Preteen’s Close Encounters
Preteens know more about sex than you think. Only you can make sure that their information is accurate.
Sue of Massachusetts, had to face up to her daughter's emerging sexuality unexpectedly, one day as she was cleaning the 12 year old's room. She came across a school notebook and, leafing through it, found descriptions of how her daughter had been making out with various boys beneath the stairwell at her middle school.
That discovery prompted her parents to sit down with their daughter the next night for a straight forward discussion. “We made it clear that, though it feels wonderful to be with a boy, we thought it was best to save that kind of kissing for a special time and a special place,” she says.
Though talking about sex with a preteen can be awkward, experts say that parents need to overcome their uneasiness and confront the subject head-on. Studies show that while youngsters are becoming sexually aware and sexually active at even younger ages, many lack factual information and emotional support from the adults in their life.
They have access to condoms but not to conversations. Believe it or not, kids want to hear what adults have to say. A recent study found that nearly half, of 10 to 12 year olds, wish their parents would give them information about how to handle social pressure to have sex. The study also found that preteens who talk openly with their parents are less like likely to engage in risky behavior and kids who don't.
Beyond the basics.
By this age, kids already know about the facts of life, and they are likely to have learned about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases in health classes at school. What they're confused about is the role that sex plays in their own life, relationships, and what kind of behavior is appropriate for them.
Much of what they perceive about sexual values come from television and the movies, where couples seem to have sex more often than they shake hands. What’s more adolescents often feel pressure from their peers to engage in behavior that they're not emotionally ready for. The best way for parents to communicate their values is to start having ongoing discussions about sex with their children during the pre teen years.
Here’s how to get the dialogue going.
Don't wait for questions. Most kids never approach their parents, after all they feel more awkward talking about sex then you do. Instead, you need to decide what you want your child to know, then tell him. Encourage your preteen to share information in whatever way he finds comfortable. For instance, he may be more willing to talk about what his friends are doing than he is to discuss his own activities. Listen, listen, listen..
Find out what your child knows and thinks about and correct any misconceptions.
Share your values and beliefs, but do so in a positive way. Instead of saying, don't do this or you should shouldn't do that, talk about the joy of into intimacy in a loving, adult relationships.
Look for conversation openers.
Make use of song lyrics, movies, and television shows to open up a dialogue with your child. For instance, if you walk into a living room and find your 12 year old watching a sitcom that depicts a couple having casual sex, ask her how she feels about sex in that context and tell her how you feel.
Likewise, if you see strong, loving relationships on television that match your values, point those out and ask your child what she thinks a relationship involves.
Encourage healthy relationships.
When kids start showing interest in the opposite sex, put the emphasis on friendship, not dating. If your child starts talking about a crush, or tell you she is going out with someone, ask her to tell you what those relationship entails.
Tell her about the importance of developing relationships slowly, through activities such as going out in groups or seeing each other at parties. Discourage solo dates and exclusive boyfriend and girlfriend relationship among kids this age.
Studies show that most adolescents engaged in risky behavior during the after-school hours, when they are often without adult supervision. Even if you trust your child to behave responsibly, realize that this is the age when the herd mentality can kicks in and cause kids to go along with their peers rather than think for themselves.
Set reasonable curfew
Ask who is going to be supervising your child when the visits someone else's house. When he comes home, talk to him about what went on at the party. Even if he doesn't share the details, you'll be letting him know that you're interested in his activities.
Teach kids how to say no.
At this age youngsters may begin experimenting with kissing and petting because they think their friends are doing so or because they want to feel cool. Emphasize that no one should ever do anything solely because someone else expects her to.
Boys and girls should both be taught how to farm the say no to the opposite sex and they should be told to respect someone else's who says no to them. Explain that a loving relationship never involves corrosion.
Argue for abstinence
The decision of whether to have sexual relationships isn't likely to come up for several years, this is a good time to talk to your preteen about the benefits of abstinence. However don't forbid a child from any kind of behavior. Doing so can spark rebellion and trigger the very activity you are trying to prevent. It's better to help him understand why abstinence is a responsible choice to make. At this time, it's important to alert a child to the danger of an unprotected sex.
Keep the dialogue going
Don’t think of a discussion about sex as a as a big talk that you have once or twice a year. Have short conversations on the subject regularly, and encourage your child to come to you with any questions. Be careful not to shame or embarrass her by making her feel that her questions or perceptions are foolish.
The more comfortable you make your child feel, the more likely she will be to approach you again.
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