Our expert says:
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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