Parenting Adolescents, Part VIII: Sex and the Young Teen
It is natural to want to know about sex
As your adolescent matures through puberty, he/she will slowly develop a greater interest in sexual topics and relationships. This is normal because their body is preparing them to have the desire to reproduce and help the species go on. Although you probably do not want your young teenager involved in a sexual relationship, they will be curious about sex and so now is the time for you to give them the details they need to know. The statistics about adolescent sexual encounters are shocking and very young teens are participating. Your child will likely hear about sex from other kids and begin to feel pressure to experiment.
I am always so encouraged when I have the opportunity to meet with young teens and listen to their insights and concerns. They want to understand what sex is all about. For many, this has been a topic that has not been open to discussion in their home. They are curious about the mystery behind the topic and have a lot of questions. I understand that these are deeply personal and awkward conversations for a parent to have with their child, but once you begin you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. You know your child the best and can measure how much information they need as they mature through puberty. Wouldn’t it be great if you were the person your son or daughter comes to when they are looking for answers about sex?
Hindrances for parents
Parents are the best ones to teach their children about sexuality, but probably the greatest hindrance for parents is that it is too hard for them to believe their adolescent is old enough to need this information. Your 12-year-old seems so young and yet his/her body has shown many signs of change that are obvious. Some parents have already had conversations with their younger kids who have asked questions in the past about sex. It will be different now because the questions are more challenging and the answers aren’t as simple as they were in the past.
Another hindrance for parents is their concern that by talking to their young adolescent about sexual topics, the child will be more interested in engaging in sexual activities. I actually think it is more likely that the opposite will occur. Most kids are anxious about sex and can end up in compromised situations because they are curious or just don’t know what is happening. Let’s empower our young teens with a healthy perspective and a welcoming environment to find answers to their questions from you.
Suggestions for positive parenting
- You might want to begin a discussion by letting your adolescent know that you would like to help them understand basic information about sex. Both of you will probably feel a little uncomfortable and it will help your child if you express your discomfort so they can express theirs.
- Another way to approach the beginning of your discussion is to ask what they have already learned about sex and ask them if there any questions you can answer for them.
- Be careful to limit your teaching to small bits of information that are focused on one specific concept. There will be many opportunities to have these discussions and so it will be more comfortable for both of you if they are pleasantly short in duration.
- It is probably not necessary for you to express any specifics about your personal sexual life because that might be too overwhelming for both of you.
- Your child might feel that he/she needs to keep sexual thoughts and dreams private because they are not appropriate to talk about. Your goal is to remove the secrecy and help your child feel comfortable telling you anything.
Something to consider
Now that your child is a young teen have you considered what you want to teach them about sex?
Are you aware of what they already know?
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