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When it comes to talking to boys about sex, dads are often assigned the tricky task. But don't feel like moms can't carry out the conversation: sometimes the best man for the job may be a woman! Regardless of which parent it falls to to explain the ins and outs of relationships and sex, it's an important discussion to have that will benefit your family for years to come. It's never easy, but once you open the doors of communication, you may be surprised at just how much your son is willing to ask and even more importantly, willing to share.
Here's what parents need to know about talking to their sons about sex:
- Start Young Just when is the right time to have "The Talk?" As soon as your son starts asking questions! Keep your answers simple, straightforward, and matter of fact. For example, when a 6-year-old boy asked his pregnant mother, "How does the baby get out of your tummy?" she explained it like this: "Boys have two holes. One at the tip of their penis for going pee and one in their bottom for poop to come out. Girls have another hole called a vagina for the baby to pass through when it's time to be born." Try your best to use anatomically correct words to avoid confusion and embarrassment later on. By you being approachable from the get-go, your son will more than likely feel comfortable coming to you again and again when he has a question.
- Break the Silence Some boys are more open to discussion than others. For boys that are reluctant to initiate or join in a conversation, a book is often the best icebreaker. One mother recalls, "I never had any difficulty talking with my oldest son about sex. But when my second son got to that age, every time I tried to casually bring up the subject, he'd say, 'No thanks. I'm good.' That's when I picked up a copy of What's Going on Down There by Walker Books for Young Readers. I read the book first and told him if a mother of three learned a thing or two, I am sure he could, too. I also threatened to read it out loud to him if he refused." The result? He read the book, which sparked some points of discussion, and those discussions have been going on ever since.
- Be Realistic Let's face it. In this day and age, most people don't wait until they're married to have sex. But it's important to help your son understand that having sexual relations with someone is a huge responsibility and a commitment based on trust. Reinforce that just because he is ready physically doesn't mean that he is emotionally prepared for the aftermath of having sex. Let him know that if he finds himself in a position where his relationship could lead to sex, you will help him purchase birth control to protect him as well as his partner. And, point out that even birth control has been known to fail, so he really has to consider the consequences of their actions. Is it truly worth the risk? Trust that you are not giving him permission or encouraging him to have sex – if your son is going to have sex he will do so with or without your permission. But in the end, isn't it better to accompany your son to the drugstore rather than to a clinic?
- Girls Girls Girls No matter if your son is in middle school or high school, it's important to remember that girls are more mature in certain areas and, for developing boys, largely a mystery. While both girls and boys are developing social skills and strategies, including flirtation and other ways of signaling attraction, girls may sometimes play social "games" that boys may not understand, such as acting affectionate one day and distant the next. Explain to your son that relating to the opposite sex is a complicated skill that takes practice, and that good communication skills are the key. Introduce and emphasize the concept of consent: just because a girl sends a flirtatious text does not necessarily mean that she wants to "hook up," so be sure the signals are straight before engaging in any sexual activity, even kissing. Likewise, boys may be pressured by more mature girls to engage in sexual activities that they're just not ready for, so make sure to tell your son that saying no, and meaning it, are a must if he doesn't feel ready.
- Seize Every Opportunity Use the news, movies, television, and even personal stories of friends and family to educate your son about real-life situations that stemmed from having sex at a young age. Cite specific examples such as the Bristol Palin pregnancy story. Help your child imagine what missing your prom to stay home and change diapers might feel like, so that your child knows that having a baby changes lives forever.
Talking to children about sex is never easy, but it is necessary. As one mother of two commented, "If I left it up to my husband, the boys would still believe that babies are delivered by storks!" Regardless of who ends up giving the "Talk," you can rest assured that your son will be healthier, happier, and maybe even grateful in the end.
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