Unfortunately your tween will be exposed to some form of sexuality in advertisements, movies, TV shows, and the Internet. Their friends are probably talking about it, probably exerting some form of peer pressure, and may not have the best information.
Assume the role of trusted advisor and educate your child on these topics:
1. what puberty is and what changes to expect,
2. how to care for your body,
3. how to understand sexual feelings and attraction,
4. the difference between sex and love,
5. how to deal with peer pressure and unwanted sexual advances, and
6. the potential consequences of sexual activity.
Do your best to be relaxed and matter of fact. If you do feel uncomfortable, admit it to your child, but assure her that you need to and want to talk about it now and anytime in the future that she has questions. It’s usually best for the same-sex parent to have the talk, but if that’s not practical, do what you have to do. Set aside some time where you won’t be interrupted and perhaps even give your child fair warning, so she doesn’t feel ambushed.
The first point to make is that this is a normal process. Your child, her older siblings, all her friends, you, and even her teachers, coaches, and religious leaders had similar experiences at her age. It’s new to her, but she’s not the only one to ever go through it. At the same time, acknowledge that is will be an emotional time for her, and you understand that. It’s normal, but not trivial. It’s important, her feelings are important to you, and you want to help her with information and experience.
Ask her what she has heard at school or from her friends about puberty and sex. It’s best to find out what she knows, correct any misinformation, and then build on the truth. Definitely have the talk before you think it’s necessary. You don’t want your child to find out after she is pregnant or have her think something is wrong with her because she is growing hair or bleeding.
You will need to provide more information on caring for menstruation, shaving and hair removal, and more. Just remember that your child is still a child and doesn’t need to know everything – just enough for her age.
As far as sexual feelings, there is a wide range of possibilities. Some have intense desires, and some have hardly any, especially at this age. Your child may have inherited your tendencies, but not necessarily. This is exactly the kind of situation to ask questions. “What do you think of sex?” It may help start the conversation if you share some of your own experience when you were her age. “Do you feel any desire?” “What do your friends say?” Especially for boys, but for girls, too, you should offer some guidelines about masturbation – I just ask you not to set an unattainable standard, but it is ultimately a matter of your personal morals and religious faith.
When it comes to peer pressure, we are again in a situation to ask questions. What do her friends think? Is kissing OK? Is oral sex really sex? What about manual sex? One kind of peer pressure will come from the same sex friends. Girls will encourage other girls to take the next step, even if they wouldn’t do it themselves. Boys will be ashamed to admit their virginity. Then there is the peer pressure from the opposite sex. Boyfriends say, “If you love me, you would do it,” and if a boy declines to have sex for religious reasons, he might even be called “gay.” Prepare your child to handle these situations.
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