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  • Writer's pictureSophie Manning

How to do it like Dutch parents: four tips from the world’s best sex educators

Updated: Nov 3, 2019

Dutch mother and father in a field of tulips with 2 young kids

Your 3-year old comes out of the bathroom holding a tampon and asks: “Can I have this?” – or a porn ad pops up on the computer while you’re watching YouTube with your 8-year-old.

The question to ask yourself is: what would a Dutch parent say?

Dutch teenagers are the happiest in the world, and with holistic sex education from the age of four, they’re having first-time sex they don’t regret and experiencing the lowest teen pregnancy rates in Europe. In Holland, under-25s account for only 10% of STIs (sexually transmitted infections). As you can imagine (we hope you don’t have first-hand knowledge), in the UK it’s over 50%. Plus Holland is one of the most gender-equal countries in the world.

Here are four top Netherlands-inspired tips:

  1. It’s easy to body-shame from an early age without realising it. Don’t get too theatrical about nappies and potties, and if your toddler does find a tampon, try: “Cool! Let’s find out how much water it can soak up!”

  2. Try to remove your embarrassment from the equation. If your six-year-old wants to get naked by the paddling pool, we think you’re eroding rather than protecting their innocence by making a big deal about it. In Holland, you’re not necessarily ever too old for nakedness, and the more bodies a child sees, the more variety they’re exposed to (reading this post by Oregon Girl, it sounds as if the Danish approach is very similar).

  3. Part of being matter-of-fact about bodies is having a sensible, straightforward attitude to shapes, sizes and body image. In this Amsterdam Mamas podcast Dr Anisha Abraham notes the protective aspects of Dutch culture when it comes to body-image issues. We imagine living there as one long episode of Naked Beach!

  4. So it’s too late for all that: your 15-year-old has their first boyfriend and you need to take a stance on sex. Well, not all Dutch parents feel this way, but some aim for positive first sexual experiences over delayed sexual experiences, says Bonnie J Rough, author of Beyond Birds and Bees. Removing the combative element from your relationship – and instead focusing on offering safe spaces and open-minded support – can go a long way to achieving these goals.

Many of us want to talk openly with our children, but we didn’t always have the best sex education ourselves. If you’re unsure about where and how to start, the Outspoken Sex Ed website for parents can help.

Mimi Missfit puts her hand on her mouth in shock at a Dutch museum exhibition about sex
Mimi On A Mission: Sex Ed – see clips from the great BBC series at our Doing It Like The Dutch event

Learn more at the panel discussion Doing It Like The Dutch on 12 November at 6.45pm in the Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL. Book tickets here

This article originally appeared in London Mums on 23.10.19

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