It’s easy for elementary-age children and tweens to get confusing messages about love, sex and relationships — Sunday School offers one perspective and “Glee” the opposite. How do you help children straighten it all out?
We sought advice from Patch’s Facebook army and professional experts, and browsed the web for more. The wisdom took all forms and here is the best of it.
- Share your own advice for talking to your kids in the Comments section below
Kristin Hasbrook is a counselor at Hamilton High School in Sussex. She conducts a “Love and Logic” program that provides regular discussion on best-practice parenting techniques.
“Every age and every child and every temperament and every maturity level is different,” she said. “The standard line is, answer the question the child asks. If they ask what does this mean, answer in the most simplistic terms."
Joy Hartman, a counselor at Clinical Psychology Associates in Menomonee Falls, offered a tip for dealing with the ambitious young person who refers to a classmate as “sexy.”
“A good starting point is to ask, ‘What does sexy mean?’ in a curious tone,” she said. “Once you hear your child's definition you will know better how to respond. If they respond that the classmate is ‘pretty,” then a simple explanation (is) that the word ‘sexy’ is really an adult word or not a word you like , and then emphasize alternative words. Perhaps they are drawn to their creativity, academic abilities, sense of humor, kindness, or confidence.
“If your child has a greater understanding of the word, it is a good time to talk about sex, your family’s values about sex and open yourself to questions they may have.”
Another Brookfield Patch Facebook follower, Samantha Brojanac, employed a practical-but-less-fuzzy approach with a pre-teen son: “We taught the son (now 30) about love and relationships by teaching him math. ... What is 17% of your paycheck ... keep it zipped. What is 25% (second mistake) keep it zipped.”
A survey at KidsHealth.org found that most pre-teens are highly embarrassed by the concept of “being liked.” Learn more about what they had to say.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology offers some ideas for the “sex talk,” though Hasbrook suggests to parents not to turn it into a ceremony.
“We really try to shy away from ‘the talk,’ because that puts a lot of emphasis on something that should be a normal and natural conversation,” she said.