Preteen Sex: Talking to Your Preteen About It

It's important to remember that teaching about sex will not encourage your child to have sex at an early age.

No matter how hard you try to protect them, kids are barraged with sexuality and sexual messages. No matter how careful you are about what your preteen is exposed to, your son or daughter may see a TV show or hear a song on the radio, or see two people on the bus that sparks questions about sex. So, how do you talk to them about it? Try these tips:

Question the question. If your preteen asks a specific question related to sex, first ask why he is asking that question. That gives you an idea where he is coming from and will guide you to answer that specific question.

Be precise. Use scientifically correct names for body parts and give clear, straightforward explanations (this probably isn't a good time to flaunt your knowledge of slang.) Look your child straight in the eye when you talk to her.

Spot teachable moments. You can bring up sexuality when there is a TV news story about AIDS, the debate over gay marriage, an ad for the HPV vaccine or when there are sexual innuendoes on a TV show. A pregnancy or birth in the family can also be a good time for you to take the lead to teach your child "where babies come from." Turn it into a teachable moment.

Sometimes kids use words with sexual overtones and they don't know what they really mean. Talk to your child about what he is really saying if that occurs. Also, don't forget to also speak to your child about healthy relationships and conflict resolution. Unfortunately there are many stories in the news about relationship violence but these can be teachable moments even for a young child to brainstorm about alternatives to violence and what constitutes a healthy relationship.

Try to relax. Remember, when your child asks about sex, it doesn't mean she is having sex. Your preteen may think "sex" is kissing, or even if she has some very sophisticated questions, this does not mean that she is speaking from experience. And it's important to remember that teaching about sex will not encourage your child to have sex at an early age.

Ask for some help. There are plenty of books on how to talk to your preteen about sex. You can also ask your child's pediatrician or health care provider for coaching. Another great resource is parents of older children. They will have much more experience talking to their child about sex. If you're really not comfortable talking about sex with your child, speak to your pediatrician or your child's health care provider to see if they can discuss these topics with your child in your presence (so you can learn how to do it when you need to for your second child).

Keep talking. Remember, the more you take the opportunity to talk to your child about sex, the easier it will be for you to do when even more complicated questions and situations arise in the teen years. (Yes, there will be more complicated questions.)

Provided by Elizabeth M. Alderman, M.D.

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