Children learn about sex from a very young age, even if we don’t talk with them about it. There are many mixed messages in the media about sex and sexuality which can lead to confusion and extra complications – children don’t know what is real and where to get support. Children need time & space to develop their own understanding but instead they are being presented with images and ideas that they may not be emotionally able to deal with.
Hickling refers to this age group as the “gross-me-outers.” “Sex is gross, and you are gross and disgusting for wanting to talk about it.” Many tweens are convinced they already “know all that,” and may use sexual lingo without really understanding the meaning. At this age, they are also starting to go through the hormonal roller coaster of puberty and have a zillion questions about their changing bodies and emotions.
Reassure tweens that all the physical stuff that’s happening to them—acne, wet dreams, breast budding, menstruation, growth spurts, body hair—is perfectly normal. Every one of their friends will go through it too, but maybe not at the same pace. Take some time to talk about the overwhelming emotional changes that can make puberty such a bumpy ride too—what Hickling calls the “sads, glads and mads.” The car can be a great place to have these conversations since it’s easier to talk when you don’t have to make eye contact.
During sexual acts, bodily fluids, like vaginal fluid and sperm can be exchanged from one person to the other. These can contain different infections, like bacteria and viruses. Most are not dangerous, but some can be. Safe sex is how you can reduce the chances of picking up these infections. There are different things that people can use to protect themselves and their partners, like condoms.
If your child asks about oral sex, you can explain that it is when one person puts his or her mouth on another person’s genitals to give sexual pleasure. It counts as sex and also has the risk of spreading different sexual infections. To be safe, people use protection like condoms or dental dams.
The same way as anyone else: They kiss, hug, touch and become intimate.
There is no need to explain anal sex at this age unless they ask you pointblank. When answering this question, be matter-of-fact and say, ‘Some people have a type of sex where they insert the penis into the anus.’
Porn is where people are paid to have sex on camera, sort of like an over-18s movie. Porn is not what real sex is like in a real relationship. It is like watching an action movie, and then thinking that that’s what real life is like. Relationships are about real people with feelings for one another, and porn doesn’t usually help people learn how to be a good partner. Porn is for adults, but not all adults like watching porn. It definitely is not appropriate for a child to watch.