When should you talk to your preteen about sex? Most experts would agree, there's no time like the present.
Talking to our youngsters about the birds and the bees is one thing when they're preschoolers, it's quite another when they're preteens. Chances are that at this age you'll get a lot of squirming and looks of disgust when discussing sexual health. But those reactions of embarrassment are pretty normal with preteens, says sexual health educator Kim Marsden. "When they're in the pre-pubescent age, they go into the gross-me-outter stage. Painful for parents, but it's a really important time to persevere and keep talking to them about their bodies."
However kids aren't the only ones who squirm. Many parents find sexual health difficult to discuss and find themselves continually postponing a frank discussion with their child. If this is the case with you, the best bet is to pick up a book, do some reading and then stop procrastinating.
Now is the time to sit down and talk with your child because according to Meg Hickley, author of "Speaking of Sex", "children in grades 4 to 7 have the greatest needs for information and this is the most crucial time to talk. They've been exposed to television and school yard gossip about sexuality and this is your last chance to talk. They need to know about breast development, for boys as well as for girls, that some children gain weight during puberty and it's totally unfair to tease someone about being skinny or fat, and they need to know about body hair and daily washing."
Marsden acknowledges that when it comes to discussing sexual health with children "it's difficult to get the conversation going because they're so embarrassed. So lock them in the car, take a long drive, get talking and keep talking. Then ask them to return the information and see how much they've actually picked up."
And when you've finally had the big talk, pat yourself on the back. According to Hickley the open communication you've created around sexual health will pay off for many, many years. "If you've talked to your kids from preschool through to primary years, I can promise you are going to have a teenager who is filled with joy and optimism about their future adult sexual lives, and who is extremely easy to talk to."