Wall Street Journal (11.15.11) - Monday, November 21, 2011
Child-development experts are rethinking "the talk," the
traditional parent-child conversation about sex.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having age-
appropriate ongoing conversations with children about human
sexuality. By age 10, a child should know the differences
between males and females, the correct names of body parts and
the developmental changes that occur. If parents wait until
the early teens, or even middle school, to talk about sex,
they have waited too long, AAP says.
"The notion that we are supposed to have one talk about the
birds and the bees and be done with it is a myth," said Dr. L.
Kris Gowen, a developmental psychologist and senior research
associate at Portland State University in Oregon. "Research
shows that the more the kids learn, the less likely they are
to have sex."
Experts suggest the following dialogue guidelines, tailored to
an individual child's development:
*For preschoolers, talk about body parts using clinical words
rather than euphemisms, which can connote feelings of shame or
embarrassment; talk about pregnancy and birth; talk about what
is safe touch, and what is not. In response to questions about
same-sex couples, explain that families come in different
shapes and sizes, Gowen said.
*For ages five to eight, begin explaining how a child's body
changes to an adult's. Amy Lang, founder of Birds+Bees+Kids,
which helps parents and others learn how to talk to children
about sex, suggests starting a discussion about pornography by
age eight. "Give them a heads up that sometimes people look at
videos and pictures of naked people on the Internet and that
this is not OK for kids," she said.
*For ages nine to 12, parents should explain their own values
concerning certain topics; discuss the dynamics of healthy and
unhealthy sexual relationships.
*For ages 13 to 15, talk about safe sex and how to prevent
STDs and pregnancy; talk about values and relationships.
*For ages 16 to 20, shift conversations from "how" to "why,"
stressing values; talk about casual sex, date rape and peer