents about sex and I find that a lot of children feel that way. How do we become parents that our children really do feel safe talking to?

Ron Levine: I'm gonna answer that but I want to quickly answer your last question was, what if we talk to our kids too early, what if we talk too late? My dear teacher and mentor, Robert Silverstone, has the Goldilocks story. You know, Goldilocks with the porridge, right?

Dr. Lori Buckley: Right.

Ron Levine: One porridge was too hot. The other was too cold. The other was just right. So Bob says the following, "Whatever you do, don't teach your children about sex too, fill in the blank or too, fill in the blank, and the blank is, whatever you do, don't teach
your children about sex too early or too late, it's impossible. We'll never get it 'just right' and the good news, doesn't matter." Talk about our kids about sex too early, they're not ready to hear, they do what they do with everything they're not ready for it, they ignore us, they don't take it in. We talk to them too late, all it means is they don't have some of the information I might've had but they have it now. In my twenty-five or thirty years as a sex educator and therapist, I have never seen an instance in which a child has been harmed by their parents giving them accurate and loving information about sex. Never.

Dr. Lori Buckley: That's a pretty big statement.

Ron Levine: It's an accurate statement.

Dr. Lori Buckley: And I trust you on that.

Ron Levine: Now to your question about being a parent who's available. I call it being an
askable parent and teachable moments. So being an askable parent would involve some of the following. Number one: no question is out-of-bounds. There are no bad questions
although there can be bad answers. One trick I've used for myself: whenever my children would ask me a question about sex, and of course I would become anxious as I'm sure most of you would be. The first thing I would say to them is, You know, that's a very good question. Now I did that for two reasons. One is, so that they will know that no question is out-of-bounds, but more importantly, it gave me five or ten minutes to think, how am I gonna answer this question? So there are no bad questions. Be careful in terms of your information, that it's accurate. That you can do by reading any of the materials that are going to be on Dr. Buckley's web site. Be able to say, I don't know, let's look it up, we got the Internet now that you'll have endless sources. We've got books. We've got Dr. Buckley's show. We can find the answers to most questions. Be able to say, that questions makes me feel uncomfortable, I'll do my best to answer it. Then, some questions are too personal, I believe. Like if a child asks, do you and daddy have sex? And the answer is, you know, that's a good question, but it's very personal and I believe in our family that sex is a private act so we don't share our private information about sex but you keep asking other questions. Never say to your child, why are you asking that? Where did you learn that? You're too young to ask that? You don't need to know about that. Those are the taboos.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Right.

Ron Levine: And finally, straight talk is always better than false reassurances. So those are just some of the easy principles about how it's become a parent who a child is comfortable asking questions to, and that's the first step. If they sense you'll answer, they'll ask.

Dr. Lori Buckley: I agree. I just have a question, though. You said something about straight talk is better than false reassurance.

Ron Levine: Sure, a child, well, if they're a teenager they might say something like, well, you know, what about sexually transmitted diseases? And a false reassurance would be, oh, don't worry, condoms take care of that. While the reality is condoms do protect against some STDs but they're eighty-five percent effective, there's a fifteen percent failure rate. Straight talk would be, you know, it makes sense to be a little scared about sexually transmitted diseases. They're out there. Here are some of the things you can do to protect yourself. So straight talk is always better than false reassurances which is, don't worry, it'll be okay, this will take care of it. Give them the truth, they'll run with it.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Or you're too young to be asking that question?

Ron Levine: By definition, if you're asking the question, you ain't too young to ask it.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Great. Now you get asked a lot of questions cause you speak to a lot of parents. I know you also speak to a lot of young people. What are the, or what is the most common question that you get from parents?

Ron Levine: The most common question I get from parents is, if I talk to my children too soon, if I give them too much information, won't it damage them? And I sort of answered that a little while ago but I'll say it again. Accurate information given to children at any age from a loving parent whose intent is to educate, you can never go wrong. Even though we've been mistaught that sex is such a hot topic, that if we don't do it right, our children will be damaged. It's simply not true.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Well, that is worth repeating and we need to get as much assurance as we can. Now, like I said, you also speak to a lot of young people. What's the most common question you get from them?

Ron Levine: Well, the most common question I get, you'd have to do it by age group, right? But it's interesting, I think if I went and I have a series of questions that I've been
asked everywhere from fifth graders to twelfth grades when I've taught this in every one of those grades they have questions. I think overall, interestingly, the most common question I hear is, will intercourse hurt? We don't teach kids enough about our bodies. We don't teach the kids enough about the conditions necessary for pleasurable, relaxing intercourse. So they imagine, and correctly so, that if they don't do it right, someone's gonna get hurt. Well, guess what? If you don't do it right, someone will get hurt, not only physically but emotionally which is why we want to teach them the right way, so to speak, in the sense of accuracy, sense of self, relationship, many other values that we all would have that would inform the definition of a sexually healthy adult.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yeah, you know. When you said that it occurs to me that, you know, I hear that from adults. So, you know, you might get that question from fifth graders through twelfth graders, but I hear it from adults all the time. It hurts either painfully or just something doesn't feel right and they don't understand what it's about.

