For Goodness Sex

Notes from a sexuality educator

Give the Gift of Healthy Sexuality

The holidays can be a great time for strengthening and deepening relationships.

The holiday season is in full swing, and stores are crowded with shoppers looking for a gift for that special someone. Why not think about giving your sweetheart, child, or parent a gift that will deepen your relationship with them and further their, and your own, healthy sexuality? You won’t need to fight the crowds at the mall to get these gifts, and many of them can be had for no money at all!  Here are a few of this year’s hot items from my “Healthy Sexuality Holiday Gift Guide”:

Want to enhance communication with a loved one? Of course, face-to-face, honest conversation is the best and healthiest way to communicate in any relationship, but sometimes circumstances make that hard to do. In that case, a “dialogue diary” might be just the thing for you. 

Take any blank notebook (it can be as plain or fancy as you want), and on the first page write a note offering the book to a sweetheart, parent, or child as a place where the two of you can share conversation, ask and answer questions of each other, react to events, or just share what’s on your mind. What makes a dialogue diary different from a regular diary is that it’s intended to be read by the two people who share it. 

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To start, you can write a bit about the person to whom you’re giving it. If it’s to a sweetheart, talk about what you love about them, why sharing life with them is so special, or offer something positive about yourself or your own life that you haven’t shared yet. 

If it’s to a child or young adult, tell them how much you want them to be happy and healthy, share your hopes and dreams for them, and invite them to use the diary to talk about things that might be hard to say face-to-face. 

You can make up your own rules for a dialogue diary, but I do suggest creating a special place where you’ll leave the diary for each other when something’s been written in it. The diary should be returned to that place after it’s been read so both people have access to it when it’s needed. 

For sweethearts, a dialogue diary can be a great way to capture the moments in your relationship you want to cherish, or to talk out a problem when face-to-face communication is too painful or tricky. For parents and children, it can create the conditions to ask the questions; share information; convey moments of pride, confusion, and hope; and to dialogue about values.

Coupon Books are always a fun, creative gift, and they can be crafted to keep the focus on healthy sexuality. No matter what the relationship, who couldn’t use a coupon for a half hour of uninterrupted listening? How about a coupon for one question answered honestly and without judgment? Try an “Oops, can I have a re-do?” coupon, good for taking back that thoughtless comment, making up for that missed dinner, or forgetting to do that household chore.

Parents might offer children coupons they can redeem to hear the story of the parents' first kiss, or first broken heart, or an embarrassing story from puberty, or even the story of when they got the “sex talk” from their parents. 

Coupons can be made that strengthen the parent-child relationship. I like reciprocal coupons for this idea, things like each person sharing a song or TV show or movie that means something special to them, and then talking about them. A coupon for a shared hour of web surfing where kids can explore the Internet with your guidance can create a moment for good dialogue. And what parent wouldn’t love to receive a coupon redeemable for one car ride with a kid without earbuds, video games, or other distractions?   

Think about what will make your relationship with your sweetheart more romantic, intimate, and passionate. Think about what will create more honesty, understanding, and opportunities to share values between parents and children. If there’s not already a coupon for that, you can make it!

For those whose holiday season isn’t complete without the rush of the crowds and the ringing of cash registers, there are a few excellent books for every age that foster healthy sexuality. 

For younger children, I recommend Robie Harris’ books (It’s Perfectly Normal, It’s So Amazing, It’s Not the Stork).They combine excellent age-appropriate information with drawings that include the full range of diversity so every child can find themselves in the pages. 

For high school students, I love Heather Corinna’s S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College

For college-aged adults, sweethearts, or anyone interested in an enlightening, sex-positive, comprehensive guide to sexual anatomy and sexual activity, the newly published seventh edition of Paul Joannides The Guide to Getting It On is a must have. This book is explicit but never gratuitously so. 

Finally, for parents, Deborah Roffman’s new book Talk To Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person About Sex is an excellent resource for those interested in helping children navigate the difficult and often unhealthy messages about sexuality they confront every day.

Whether it’s bought in a store or made by hand, a holiday gift can be another way to reinforce healthy relationships, healthy communication, and healthy sexuality. I wish you and your loved ones peace, joy, and healthy sexuality this holiday season!

Al Vernacchio, M.S. Ed. is the Upper School Sexuality Educator and an English teacher at Friends' Central School in Wynnewood, PA.

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