Sex Education for Young Tweens

It is much easier to have the birds-and-bees talk with a tween who is young enough to respond with interest instead of embarrassment. Linda and Richard Eyre, the authors of Teaching Your Children Values, recommend incorporating sex education into your eight-year-old's birthday celebration. They suggest building some anticipation by telling him that now that he has reached this important age, you will have a special dinner without his siblings and teach him about the “most wonderful and beautiful thing on earth.”

Diagrams can help your child better visualize what you are explaining. You can print out drawings from www.puberty101.com. The book, Where Did I Come From?, is designed for younger children but could be a good present for an eight-year-old. See Appendix B for other suggestions.

By describing how men and women participate in the miracle of creating a baby before peers have convinced him that sex is dirty, you will have a much more receptive audience. If your child has already turned eight, consider choosing another special time, such as when he is exactly eight and one half, on the solstice, or on some other special occasion.

Begin by explaining that sex is personal and private, and many people are offended if bad words are used because they consider sex to be sacred. State that he needs to be considerate of other people's feelings.

Basic Words and Concepts

How much technical vocabulary and detail you use depends on your child's level of understanding. If your child doesn't know the correct terms for the genitals, this is the time to explain that boys have a penis and testicles, which start producing millions of tiny sperm at puberty. Sperm are kind of like seeds, but they have tiny tails and can swim. Girls have sex organs inside their bodies beneath their stomachs and a small opening between their legs that leads into a tunnel called the vagina. The vagina connects to a sex organ that releases a new tiny egg every month.

Sometimes when a man is feeling very loving toward a woman, his penis gets longer and harder until it is the perfect shape to fit inside a woman's vagina. When he puts his penis into her vagina, the sperm come out and swim toward her egg. If one of the man's sperm gets inside a woman's egg, a baby is created. The baby grows inside the mother's body in a place called the uterus until it's ready to be born, and then it comes out through the opening between the woman's legs.

Changes to Expect During Puberty

Explain that as boys turn into men they get more hair on their arms, legs, faces, and around their penis and anus. Their voices deepen. Their sweat glands start to work, so they perspire a lot. Many get pimples on their faces. Their testicles wrinkle and darken in color, and their penises grow and have erections.

Meanwhile, girls grow more hair on their arms and legs, anus, and in the pubic area. The area around their nipples wrinkles and darkens and then they grow breasts. Their breasts will fill up with milk when they have a baby so they can feed it. Every month their bodies build a special sort of nest inside to hold a baby. The nest is made of blood and tissue. Every month their bodies produce an egg, too. If no sperm joins with the egg to make a baby, the nest isn't needed and the body spends about five days releasing the blood and tissue. When it comes out through the vagina, it is called “having a menstrual period.” Even though there is blood, this is not painful. It is messy, though, so girls wear a sanitary napkin to catch the blood.

Don't wait to let your tween learn about sexuality in health class, which typically takes place in fifth grade. If a girl begins her period before then, she may suffer the trauma of thinking she is dying when she discovers menstrual blood. Boys are often fearful about their physical changes, too.

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