Talking to Your Adolescent About Sex & Puberty

Even in 2009, it is very difficult for many parents to talk with their kids about their bodies, puberty and sex.  Below are some tips on having this conversation with your children.

In this day and age of children seeing way too much sexually explicit material, it is even more important than ever that their parents tell them the real, clinical facts when they are age appropriate and that they instill their own morals and values about sexuality. This why I have written a book for parents to use as a tool to talk with their kids about puberty and sex called Changing You: A Guide to Body Changes and Sexuality.

Somewhere along the way in elementary school, probably around age seven to 10, your child will want to have a more specific explanation of where babies come from. By now, they probably get that the sperm is in Daddy and the egg in Mommy, so naturally they are wondering how does one get to the other.

There are many ways your child may ask, so be open to their questions and try to feel them out on exactly what information they feel curious about. For instance, if they ask what a tampon is, you should answer that question, but also be open to where the questioning is going because it may be their way of asking about sex. Again, the key here is to be open, honest and not filled with obvious embarrassment.

Many parents delay and put off having this discussion with their child because they feel embarrassed. DO NOT DELAY! This is your opportunity to establish yourself as the source of sexual information. If you wait, then other children will tell your child about sex, and unfortunately, they will likely get misinformation which will be difficult for you to correct. They will view their peers as the source of information in the future rather than you, and you will likely not be happy with that outcome. This is the first place you can lay the groundwork for instilling some of your morals and values.

In addition to giving your child correct facts, you should tell them how you feel about when it’s time to have sex with someone. For instance, “When you love someone very much” or “When you are married.” What you say now has great impact.

So while you may want to tell them what the appropriate limits really should be, try to do this by being rational yet compelling and not by totally scaring them. Scaring them into not having sex can have a lasting effect on their sexuality, which you want to be healthy and positive when they are grown and it becomes a vital part of any good marriage.

For girls, it is important to tell them about menstruation and their bodies before girls in their class start menstruating. By age 10, there certainly will be one or two who will, and so the news will be out. It is very scary for a girl to have body changes without any explanation of what is going on and how what she is going through is normal. If your daughter has not brought anything up by this time, you should go to her and initiate the conversation.

Tips:

  1. Find out exactly what your child is asking about, then provide them with honest and correct information. You do not need to give them sexual details that they are not specifically asking about. Let them guide the conversation.
  2. If it makes you more comfortable, use a book as a tool to work from. If you feel anxious with sexual material, a book can give you a kind of script.
  3. Start the conversation with what you hope your child will do when they are older regarding sex. For example, you can say, “This is a way of expressing your love to your husband or wife some day.” A recent study showed that the mother’s opinion about sex definitely affected the age of their daughter’s first sexual encounter.
  4. If you are particularly anxious about sexual matters, read some of the books for preteens on their bodies over a few times. This will extinguish some of your nervousness which is important in not conveying to your child that there is something shameful about sex.
  5. Before your child is in middle school, make sure you have this talk. Even if they have not brought it up.
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