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.