As children grow into preteens, they change and mature in many ways, including sexually. While every child’s development is unique, many kids around the preteen age will begin to have thoughts, questions, fears, and interests about sex. This is typically the time where you must have “the talk” about sex to ensure your child’s safety.
Understandably, many preteens are uncomfortable talking about sex with their parents, yet an open line of communication is essential for your child’s safety and health. Today, we’ll provide some insight about communicating openly when talking to preteens about sex.
Start the Conversation Early
If your child is still young, now is the time to begin communication about sex. Of course, the information discussed will evolve as your child ages. For babies and toddlers, you can begin to incorporate the scientific names for genitals. From age 2-5, focus on boundaries and what is and is not appropriate, to lay the groundwork for consent. Kids may start asking how babies are made, and the book “What Makes a Baby” may help guide you here. Elementary school-age kids should learn how to safely explore digital spaces, what sexual abuse is, and potentially the mechanics of sex-based on your child’s questions.
Beginning the conversation about sex naturally starting at birth will make it much easier to establish communication and honesty with your children. However, it’s never too late to start. For preteens age 9-12, begin conversations about sexual choices and safe sex. Chat about internet safety and digital rules.
Revisit the Topic
Talking about sex with teens and preteens can be uncomfortable for both you and your child, but it’s not a one-and-done conversation. Even if your child does not seem ready to talk to you about it, keep the communication open and check in with your child about the subject in the future. If you continue to gently introduce the topic and present yourself as a resource, your preteen may slowly become more comfortable communicating about it with you.
A Two Way Conversation
During the first conversation, your child may not feel comfortable participating, and that’s okay. As you continue to approach the topic, try to foster a two-way conversation. Ask your child if they have questions, and respond without judgment, no matter how difficult it may be. Work with your child to find answers you may not know and to come up with action plans.
Getting preteens to have open talks about anything is a challenge, let alone a topic as personal as sex. Starting the conversation early and allowing it to evolve as your child ages is a great way to establish trust and openness. Additionally, you should come back to the topic multiple times, even if your preteen was uncomfortable at first. The ultimate goal is to keep your child safe and offer them love and support as they continue to develop.