You might not want to think about your little one or your teenager knowing about sex, but odds are they’ve heard more than you think
Few things make parents squirm more than the thought of giving that talk. You know the one. You probably remember your parents sitting you down and awkwardly telling you about the birds and the bees, and it probably contrasted greatly with the whispered rumors you heard on the school bus. Kids today learn things even earlier thanks to the Internet, so it’s important to prepare yourself for their unnerving questions.
Kelly, a 36-year-old mom in Great Falls, shared her story of getting shut down by her 9-year-old daughter. “I felt like it was time to talk to her because I worried that she was hearing [things] at school … and I don’t really know what she [does and doesn’t] know. One day I asked her if she ever wondered about where babies come from, and she said no … [When I tried to push further], she told me to stop talking about it. I’m going to get a book so I’m better equipped and then maybe just talk about how girls’ bodies change. I would like to have the conversation at home before they have it at school.”
Larisa deGraffenreid, a licensed clinical social worker at Family Compass in Reston, makes the point that it’s “not one conversation that parents need to have, but rather the start of an open dialogue with your child.” As they grow up, they are going to have different questions about even tougher aspects of sexuality and relationships. “There isn’t such a thing as THE sex talk. It’s an ongoing conversation over time. What we tell a child in fourth grade is not what we tell a 14-year-old,” deGraffenreid adds.
Lisa Anne Maestri, a licensed clinical social worker who owns a private practice in McLean, shared some key points to remember when talking to your child or teenager about sex:
Start at an early age
– Identify body parts appropriately, and they’ll know they don’t need to be embarrassed.
– Begin to lay the groundwork for conversations to follow.
Allow your children to ask questions
– Speak in general terms with younger children.
– Keep an open mind.
Refrain from using the word “don’t”
– This often results in the opposite of the intended effect, especially for teenagers.
– Encourage them to explore their relationships and think things through.
Answer questions based on your child’s sexual development
– Younger children will want to know facts.
– Teenagers should be encouraged to use healthy means of preventing pregnancy and STDs.
– Dispel myths that they may have, embrace their curiosity, and do not talk down to them.
Set a positive example
– Model healthy relationships at home.
– Demonstrating exchanges of affection in front of children is important.
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