Blog preteen Lets Talk about Sex and Sexuality: When to talk to your children and teensI’ve recently received some questions from parents around sexuality and teens—specifically regarding what age it’s appropriate for girls and boys to explore their sexuality. One parent was particularly worried because her daughter is an “early maturer,” meaning, her daughter’s body was becoming curvaceous and woman-like at a young age. Another was nervous about her 13 year old son who declared to her that he and a girl were “going out.” Still others had questions about when it’s too young to talk to their kids about sexuality and sex given that, as one parent said, her young children like to streak across the house and talk about their “private parts” in the tub. I know, it’s loaded, but let’s lay it on the table and have the discussion, shall we?

So first let me begin by saying that sexuality is not an age thing—it’s a developmentally-ready thing. Girls and boys are curious blog bath Lets Talk about Sex and Sexuality: When to talk to your children and teensabout their bodies from the time they’re toddlers. They will notice the difference between girls and boys and the various parts of their own bodies. This is normal. And, as many parents report, many of their young children love to be naked and talk about and touch the different parts of their bodies. Again, this is normal. They need the right words to discuss their bodies with trusted people in their lives. That means, start talking about the body, its amazing functions, and the respect we must have for it EARLY! Lay the foundation for positive body image and developmental health.

Parents need to make some rules around when it’s appropriate to indulge in these types of behaviors (for instance, we don’t want our children ripping off their clothes in the middle of a grocery store) but not so many rules that they feel ashamed or out of control when it comes to their own bodies. We certainly don’t want our children to feel that they are doing something “wrong” or “naughty” when they are talking about or learning about their bodies in an appropriate way.

Girls and boys start more actively exploring their sexuality while their bodies are changing and early puberty signs become obvious (oily skin, sweating, pimples). Some start puberty early while others start puberty late. As they get to the preteen or early teen years, many girls develop breast buds and get their periods. Boys deal with voice change and the beginning of facial hair. Lots of these changes make young people feel embarrassed rather than cool. You can help them to develop a healthy respect for themselves and others as they continue through sexual development and feel differently that they have in the past about the opposite sex.

It’s important to underscore that even when your preteens/teens are starting to explore their sexuality, it doesn’t mean that they are having sex. It’s a time of understanding the body, what you want, determining personal values, and choosing some actions. This is a great time to talk to your kids about sex—as they’ll be curious and need information from a trusted source. If you aren’t talking to them about it—they’ll get the information (however inaccurate or inappropriate) from someone else!

If you’re wondering if you should be having more in depth conversations about your child’s sexual health now that they are a little older, ask yourself:

(1) Is my child’s body changing and maturing physically?

(2) Is my child showing interest in the opposite sex (talking about the opposite sex, noticing the opposite sex)?

(3) Do you suspect that your child or your child’s friends are having sex or getting involved with sexual activity?

(4) Have you had candid conversations about serious topics before?

(5) Do they seem curious about sex? Are they asking questions?

If so, as uncomfortable as it may be, talk, talk, talk! Especially if a child is mature enough and curious enough to pose the question, they deserve to have an age-appropriate answer, don’t you think?

blog teensbook Lets Talk about Sex and Sexuality: When to talk to your children and teensIf you feel that you just can’t talk about these sensitive topics, make sure another trusted adult is.  I can’t tell you how many of us in middle school were trying to learn what we could from Judy Blume’s Forever as we passed it around our bus trying to piece it all together. Do not allow your children to simply fill in the gaps on their own—they may not seem like they’re listening all the time, but they often are listening most of the time and they ARE affected by what you say and what you relay about your values. It may just take a few times to become less awkward—and you can always role play with a friend to work out the kinks!

One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make when it comes to sex and sexuality is to cut their children off from these important conversation when they ask about it.

“You’re too young to have sex—end of discussion.”

“You don’t need to know that.”

“I don’t like to hear that kind of talk.”

While there’s no “expiration date” on these conversations, you don’t want to wait too long. You want to find out what they really want to know, what they already know, and what’s sparked their interest. You might be surprised about what you find out. Keep it age-appropriate, but don’t ignore their curiosity and hope it goes away. Only through conversations, as uncomfortable as they might be, will your child (1) get the right information (2) understand your values (3) tell you where they are in terms of their mental development on this topic (4) ask questions and express concerns (5) know that they can come to you for future conversations regarding a host of tough topics when they have more questions or they need help. We want our children to have a positive view of their bodies, sexuality, and relationships so get to talking!

So…what do you think is the best time to talk to your children about sex and sexuality?

drrobynsig170 Lets Talk about Sex and Sexuality: When to talk to your children and teens

Let’s Talk about Sex and Sexuality: When to talk to your children and teens is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman – Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System

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