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Question
Posted by: Alia | 2009-11-16

Right age to discuss sex with kids

I have a daughter who is turning 10 yrs old nxt month, I am just concerned that because of the media exposure she might see or hear issues that relates to sex, and I think she is aware of such issues. My question is, what is the right age to tell he on the sex issues. I am worried that I might feed her with info too early, at the same time I don' t want her to get this issues from friends. We always watch TV together and there is lots of staff shown there and I find it bit unconfortable at times. There are lots of PG movies, for kids as well where people get so intimate, it is just too explicit at times. Can you advice on the right way of addressing her.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

I think it's important not to see this as ONE event which takes place on ONE specific day, but rather as a process, building trust with your kids, so that they will feel free to ask questions when these ocur to them, and free to discuss their worries or concerns with you.
You are right to recognize that, especially if you leave it late, the timing of such discussions will not be up to you - the world is full of people ( including other kids ) and media eager to inform and misinform your kids.
This helps ensure that you are more likely to provide the information they want and need, when they want and need it, and that trusting on-going relationship provides greater safety in leaving them feeling free to re-open discussion whenever they are concerned.
I like Purple's point about making it more like other questions and discussions, rather than breath-takingly special - kids can be admirably matter-of-fact about such things. Her point about the lad who felt disappointed that he wouldn't be growing breasts is an excellent example of something that can occur to a kid which we might never expect.
Physical sexual maturity is arriving earlier than in previous generations, and so is the media's presentations of sex, often making it seem disproportionately important and out of perspective.
Risks of pregnancy and STD need to be included as this becomes age-relevant.
Maria's point about transmitting values is also important, in addition to the facts.
On Purple's point, I favour using both terminolgies. Its useful for kids to know that all body parts have "proper" or "official" names, useful when public discussion is needed, and home, pet names for comfortable use at home.
I have run into many occasions in a gynae clinic where a woman tries to discuss her problems, and those of her husband, using home terms nobody else had ever heard of, and we struggled to understand what she was talking about - so being bilingual can be liberating and handy !

I agree with Maria that no child knows nothing ! So part of the process is discovering what they know which may be inaccurate and more troubling than the actual facts. A good book can help, preferably not used as a substitute for discussion, but as a supplement to it or as an agenda.

And avoid mixed messages. I used to say in my lectures that so often parents manage inadvertently to teach that sex is a filthy, dirty thing which you must save for the person you really love.

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Our users say:
Posted by: cybershrink | 2009-11-17

I think it's important not to see this as ONE event which takes place on ONE specific day, but rather as a process, building trust with your kids, so that they will feel free to ask questions when these ocur to them, and free to discuss their worries or concerns with you.
You are right to recognize that, especially if you leave it late, the timing of such discussions will not be up to you - the world is full of people ( including other kids ) and media eager to inform and misinform your kids.
This helps ensure that you are more likely to provide the information they want and need, when they want and need it, and that trusting on-going relationship provides greater safety in leaving them feeling free to re-open discussion whenever they are concerned.
I like Purple's point about making it more like other questions and discussions, rather than breath-takingly special - kids can be admirably matter-of-fact about such things. Her point about the lad who felt disappointed that he wouldn't be growing breasts is an excellent example of something that can occur to a kid which we might never expect.
Physical sexual maturity is arriving earlier than in previous generations, and so is the media's presentations of sex, often making it seem disproportionately important and out of perspective.
Risks of pregnancy and STD need to be included as this becomes age-relevant.
Maria's point about transmitting values is also important, in addition to the facts.
On Purple's point, I favour using both terminolgies. Its useful for kids to know that all body parts have "proper" or "official" names, useful when public discussion is needed, and home, pet names for comfortable use at home.
I have run into many occasions in a gynae clinic where a woman tries to discuss her problems, and those of her husband, using home terms nobody else had ever heard of, and we struggled to understand what she was talking about - so being bilingual can be liberating and handy !

