Book Review: Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex…

After reading my November 16 GeekMom post on talking with your kids about sexuality, one reader, Angie, commented:

Ok, immediately, as in right now, go to Amazon, and buy this book: Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask) by Richardson and Schuster…Andrea, this is EXACTLY what you’re looking for. It is the geek parent’s holy grail of parenting your kid’s sexuality at every stage, chock full of current scientific data and psychiatric research, without religious leanings. The authors attempt to give you, the parent, the tools to instill your cultural or religious “norm” in your children while simultaneously recognizing your child as a healthy sexual individual.

After reading Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask), I have to agree with Angie: this is the kind of book that I was looking for:

It is comprehensive. That is, it considers all aspects of sexual education from the “fact-based” conversations and questions of early childhood to the “feelings-focused” practical and ethical discussions that may take place in a family as teenagers begin to explore their sexual identities.

It is respectful of the culture and beliefs of individual families. I was looking for a book that would steer me toward topics that I might want to consider at each stage of my children’s development. However, in lieu of preaching one perfect public health or moral solution, I wanted to be acknowledged as the person who understands my children best and then encouraged to come to my own informed conclusions on how to effectively guide them.

Its suggestions are made using peer-reviewed studies and research. I wanted suggestions that were, as often as possible, based on reliable, replicable scientific research. In almost all cases, the authors were able to support their suggestions with research.

The questions posed throughout the book are direct, thought-provoking and real, for instance:

  • How will you react if your middle-school daughter wants to wear provocative clothes? If your middle-school son visits online porn sites?
  • What values do you want to communicate to your children? What does abstinence mean? Are virginity pledges effective? Does promoting birth control promote promiscuity? 
  • If asked, will you share anything about your sexual experiences? (I was concerned that the authors might err on the side of “oversharing.” Instead, they provided a great baseball analogy, a la Dr. Spock: “There is no need to focus on your child’s technique with the ball–it is more important for your child to feel affirmed than to feel coached.”)
  • What special considerations are there to consider if your child is atypical? Disabled? Has a chronic illness? Is gay?
  • Am I really  helping my children by talking about…all of this? (“Of those kids whose parents had spoken to them about sex, 87 percent thought their parents insights were helpful.”)

The book’s authors, Justin Richardson, MD and Mark Schuster, MD, PhD, have both been published in key journals: Harvard Review of Psychiatry, The American Journal of Public Health, and Pediatrics (Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics). Dr. Richardson is a full-time analyst affiliated with Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital (interesting aside: and is the “psychiatric advisor” for the HBO miniseries In Treatment). Dr. Schuster is UCLA’s Chief of General Pediatrics and its Vice Chair for Health Services, Policy, and Community Research in the Department of Pediatrics, as well as the Director of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at UCLA’s RAND Center. Together, the two authors bring more than 30 years of education, research and experience to the creation of this book.

In my assessment, this book is a good starting point for parents worried about talking to their kids about sexual health, but you can decide that for yourself by taking a look at selected chapters at the book’s website: RICHARDSONSCHUSTER.COM.

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