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It’s time to have “the talk” with your tweens — and you’re a bit terrified.
You don’t know what to say or how to say it. And, honestly, the idea of talking to your tweens (who you still view as “just kids”) feels more than a little awkward.
But you know that it’s better for YOU to be the one to broach the topic than for your kids to learn about sex from their peers, TV, movies, or the internet.
I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. We all reach that point where we’re typing “how to have the talk with your tweens” (or teens) into Google, asking our friends what they did, or even asking random strangers in parenting Facebook groups.
Parenting doesn’t come with a manual, after all — and it’s not like we have this knowledge dropped into our heads as soon as we become moms or dads (though that would be awesome).
Luckily for you, you came across this article. I hope that you walk away from it with a bit (or a lot) more confidence on how to have “the talk” with your tweens (or teens).
Check Your Biases at the Door
Honestly, getting yourself in the right mindset to have the talk is half the battle. If you go into it from a place of fear, judgment, or control, then chances are your kids aren’t truly going to get what they need from the conversation.
What they need is that their bodies (and thoughts) are going to go through a lot of changes and that there are things they can do to ensure healthy behaviors and communication — regardless of what the situation is.
You also want them to know that you’re a safe space to come to when they want (or need) to talk about anything and that they don’t have to hide anything from you.
So, before you sit down to talk to your kids about sex and sexuality, it’s important that you sit down with yourself and reflect on what you were taught, how you were taught, and how it impacted you so you can be sure not to repeat anything that had a negative impact on how you moved through life.
One helpful exercise can be to ask yourself “What is the one message I would like my preteen to know about sexuality and/or growing up”.
Also, remember that talking to your kids about sex is NOT the same as encouraging or giving them permission to have sex. What you’re really doing is educating them and empowering them with what they need to make wise and healthy decisions for themselves. And that’s never a bad thing!
Don’t Freak Out
If you’ve been prompted to talk to your preteen about sex because of something they said, did, or asked that made you aware that it’s time for “the talk”, my biggest piece of advice is to stay calm.
I see a lot of moms in parenting groups posting that their child is doing things that they didn’t expect to have to deal with until their teen years — such as touching their private areas or being really curious about body parts.
The truth is that this can start at any age as kids become aware of and explore the two things they have constant access to — their bodies and their surroundings.
Being curious about their bodies, how the body (in general) works and things they see or hear is 100% natural. Your job isn’t to judge them, but to give them the knowledge they need to understand the world and make empowered decisions as they move through it.
Keep the Full Spectrum of Sexuality in Mind
The big thing about having “the talk” with your tweens is to understand and embrace that sexuality isn’t just the physical stuff.
It also concerns emotional aspects, social aspects (such as relationships and communication, as well as life skills and decision-making skills.
With that in mind, having “the talk” shouldn’t just be about sex or the consequences of having sex. You should also talk about:
- The emotional consequences of having sex (both positive and negative)
- The importance of consent (on both sides)
- What healthy relationships look like
- What toxic relationships look like
- Your expectations for your child(ren) about relationships and sex
- The benefits of protecting yourself from pregnancy and STDs
- How to protect yourself from pregnancy and STDs
- Gender and Gender Stereotypes
Look for Opportunities to Have The Talk
Keep an eye out for opportunities to talk to your kids about the different aspects of sexuality. One great example that I’ve seen a lot of parents take advantage of is to talk to them while you’re driving — preferably when there’s just you and your child(ren).
One benefit of having the talk while driving is that the car is a private space. However, the other perk is that you’ll have your eyes on the road, so you and your child don’t have to look at each other while talking about something that may make one or both of you feel awkward. This frees both of you up to talk about things more openly and listen to what the other has to say.
TV shows and movies can also provide you with opportunities to bring up various topics as part of an open dialogue since they often introduce scenarios that touch on sex and sexuality.
Talking about certain scenes or storylines with your child can be a great way to talk about their reactions, thoughts, and feelings.
It can be a good chance for you to reinforce positive behaviors, talk about the consequences of risky behavior, and generally open up a dialogue about what they can (or should) do in similar situations.
Here are some other common opportunities to talk to your children about sex and sexuality:
- When you, a loved one, or someone they know announces a pregnancy
- When topics surrounding puberty, sex, sexuality, relationships, or gender come up in TV shows, movies, the news, or even songs
- When gender stereotypes are highlighted in the same forms of media as mentioned above
- When you see unrealistic images or portrayals of bodies, relationships, or love
Ask Open-Ended Questions
When you see an opportunity to do so (as in the examples mentioned above), ask your child(ren) open-ended questions. For example, if you just found out a loved one is pregnant, you can ask “What do you know about how people get pregnant?”.
This helps you to gauge what your child knows and gives you an opening to fill in the gaps, correct any misinformation, and give your child(ren) the chance to ask any questions they may have.
Give Them the Opportunity to Talk to Professionals
Although we definitely want our children to feel safe and comfortable talking to us about anything, it’s also important that they know who else they can (and should) talk to about things.
Let your child know that healthcare professionals, such as doctors and nurses, are there to help them with anything they may have concerns about.
Schedule regular preventative health appointments and be willing to give your child time to talk to the nurse or doctor alone, should that be something they’re interested in.
A simple “do you want me to stay with you or would you prefer I step out of the room for a few minutes” empowers them to make the choice for themselves — and may also be just what they need to have a conversation that they need to have, but may not yet feel ready to discuss with you.
Give Them Access to Age-Appropriate Resources
Another thing you can do (which I actually recommend) is to give your child(ren) access to age-appropriate resources where they can learn more and get answers to questions that either you can’t fully answer, that you didn’t even think to address, or that they felt too embarrassed to ask.
These can be books about puberty, videos, or even approved websites. Need suggestions? Check out this list of books about puberty that you can read with or give to your children.
Don’t Feel Like It Has to Be an “All in One” Conversation
Last, but not least, know that “the talk” is rarely ever just a one-time thing. Instead, it’s a series of conversations you have with your child as they get older. The older they get, the deeper the conversations may become.
So, don’t feel pressured to cram everything into one conversation or to force topics that you don’t think your child is quite ready for.
Give them the information they need, for now, keep the door open for them to ask questions, and let them know that you’re always there if they need to talk about anything.
I hope that this article helps you feel more confident as you prepare to have “the talk” with your kids. Good luck — you’ve got this!