Ron Levine: The reason why sex unfortunately hurts when it does hurt is that people haven't set up the conditions necessary to allow sex to be enjoyable. Either they're scared or they're anxious or their performance anxiety or they're doing it for reasons that don't have to do with sexual pleasure and satisfaction or they don't know enough about their bodies. I could go on. But I just realized, a wonderful author, her name is Deborah Rothman, will be on Dr. Buckley's list, "The Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense About Sex," has her eight universal questions that kids ask about sex. So I thought I might give them to you.

Dr. Lori Buckley: I wanna hear them.

Ron Levine: Number one: What's true? Number two: Can you please help me figure this out? Number three: How do people go about doing that? Number fouRon Levine: Oh my god, is this common? Am I normal? Number five: Can I trust you? Can I get to you? Will you set and stick to clear boundaries? Number six: Could this hurt me? Number seven: What should I do? And the final one, which everybody asks: What's right? So those are some of the questions that are across age decades of development that both children, adolescents and adults are asking. Good questions with our reflection, reading some of these materials, listening to a terrific show like Dr. Buckley's, we can get the confident in the sense that we have some answers. I'm giving a talk at a private school in two nights and the title of the talk is "They Have Questions, We Have Answers."

Dr. Lori Buckley: Oh, I love that. That's a great title. You know, cause that really kind of says exactly what's going on there. And you're right, those questions are questions that adults ask. Now listeners, if you want to get transcripts of this show or you have any comments or questions for myself or for Dr. Levine, please write me at lori at personal life media dot com. I really look forward to hearing all of your comments and questions. We're not done yet. I have a couple more questions for Ron. You know, Ron I would like if you could tell our listeners how, really, the main tips, the main points to remember about raising sexually healthy adults who can experience sexual happiness and satisfaction when they're adults.

Ron Levine: I think the three principles that would lead to sexual satisfaction, I call it KVS; knowledge, values and skills. We have to know ourselves. We have to know our children. We have to know our partners. Values: We have to have a clear sense of ourselves of what is valuable about our sexuality and sexual experiences. For example, I have the following definition, two definitions, of sexual intercourse just to get you thinking. Because if I asked our listeners, well sit down for a second and write a one sentence definition of sexual intercourse. Believe it or not, a lot of accomplished adults have tough times with that question. Here are possible answers. Intercourse is the voluntary insertion of an erect penis into the receptive opening of another human being. But that's physical. I learned what I'm going to say now from an incredible author, Jaak Panksepp, who wrote the book "Affective Neuroscience," about this definition of sex in terms of spiritual or soul sex, and he said, "the pleasurable interpenetration of two souls." Now why do I give you both these definitions? Because they both contain values as well as facts. My major principle for teaching our kids about sex is everyone used to call the sex talk "the facts of life." Actually, that's not what it's about. It's about the experiences of life. I would never teach a kid a fact about sex without linking it to a value about sex whatever your value might be. Never give a fact without a value attached to it. So if you talk about intercourse and you believe that intercourse is for adults, you'd give a definition for intercourse and add in, oh, by the way, in our family we believe that intercourse is for adults and then you can define what an adult is, etc. Always give a value with the fact.

Dr. Lori Buckley: That is definitely good advice. You know, that is something that is difficult for us to do because I don't think that's something we, as adults, think about. So these are great tools not only, again, you know, we learn from our children in so many ways, right? We get to see the world in different eyes. Well, who knew we could actually learn to have better sex ourselves by teaching our children about sex.

Ron Levine: You know that's why you have this show, Dr. Buckley.

Dr. Lori Buckley: I'm just so glad that you're here. This is such great information. I'm definitely going to have to have you back again. We're almost out of time, but I do want to ask you one final question. It's sort of on the lines of what we're talking about. What is
the best sex tip you have for our listeners?

Ron Levine: Marty Seligman, a great psychologist, defines happiness as the ability to
experience pleasure, the capacity to enter into the flow, get into what you're doing, and having meaning. Sexual happiness is the ability to experience sexual pleasure, the ability to totally lose yourself into the experience, and the ability afterwords to savor it for days, weeks, and months so that it has ultimate and almost eternal meaning.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Wow. So take that advice and do something with it. That's beautiful. Really well said. You know, if you think about it, sex really is poetic and fabulous and it's all of those things and we forget that. We get so caught up in sort of the mechanics of
it.

Ron Levine: That's why when I said, sex is not about the facts of life; it's about the experiences of life. Sex is not prose. Sex is poetry.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Beautifully said, Ron. Well, again, thank you so much for joining us. This is such an important topic. I really just appreciate all of your brilliant insights and
guidance and I know our listeners are going to get a lot out of this and again, I think we're going to have to definitely have you back because this is a big topic. We covered some of the main points, but there's still so much to talk about. So, I just want to say goodbye and thank you again.

Ron Levine: Well, thank you, Lori. And of course, this is an example of what you and I have been talking about. It's fun to talk about sex.

Dr. Lori Buckley: It is fun to talk about sex, and it's always fun talking about sex with you. That brings us to the end of our show. Thank you all for listening. Again, if you want any transcripts of this show or other shows on Personal Life Media Network. Visit the web site at www dot personal life media dot com and I look forward to hearing your questions and comments. This is your host, Dr. Lori Buckley. Thank you.

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