Handling "The Talks"
“The Talk” isn't easy to initiate or to keep going, but it's your job as the parent of a twenty-first-century girl to make sure it does. So be prepared, one might say, and learn how to help her be open or at least educated.
She's not going to want to do it, and chances are you'll be leery about it too. Talking about sex and boys is uncomfortable at best, but simply needs to be done. Even if your mother still has yet to have “that talk” with you, don't repeat history. Your openness will open your daughter's mind to sharing her concerns, fears, and perhaps even experiences with you.
Keep in mind there are two kinds of girls: those who would rather die than talk about this, and those who seem more open than you can imagine. Okay, there are a million other types in between that. No matter which your girl is, you need to make “The Talk” happen — for her good and for your own.
According to the AWARE Foundation, a group that studies sex and teens, children whose parents talk to them about sex are more likely to talk about it themselves and to delay their first sexual experience.
Most public schools in America start true sex education at about fifth grade. Smart parents stay ahead of the school and start their own talks, using the school programs as additional information and support. This means you may need to begin your talks with your daughter before the onset of puberty is evident. And while your daughter may never realize it, this may just be as frightening and uncomfortable for you as it is for her.
Parents can get booklets from their health care providers to help them with the talk — and in many cases, the health care provider will also initiate the discussion.
So when to have “The Talk”? Puberty is starting earlier and earlier for girls, and could begin when your daughter is as young as nine years of age. By that time, you will want to have begun to talk about the basics, or even earlier, if, say, a five-year-old child asks where babies come from; avoid the whole “stork” routine. Rather, use simple words without a lot of detail to tell your child the truth. That will lay the groundwork for future dialogue. Keep in mind, the earlier you've made such conversations “normal,” the easier they will come in the more critical years. But what if you've not made them normal and your daughter is just reaching middle school? It's never too late to open the window of communication.
A good way to start a conversation you might not be comfortable with is by sharing a magazine article on sexuality with your daughter. Ask her to read it and then ask her what she thinks about it. By starting a discussion about information presented in a relatively objective, impersonal way, you'll both feel more at ease.
When your daughter is older, there is more of a chance that she will balk at such conversations. She's embarrassed, she thinks she knows everything already, and the
Instead, set aside some time alone, be it at home or somewhere else, where the two of you both feel comfortable and when you have the time to dive into the issues with her. Timing is everything; but so is location. Some parents find bedtime is a good time for such talks. The dark makes the child less nervous and the comfort helps both parents and child relax into and intimate conversation. The car or during a good walk are also a good places because she doesn't have to look at you face to face, which makes it easier to talk about tough or embarrassing topics.
Needless to say, shock factor is not a good thing here. You'll want to start out with simple concepts: gauge what she wants to know and then add some to it (because she surely needs to know more than she wants to). Let's say your preteen is curious about unmarried sexual relations. You'll want to talk to her about the urges that come with sex, and what she might feel.
You need to let her know (particularly in the case of girls who develop early) that just because she feels those urges does not mean she is in any way ready for them or has to give into them. Explain abstinence, and also the remorse that many girls can feel years later from a poor sexual decision as a young girl. Additionally you should talk to your daughter about sexual responsibility, contraception, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
What if she asks about my sexual history?
It is not necessary to share your own sexual history. However, some girls do benefit from hearing their own mother's happiness or disappointment about a sexual decision she made as a young girl.
You may also want to use pop culture figures as springboards to conversations. Your daughter has been besieged by the media with information she may not fully understand. When you say what you say, it is vital that you always be honest — even if it means saying “I don't know about that, but we can look it up together or I can look it up for you.” Most parents will want to tell a girl not to take part in sex at this point in her life. But today, you'll need to explain to her what “not taking part in sex” really means.
In the end, you'll want her to not only understand the physical ramifications of sexual activity (such as STDs and pregnancy), but also the emotional ramifications as well. Talk about how being in a sexual relationship can toy with the minds of even smart adult women: how is a growing girl supposed to deal with that? Talk about “pride in ownership.” It's her body to cherish, save, and respect. Doing something to take that away might just have repercussions that stay with her for a lifetime.