Teaching Your Daughter about Sex

If you don't teach your daughter about her body, sex, and sexuality, her friends will be more than happy to do so, and they are far less likely than you to have the correct information. Many parents think there is only one major talk about sexuality and sex they should have with their daughter. In actuality, there are three crucial discussions you should have with your daughter:

  • What's happening with her body?

  • What's happening with boys' bodies?

  • What is intercourse and when is it appropriate?

The reason most parents feel awkward about even one of the three talks — let alone all of them — is that their parents did not talk with them about sex. These days, however, sex is exerting its influence in every aspect of our lives, and especially the lives of our young. Your daughter will be curious about her body and how it functions early on.

Fact

The reality is that we live in a sexual culture. Society places few limits on adolescent sexual conduct and assumes that all girls are, or would like to be, sexually active, like adults. That makes sex a key event in the lives of teenagers. How well it is handled can strongly affect a girl's future.

Some parents also feel embarrassed when discussing sex with their daughter because they cannot picture their baby having grown into a sexual being. Or perhaps they made mistakes when they were young, still regret them, and want to make sure their girl does not do likewise. So their conversation on sex may not be their smoothest delivery. But remember, your own attitude about sex is important. Educate yourself as much as possible so you are informed and not easily shocked. Your daughter should understand that you are willing to talk to her about sex and are relaxed and approachable.

The Talk

You certainly want to collect your thoughts and feel comfortable with the subject matter before you launch into your sex talk with your daughter. To gain a sense of comfort, educate yourself about common changes in puberty for both males and females. Remember if you are uncomfortable, your child will sense it and will adopt that uneasiness. There are three common approaches to speaking to your daughter about sex, and not all of them are good choices:

  • Handing your daughter a book and otherwise avoiding the topic completely.

  • Using scare tactics and telling your daughter she will make a big mistake if she becomes sexually active.

  • Discussing openly and honestly with your daughter the pros and cons of sexual activity at this stage of her life.

You want to use the third approach. If you feel uncomfortable with it, go with the first approach — the book — and then follow up with a long talk during which you point out what a healthy relationship with a boy entails, what your family's values are, and how your girl should handle sexual matters. You can also look at/read a book with your daughter, which can sometimes ease discomfort or awkwardness and give you somewhere to focus your attention while still being present to answer additional questions. Using scare tactics shows a lack of communication and trust that will make her uncomfortable speaking with you about sex and may force her to explore her sexuality in secret.

Question

Should I put my daughter on birth control pills as soon as she turns fourteen?

Unless prescribed for medical reasons, you should not just put your daughter on birth control when she reaches a certain age. Randomly putting your daughter on birth control pills shows her that you do not trust her to be an intelligent, independent-thinking girl who has good values and can make smart choices. Instead, sit down and talk with her, and do that often.

Do not just have just one sex talk with your child and then never say another word about it. Sexuality is in the forefront of the lives of teenagers, so it should become part of your favorite things to discuss with your daughter. Keep the lines of communication open. Tell her stories about how you found out about sex when you were young, and show your girl that today's openness in sex talks is so much better than the silence and ignorance of the past. During the “talk,” you may want to lay some ground rules.

When the Time Is Right

Don't feel as though you have to give your daughter all the information on every possible situation all at once. Give your daughter age-appropriate information throughout her life.

  • Birth to two years old: Use the correct names for parts of the body, so she can learn them.

  • Three to four years old: Answer truthfully your child's questions about the differences between boy's and girl's bodies. Discuss what it is to be female or male. Remember children at this age can only retain about one main fact per conversation.

  • Five to eight years old: Children this age are curious about how babies are born and what pregnant women go through. Answer their questions honestly. They may also have questions on breast development, menstruation, and growth of body hair. Reassure your daughter that the changes in her body are normal and may happen at different times for different girls.

  • Nine to twelve years old: At this stage you might want to talk to your daughter about intercourse and its consequences. Also talk about pregnancy and disease prevention. Encourage your daughter to come to you with any questions regarding her body or things she may hear other kids saying. Support her talking to you about things she hears from her friends. Remember to be open and willing to talk about any concerns, no matter what they may be.

  • Thirteen to eighteen years old: Continue to communicate with your daughter and give clear messages about your concerns and values. Encourage your daughter to think independently and with self-confidence about sex because as she grows older she will be making these sexual decisions on her own.

  • While you may be concerned with answering your young girl's sexual questions honestly, be aware that being knowledgeable can help protect her from molestation and coercion from older children and adults. Knowing that she can discuss sexual matters with you at any time will make her less likely to keep any inappropriate talking or touching a secret.

    Essential

    Be sure to inform your daughter that many sexual myths exist, but they are all wrong. For example, she can get pregnant the first time she has sex, she can get pregnant when she has her period, she can get an infection from oral sex, and boys can relieve themselves of sexual tension without her help.

    Sex Information

    Encourage your girl to unburden herself with her friends and listen to them. When it comes to sex, however, your daughter should continue to talk to her friends about what she has on her mind, but she should be cautious about what her friends say. Tell your girl that in sexual matters:

    • Her girlfriends have little, if any, correct information.

    • Her boyfriends may be worse off; they may know even fewer actual facts.

    • Society and advertising are confused about their sexual messages.

    • You, her parents, are a reliable source.

    Encourage your daughter to share with you any concerns or questions she may have about what she has heard her peers discussing. Be ready for the majority of information your daughter has been told to be incorrect and be prepared to be comfortable enough to explain to your daughter the true facts. Promise to give her the latest and best knowledge there is, and then — and only then — should she even think about considering having sex.

    Also teach your daughter a few great comebacks that she can use when being pressured into having sex. When a boy says, “Why not? Everybody's doing it,” she can reply, “I've got news for you. I'm not everybody.” Or when her girlfriends prod her with, “If you love him, you have to do it with him,” she can say, “If he loves me, he can wait.”

    No More Rush

    Nowadays girls prepare themselves for college, get a degree, start their careers, and after a few years, they might get married but not in haste — and, you hope, to their perfect mate. Today there is no more rushing to the altar right out of high school. Women are taking time to explore their career possibilities and who they are as individuals before entering a lifelong relationship.

    Fact

    The median age of marriage for first-time brides has gone up steadily ever since the 1960s. In that decade it was twenty years of age and has increased ever since. By the 1990s it was twenty-four. A recent survey of the New York Times wedding announcements showed that many first-time brides are now in their early thirties.

    In fact, nowadays girls have at least ten glorious years, which girls of the past did not have, to make a mark in their chosen profession. These ten independent years are wonderful times for girls to forge a path with meaningful work, to travel and see the world, and to meet a wide array of possible life partners. Why should modern girls throw these ten years away by becoming “old ladies” sexually long before their time, by getting embroiled in physical relationships with boys who still have a long way to go before they are grown up?

    No Random Romance

    Allow your daughter to think about what you have told her and ask her to map out a long-range plan for herself. Just as she has a scholastic plan, she should have a sexual plan. She should decide when it will be appropriate for her to become intimate, most likely not for many, many years. Then help your daughter stick to her plan. Warn her about heavy petting, going to sleepovers where boys show up, and wearing clothes that are too low-cut. Let her know that she can enjoy her sexuality without having sex. Tell her no girl — to your knowledge — has ever regretted not having had sex as a teenager.

    Girls who feel they have strong supportive parents with whom they can have many conversations about sex and values appear to be more resilient to the sexual messages and pressures of our culture. Parents should acknowledge that their daughter's decision is not simple. They should not say all sex is bad but discuss the topic in detail. In the end, parental expectations have a great effect on girls.

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