How to talk to your kids about sex
8. Your 7-year-old tells you she's heard kids saying, "That's so gay." What does "gay" mean? she asks. You:
A: Tell her it's an old-fashioned word for "happy" and leave it at that.
B: Rent La Cage aux Folles.
C: Explain that it's a term used for homosexuals.
Answer: C. Before you get into a discussion of why people would sometimes use that word pejoratively, this is probably the appropriate time to explain to a child this age what homosexuality is.
"Tell her that some men and women fall in love with other men and other women and live together as a couple," says Bernstein.
Playground vernacular being what it is, this phrase probably isn't invoking anything to do with homosexuality. But you may want to talk about why children sometimes want to hurt one another's feelings with words they don't fully understand.
9. Your 8-year-old confides that a classmate has a magazine with photos of naked women in it. You:
A. Explain that magazines like that are for grown-ups.
B. Ground him for a week.
C. Tell him he should like looking at naked women; he's a boy!
Answer: A. But you might want to ask him what the pictures showed and find out if he has any questions about them.
If he felt uncomfortable seeing those images, tell him that's okay; he doesn't have to look at them and he can just tell his friends he's not interested. And if he liked what he saw? Be matter-of-fact: Tell him it's normal to find nudity appealing. If you find that type of magazine pornographic, now's not the time to discuss it -- unless you know the photos showed explicit acts, say experts.
Between 8 and 10, kids can become more curious, so if you haven't already, you may want to provide some reading material that goes into more detail. Remember to thank him for confiding in you and add that he can always go to you first when issues like this come up. One benefit of talking honestly about sex during the early years is that a child will have more to go on when he gets to grade school, when friends and the media also become sources of information.
Many parents worry that the more kids know about sex, the more likely they are to try it out. The experts insist that the opposite is true: Study after study shows that children who have more information are less likely to become sexually active earlier. After all, teaching your kids about sex is teaching them about life, says Martin. "It goes on constantly. Or it should. If you're waiting to have that birds-and-bees conversation when they're thirteen, that's way too late.
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