There was a letter recently in Dear Abby written by a mother of a 15 year old girl. This 15 year old girl had contracted the Herpes virus. At 15. She is now saddled with a disease that has no cure. And at such a young age, her sex life as she knows it is forever changed.
The sad thing is, this is not an uncommon situation. This is why Sex Education is so important: so that our children are as well informed as possible about sex, including the implications, how to protect themselves, and how to say NO when it is necessary.
But more importantly than being taught in the schools (and yes, I do believe that sex education – including topics on contraception, sexual violence, anatomy, sensitivity to different types of sexuality, and abstinence programs – should be taught in the school system), sex education should be taught at home. If a child’s own parents cannot talk about the pros and cons of sex with their child, how is that child ever going to gather the tools to know how to deal with their sexuality? These days, the topic of sex is being brought up younger and younger. It starts out with misinformation being passed back and forth through crude jokes due to curiosity on a “taboo” subject. Younger kids start dressing more provocatively than they should. Kids start experimenting with sexual acts. STD’s seem like a fairy tale, the common thought is “that could never happen to me”. And soon a child much too young to be having sex must make very adult decisions about an unplanned pregnancy or a permanent STD.
Is it really too uncomfortable to talk about SEX with your child?
My daughter is 11. We have geared up towards the sex talk for a little while, starting with candid talks about changes to her body. She was the classic preteen, avoiding topics on puberty like avoiding the plague. When she was 9 and in 4th grade, she begged and pleaded to be dismissed from the studies when it came time for Sex Education to begin. I told her, sure, she could skip Sex Education. But if she did, she had to get that information with me. Reluctantly, she agreed. At first she was very uncomfortable. I started talking to her about the physical changes her body would go through – hair growth, her breasts, different odors, and acne. But by the time we started to talk about her period, she had relaxed enough that she was actually able to ask questions seriously without any giggling or embarrassment. She did end up going through with the school’s sex education as well, realizing that if she didn’t she’d actually be the odd one out. I got her a book, Girl Stuff: A Survival Guide to Growing Up, byMargaret Blackstone. It’s a book that is put together in such a way that a tween would actually find it interesting, using plain language and pictures while also being informative. And while she made a fuss about it, I know for a fact that she has picked it up and thumbed through it, paving the way for future talks on the topic of puberty and sex.
Reading that story about the 15 year old has made me realize that the time to start talking about sex with my daughter is NOW. Judging by some of the quips she has made, I can tell that the topic is already showing up in conversations with her friends. And that is clue enough that she is ready. But how do you really know your child is ready? Mayoclinic.com has a great article on this very topic. They give examples of conversations that might arise with a younger child, like the explanation of an erection or why a woman needs to have a period, to concerns in a tween about what’s normal or not in their body and what they can expect from the act of sex. MayoClinic encourages parents to talk to their tween about the emotional and physical consequences of becoming sexually active, such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and a range of feelings. That last topic, feelings, is easily overlooked, but so important. Discussing these issues now can help your tween avoid feeling pressured to become sexually active before he or she is ready. And while we’re at it, you should not only convey to your child the dangers of sex, but you shouldn’t be afraid to mention the joys as well. Your child should know that sex can be beautiful in a loving, committed relationship.*
Have you discussed the topic of sex with your child? Or do you remember conversations you may have had with your own parents? Did the conversation go well? How did the two conversations (you and your child vs. your parents and you) differ? What advice do you have for parents that are gearing up for this next stage of development?
(*loosely quoted from Mayoclinic.com)
Join the discussion already in place on the boards about Sex Education in schools.