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SingleMommy
SingleMommy asks:
Q:

How specific should I be when talking about sex with my 11 year old daughter?

Ok, she'd seen TV commercials, I talked to her about puberty, about tampons, I taught her how to shave, I depicted in a comic way the hormonal derrangement before and during the "twilight zone" aka period. But that was pretty much all the courage that I had.
I never ever exposed her at home to anything that might give her an idea to ask about it. No movies, no internet (except some parts of youtube). Never. My husband and I are extremely cautious.
Now she asked me what is sex. Sex? Yeah, what is sex and what is porno? I swallowed hard and ...and I couldn't come up with anything real. So, I said quickly, "sex is a physical form of attachment for adults". What did I just say? I have no idea, but I felt like brushing my teeth might give me a break from talking.
My fear was: how much did she know about these topics?
So, I saw your answer about the other mother whose daughter asked the same Q. I am looking for specificalties in your answer and couldn't find them.
So, my humble question to you is:
Daughter: Mommy, what does sex mean? And porn is a movie about what?
Me: Sex means......
What exactly should I tell her? How much?
Oh, God! Tough one. Please help before she'll find out some way from her peers/school.
Thanks a bunch!
In Topics: Communicating with my child (The tough talks)
> 60 days ago

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Expert

MomSOS
Oct 27, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

Expert Laura Kauffman has given a good answer, and a reasonable suggestion for defining sex. Of course sex is more than just the "act," and knowing how much to  describe is a tough decision for every parent. How to say the right thing for the child's age--not too much, not too little.

I agree with Laura that it is a good idea to find out what your daughter knows, and then take it from there.  What you did say was not at all wrong, and in fact was very true in thinking about sex as more than just intercourse.  You did not define intercourse and very likely did not need to at all. Depending on where your child is with her information, what you said may indeed be enough for now. Often parents get so scared of the question, they give a larger answer than they need to. Kids do not need too much knowledge when they are young.  At 11, however, the peers are already sharing information that they are exposed to in the media and from other kids.  As for "porn," it is amazing that an 11 yr old even knows the word, but today they hear a lot.

 Make sure there is nothing inappropriate going on that leads to the question about "porn."  Gentle questioning is best, not forcing answers,and never shaming. Again, it is best to know what she knows before you say much. Depending on what she tells you, your answer can be as simple as "inappropriate pictures of people."  If she asks, "Like what?" You might say, "without clothes on."  At 11 you might refrain from concepts like sexual exploitation, but be sure to help her know that it is not okay for anyone to ask to take a picture of her in that way.

This type of conversation also is connected to the important talk about never letting anyone touch her inappropriately and gently finding out if anyone has. There are many related topics here, such as precocious sexuality, std's and self-esteem, but your daughter will guide you by letting you know what she knows and what she needs to know, as she grows. Keep it simple. The opportunities to discuss these other topics will come along as time goes by. As Laura suggests, it is a good thing that she feels comfortable asking you.

You might also find it helpful to talk to other parents and see what their kids are asking and what they are telling them.  As a single parent you particularly need other adults with whom to consult.

You might also check with her school to find out what the curriculum is in the health classes.  Sometimes answers are given in an educational form that helps
a great deal. You can then tailor your answers to what she might be learning in school.

Keep the lines of communication open. Let her know you appreciate that she came to you and you want her to continue to ask and you will do the best you can to answer.  You can also buy yourself breathing time, by saying that you will think about her question and come back to her with an answer.
I like Laura's suggestion about finding a good time to talk, and her opening line is a good one.

Good luck.  Please share with us what you say and do because it will help a lot of parents!


Bette J. Freedson, LICSW, LCSW, CGP
Clinical Social Worker
JustAsk Expert
http://www.singlemomsos.com/index.html

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lkauffman
Oct 12, 2010
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Best Answer!

what's this?
from a fellow member
Dear SingleMommy,

You are doing a wonderful job! You should be proud of the fact that your daughter is coming to you and asking you these difficult questions. It indicates that she feels comfortable with you and trusts that you will help provide the information and guidance she needs to grow and mature.

You will most likely have many conversations with your daughter on this topic, so you will have a number of opportunities to help her understand and explain your beliefs and values around sex.

Seek out a time in the day when you are both comfortable and initiate a conversation with her. You can say, "I was thinking about the question you asked the other day, and I don't think that I was very clear in my answer. I want to try again, but first, I want to hear about what you have heard and what you know about sex. What have you seen on TV? What have your friends said?" Then listen. Listen carefully and thoughtfully and allow her to share everything she has to say on the topic. Try not to interrupt or cut her off. Just listen. Remember, you want her to feel like it was a good idea to bring tough topics up with you.

When she has shared her understanding, you can ask follow-up questions. Empathize and normalize her feelings. Feel free to share some of your own questions and confusions at her age.

Then, start educating her. You can say, "I know it can be confusing, but here is what you should know about sex..." You have already started teaching her, but there is more for her to know. For instance, it will be important for her to know that sex is an physical act between two people that can lead to pregnancy and a baby. Feel free to add your beliefs and values here. You can let her know, "I am telling you about sex because you need to be educated, but I want you to know that I don't want you to become sexually involved with anyone until...XXX. Of course, I can't control you, but I want you to know how I feel about it and why."

