Learn To Talk “The Talk”
“Telling children about puberty and sex might be difficult for parents,” said Melbourne child psychologist, Vicki Panaccione. It could be especially difficult for parents who feel uncomfortable dealing with sexuality, let alone discussing it with a young child.
However, instead of waiting for “The Talk,” sex education should start early with open, honest communication and continue in a natural progression based on the individual child and the parent’s observations of the child, she said.
“It’s a gradual process,” she said. “As we notice changes in the children, we can begin to explain what’s happening.”
“A growth spurt is one of the first things we notice in children, and that is the ideal time to begin to talk about puberty and what’s beginning to happen to their bodies,” Panaccione said. “I don’t think that that’s necessarily the time you have to jump and give them all the information. It’s kind of a stepping-off point.”
Then, she said, a good time for “The Talk” is when the discussion of the puberty process reaches talk about menstruation. If you’ve been going through this process with your child then it becomes a normal progression rather than sitting down one day out of the blue and having a talk,” Panaccione said.
Research shows that young girls are developing earlier. For some children, this earlier entrance into puberty means dealing with bodily changes long before they are emotionally ready. It also means facing the social pressures and health risks that come from maturing more quickly than peers.
“It’s important for parents to be positive and encouraging because the child is entering a confusing but very exciting time,” Panaccione said. Let the children know that their experiences are normal, especially those who reach puberty early. Make sure they understand that everyone will go through the same thing, and they will do it at various ages and stages.
“It’s important also to prepare them for bodily changes so they won’t be afraid or ashamed,” she said. “I encourage parents to talk about feelings of embarrassment, discomfort and shame, and also to talk about the sensations and urges that the children begin to develop.”
Parents also need to be aware of information their children pick up from older siblings, friends of siblings or schoolmates. “They may be getting misinformation, and it may be important to answer questions earlier than we might have wanted to,” she said.
As published in Florida Today.
© MMVI Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D.