I went to a parent information evening the other night at school and one of the parents asked if the kids (who are in Year 4) will be learning sex eduction this year. The teacher responded that sex eduction is not taught until Year 6. I left feeling a little confused by this. Is teaching puberty and sex in Year 6 too late? Research tells me that kids can head into puberty as young as 8 or 9 years old, so surely this is when it should be taught in schools?
The first time I spoke to my son about sex he was just 5. This might seem really young but I was pregnant he was naturally curious. He wanted to know how his sister got into my tummy and how she would be getting out? I used a book by Babette Cole called ‘Mummy Laid an egg’ to explain it to him. It’s quite a funny story, which you can read HERE. It satisfied his curiosity at the time, and his teacher one day told me that he presented his findings to his Kindergarden class for news. Oh how I would loved to have been a fly on the wall for that – the poor teacher!!
It obviously didn’t have too deep an impact on him as a few weeks ago he asked me about sex again. Now that he is 9 I decided not to sugar coat it, and answered all his questions as directly and as honestly as I could. He was slightly horrified by it all and told me is never going to have sex until he is 100 because it’s just gross! I’m happy with that. While we were on the subject I asked him what he knew about puberty. He had a few theories but they were miles from the truth, so we covered that topic too. I was surprised by how interested he was in learning about his body. He hasn’t reached puberty yet, but I’m confident that he’s not going to be alarmed or embarrassed by it when the time comes.
If you’re yet to dive into these potentially awkward chats with your kids, I’ve put together a few things that might help.
1. RESEARCH THE FACTS
Although we’ve all been through puberty, for most of us it was a pretty long time ago! Brushing up on your knowledge about the physical and emotional changes your child is going to experience is a good place to start. Google is a great help. Understanding the different phases of puberty will also help you recognise when you child is reaching them, so you can help them to adjust. Being one step ahead of them can really help to reduce any shock, anxiety or embarrassment they might feel.
Puberty 101 is a great article explaining all your need to know about puberty for both boys and girls.
Puberty can bring about some HUGE changes for our pre-teens, both physically and emotionally. It’s really important to make sure they understand that what they’re going through is totally normal. It often helps to tell them about your own experience with it and how you felt.
- Talk to your child about puberty before they start to expericene it so that they are aware of what is coming. A good age to start is 9 (in my opinion).
- Put together a pack with tampons, pads, spare knickers etc for your daughter to carry with her, just in case she starts her period when you are not around to help.
- Be mindful of their mood changes and cut them a little slack.
- Explain to boys about wet dreams and unwanted erections so that they are equipped with skills to deal with it.
- Let boys know that masterbation is normal, and they are to do it somewhere private.
- It is really important that you tell your daughter about male puberty changes and visa versa with your son.
- Make sure they feel comfortable and never embarrassed.
- Teach them to always respect their peers privacy and make sure they understand that not everyone develops at the same speed.
3. RECOGNISE NORMAL PRIMARY SCHOOL BEHAVIOUR
It is perfectly normal for kids to start showing an interest in sexual issues and behaviours. These are a few things you can expect from primary school kids:
- They get shy and embarrassed about being naked in front of anyone, including their parents.
- They stop ‘playing’ with kids of the opposite sex and often say “I hate boys or I hate girls”.
- They start noticing gender differences and become more interested in their bodies and how they work. They’ll also start to talk about sex and reproduction amongst their friends.
- Games like kissing, marriage role-play and girlfriend and boyfriend are normal too.
4. TALK ABOUT SEX WITH YOUR KIDS
- Use age appropriate material and information. Younger kids don’t need as much information as older kids. They’re also likely to ask you more than once, so keep an open door on the conversation.
- Be honest. For example, If they ask why adults have sex, then tell them it’s not just to make babies but it’s also for enjoyment.
- Use the correct terminology. For example use the word penis instead of willy. It makes it much easier for them to communicate with their peers.
- If they ask, explain about same sex relationships, and that they are perfectly normal too.
- Make sure they understand that when the time comes for them to have sex they are in control, and they should NEVER feel forced to have sex if they’re not ready.
- It is also important that they know to respect their partners feelings.
- Teach them to know that it is NOT OK for an adult or older person to touch any of their private parts and ask them to keep it a secret.
Remember, the more open and honest you are with your kids on these topics, the more they will trust you with their feelings and experiences. These types of discussions are on going so don’t feel like you have to get ‘the talk’ right the first time.
Do you have a child experiencing puberty?
Have you had the sex talk yet?
I’d love to know you thoughts.