Ask the Expert – Parenting, Part 1

“What is the right age to start the discussion of sexuality with children. My daughter is six and I wonder if I should start to introduce her to the facts of life. And how much detail should I include when the discussion is started? How should I start the conversation? I have always been honest with my kids and I want this to feel comfortable and natural, not scary or “icky” – how can I continue the feeling of comfort so she will also feel safe discussing anything with me?”

The questions often asked by children about sex and sexuality are often scary for parents to answer. Some parents seem intimidated by the very word SEX, and try to avoid the topic. Some parents are OK about the questions, and answer very straight forward, in a matter-of-fact manner.

Let’s face it, kids are going to find out sooner or later about sex either from you (the parent), or from their friend(s). The way things are today it will probably be sooner, and we parents hope they have the answers. The best and most reliable answers will come from parents. When parents begin early to talk to their children about sex, including the appropriate names for body parts, kids will not feel ashamed or uncomfortable about talking about sex.

They will also be comfortable with their own bodies, and not be ashamed. Research shows that the sooner a parent begins to talk openly about the physical and biological functions of the human body (including sex), the more the child will understand. Education about sex, pregnancy, and menstruation, is the best way to keep kids from attempting to explore on their own (before) they are truly ready. There are various religious beliefs in families, coupled with values, which may differ from culture to culture. Early education using the correct names for body parts, i.e., Vagina, and Penis, etc., will help educate children about their bodies, and that what they feel and think about themselves is OK and not a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with the human body, yet some parents have an old-fashioned notion that it will cause early sexual behavior if it is talked about. It is what we DON’T talk about that causes problems. It reminds me of the story of the Elephant in the living room, and no one sees it!

We, as parents, cannot afford to be in denial or ignorant about sex, and sexuality. There is too much at stake, when elementary school girls are getting pregnant. Teen pregnancy would be cut by more than half, if we would talk to our kids early. When your kids start asking “where do babies come from”? It is the time to begin. Of course, younger children understand more concretely, so using (simple terms) to explain. They think differently than kids ten or twelve years who are more ‘abstract’ in the way they think. Keep it short, and to the point. If you are squeamish about talking about sex, your child will notice that. If you feel uncomfortable, it is no doubt from your own upbringing, and family belief system. You can always get some great books at the library, or at the bookstore on how to gently educate your child about sex. It is not too early to talk about it, especially if your child is asking you the questions. Who is the better educator? You, or someone on the street? Everyone finds out about it sometime. Remember, when you are open and honest, including using the correct names of body parts, you dismiss all shame or fear within your child, and help your child to learn in a loving environment, about human biology. Good luck and relax!

“I have recently remarried, I have a 13 year old son, who loved my fiancé before we got married, now he cant stand him.

He has started being extremely rude and hateful, loud and obnoxious, completely refuses to mind anyone. I know it will take time to adjust to a step-father, but in the mean time what can we do, he keeps the house in an uproar all the time…”