If you aren't satisfied with the way the next conversation goes, you will always have another chance to discuss it again.

Good luck!


Warm regards,

Laura Kauffman, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Education.com JustAsk Expert
http://www.drlaurakauffman.com/

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Additional Answers (6)

concerned4ourchildren
concerned4o... writes:
I believe children need honest, maturity appropriate(has nothing to do with age) answers to all their questions...whether we're ready to answer them or not, especially questions concerning sex and drugs...aka..the tough talks! When a child asks a question of this nature, it's proof positive they've heard reference to it from somewhere and they're seeking answers, so the question becomes "who is going to give them accurate information, avert their curiosity, and earn their trust?" Will it be us, who only have their best interest at heart or an unreliable source that may give them incorrect or misinformed information, or worse..someone who wants to harm our young? Perhaps asking them questions is the best way to go. (ie..What do you want to know about _____? What makes you ask? Is there something particular you want or need to know? etc.) There may be some surprising answers forthcoming, so be prepared to hear answers you may not want to hear, but I found it's best not to let them know this, because this often stifles their willingness to come to us. (This often calls for a Trix moment...lol) The 6 young men and women in my life, (not to mention their friends who didn't have strong parental support) responded best to answering my questions, as they want to talk or they wouldn't ask. I found this helps find the real source of their inquisitiveness and often identifies trouble in the making. Rest assured they will seek these answers and asking them questions gives us a starting place, pinpoints what information they're seeking to eliminate confusion about how much information we need to share in the moment, and typically removes some of the awkwardness. I firmly believe we need to be the one they come to with questions if we want them to have the most beneficial information to their futures, so we need to brace our-self for a conversation that may take embarrassing turns, but it's well worth it when we know our young will turn to us for answers, especially to questions of life altering magnitude! These conversations also give us an opportunity to teach our family and moral values with a more relaxed approach. Your little one will do fine with you in her corner as obviously you want to see that she has the best answers or you wouldn't be seeking answers to help her! "From a Child's Perception" is a great source of information about this and so many other things children struggle with and/or face everyday, to include ADD, ADD/HD, Childhood Depression, and peer pressure thru a child's eyes. It's unlike any book on children I've ever read or even heard about! I've found publishamerica.com has the best prices, but it can be found on other websites. It's a great read and deals with everything children. I pray for your success!
> 60 days ago

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BOO_DOTTIE
BOO_DOTTIE writes:
Why not tell her the truth, be honest to your child.  Its good she is asking you these questions because she is seeking the truth and expecting you to give it to her.  I think you want her to do that all the time.  Let your child know if she wants the truth she can go to her mom for anything.  You don't want her going to a friend and getting the truth because thats going to lead into other things you might not want her doing.  Let your child know there is nothing she cant come to you for.
> 60 days ago

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paulawhidden
paulawhidden writes:
I understand your fear about discussing such a hot topic, but I guess I would be more fearful if the talk never happenned.  This is a great time to build communication between you and your daughter.  Before answering the question, I'd ask one.  "What do you think it is?"  This gives you the opportunity to find out what she knows.  She gets to feel smart because you asked her.  You could also ask, "Why do you ask this question?"  Clearly the topic came up somewhere and intrigued her.  If she can answer this it will help you to know more about what she is really asking.  

If we talk honestly with our children, it will enable the continued conversation as she gets older.  But be aware.  She will feel your stress.  It's important to put on the poker face and remain relaxed while you talk.  She may or may not know the differences (bodily) between boys and girls.  This is a place to start.  Remember, it's not a mommy lecture.  Make it a conversation and you'll grow closer because of it. It may seem cheesy but there are good books to guide you through this process, even if you just use it as a cheat sheet and present it like it all came from  you.  

CBS had a writer on and this is a discussion they had on the topic, hope it helps.  http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6910445n

Paula Whidden
LA Faith and Family Examiner
www.examiner.com/faith-and-family-in-los-angeles/paula-whidden
Plan it!Plant it!Feed it!Grow it!
www.paulawhidden.wordpress.com
> 60 days ago

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BigSis
BigSis writes:
My mom and my sister (who is also 11 years old) attended the Heart to Heart seminar together at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. The seminar discussed and helped answer any questions that my sister had about puberty, sex, etc.

Contact your child's school counselor or even talk with other moms to find out if a program like this is available in your area.

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maykayla
maykayla writes:
you might want to tell your cild when they are older ,but if they ask about sex let them know ok
> 60 days ago

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YourAdviceGuru
YourAdviceG... , Teacher, Parent writes:
For parents concerned about what information to share at what age, I encourage you to ask your child if he/she knows anything about sex and see what they say. Their answer, or lack thereof, may give you an idea where to start or to determine if it is the right time.

My 6-year-old son came home from school one day and said that another kid in his class got in trouble for writing the word “sex” on a piece of paper. I immediately asked him about the word and what it meant. He did not have a detailed answer, but the fact that he had been exposed to it and now knew it was something you could get in trouble for writing on a piece a paper was enough to have a Q&A session simply to see what he knew. I also have three daughters and I have had talks with each of them, on different levels of course, and appropriate with their ages and understanding.

Though we may not be able to protect our children from everything they hear and see, we have a responsibility to educate them and prepare them to deal with and handle the pressures of this world.

-Tamara, Your Advice Guru

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