Creating Turning Teen has been an eye opening experience in so many ways. One of the most interesting things to see is how people have such vastly differing views about what is “right” in terms of introducing tough topics like puberty and especially SEX. Even many of the most open mother’s fear the dreaded “sex talk” and would rather run for the hills when confronted with its inevitability. So this means that most parents delay and delay this talk. Eventually, if you delay it long enough, you may even get out of it altogether, because your child will already know about sex. Then, you can say, “do you have any questions?”, and the answer here is always “no” and we all move on.
Not surprisingly, I have a different view on this issue. While most would rather delay any of these difficult talks, I have seen in my kids and in the many children coming to our program that one universal theme is true: Earlier is better.
Earlier is better when it comes to naming body parts correctly and talking about our bodies; this can start in the toddler years.
Earlier is better when it comes to explaining changes that happen in puberty. Pubertal changes can happen at 8, or they can happen at 14. You may have clues as to when you expect these changes, but preparing for them before they come is the best way to ensure a continued, open dialogue. We think “8 is great” when it comes to talking about puberty and your body.
Earlier is better when it comes to talking about sex as well. An 8 or 9 year old really has no context of sexuality; sex can really be explained as the way we make more people. There is no shame or embarrassment or even much of an “eww” factor, they are actually just fascinated that that is the way it all works. The barrage of questions will come a couple of days later. So, set aside a special time, read a book together, and let it sink in. Then, be ready for questions in the coming days or weeks, they will surprise and challenge you.
Starting earlier has many benefits and only one downfall-it is hard. Studies show that kids want more information about sex and sexuality from their parents. Being the kind of parent that can have these conversations later in adolescence starts early. So go ahead-start today! (and if you need help getting started, sign up for Turning Teen!)