I agree with Maria that no child knows nothing ! So part of the process is discovering what they know which may be inaccurate and more troubling than the actual facts. A good book can help, preferably not used as a substitute for discussion, but as a supplement to it or as an agenda.

And avoid mixed messages. I used to say in my lectures that so often parents manage inadvertently to teach that sex is a filthy, dirty thing which you must save for the person you really love.

Reply to cybershrink
Posted by: Alia | 2009-11-16

Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated

Reply to Alia
Posted by: PUrple | 2009-11-16

Something I' ve never understood, and I look forward to hearing CS' s response on, is the insistence on not using pet names for body parts. My son knows the correct names, but we do use pet names.

However, we also call his patella a knee and his addominal area a tummy and shoulder blades not scapula and breast bone not sternum and toes instead of meta tarsals. I' ve never seen why it is a problem to say bottom or bum for buttocks and winkie for penis and fanny for vagina. Pretty much everyone I know does that too. Ocassionally these things come up at work too (perhaps that is just the type of work I do though, that lends people to sharing confidences with me) and most people use these well known terms. I just go with whatever terms they use.

I once read that it showed you weren' t comfortable with your sexuality if you couldn' t call things by their proper name and used other names instead, but I just don' t think that is true. I also don' t have elbow issues because I say funny bone when I knock my elbow.

It' s such a fiercely debated topics in child care books and magazines, that I' m just quite interested to hear.

Reply to PUrple
Posted by: Maria | 2009-11-16

I think you will be unpleasantly surprised to find out what your daughter already knows, or thinks she knows. By the age of 10 many of her friends would have gleaned the basics from various sources and spread the word, probably with lots of inaccuracies.

Your daughter will take her cue from you. If you approach the topic of sex as if it is something shameful to be discussed in hushed tones and using pet names for body parts then your daughter will not feel comfortable talking to you. I suggest you go to any large bookshop or your local library and look for books introducing kids to the topic of sex. There are many of them, look for one that you feel you can handle reading with her.

Then read the book WITH HER. Don' t just give it to her and hope for the best. Look at the pictures, talk about the correct words for body parts, and take it slow. Don' t do it all in one go, giver her time to think about it.

The most important thing that you as a parent must transmit to your child is your family' s values regarding sexuality. Teachers or counsellors can explain the biological facts but only you can tell your child how you feel about sex outside of marriage, babies born to unmarried parents, appropriate and inappropriate touching etc.

Be open and honest with your child and you will stand a chance that she might come back to you with questions and concerns she has. Otherwise those questions will be answered by friends, tv shows and magazines, and the answers might not be what you want her to hear.

Reply to Maria
Posted by: Purple | 2009-11-16

My approach might be a little different to other people, but I chose not to choose an age to tell my son about sex, but to just deal with it like any other questions.

When he asks questions or sees animals on Nat Geo Wild or at an animal park and asks questions, I answer them in a plain and matter of fact way. When he stops asking, I know he has enough information. He' s 5 now, and he knows how babies are made and how they are born too. He' s a bit upset he won' t be growing breasts, but apart from that all' s well.

If your daughter hasn' t yet asked for detail, you should probably give her correct information and the sooner the better. Girls start their periods at a far younger age than we did, so you' ve got somewhere between a few months and 2 years before she starts. She and her friends will already have been talking, and she might already have some outlandish ideas.

If you find it difficult to talk to her, do so while you are driving, as then you don' t need to look each other in the eye. It' s probably also a good idea to ask her what she does know already or what her understanding is of how babies are made and then you can correct what is incorrect or fill her in.

If she knows that she can discuss these things with you, and that your relationship is open, she is more likely to check things with you than automatically believe her friends.

It' s important that she knows about the dangers of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and about pregnancy too. Try and clarify some old wives tales for her too.

It is embarassing, but it' s got to be done.

Good luck, I hope things go well.

Reply to Purple

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