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There's No Place Like Home for Sex Education: 5th Grade (page 2)

— Advocates For Youth
Updated on Apr 21, 2014

Trying Time

If puberty is someone's idea of a joke, nobody's laughing. To say that this can be a difficult stage for child AND parent is clearly an understatement. For children, puberty is the time of life when they typically: hate their bodies, no matter what the dimensions; feel weird, and can't figure out why; "know" they're not normal; don't want to grow up or be treated like kids; and quarrel a lot with parents who "just don't understand!" For parents, puberty is the time when they typically: don't know what's gotten into their kids; feel awkward, excited, and nervous about their child's changing body; "can't do anything right!"; long for the days when they and their youngster could communicate—without yelling; panic at the pressures facing youth these days. Science hasn't yet discovered how one can avoid puberty. But, with good preparation—knowledge, skills, and a good attitude the journey can be rather exciting … or at least a bit more pleasant … OK—let's just say tolerable. Perhaps during no other phase of life do people undergo such physical and emotional transformation. While excited at the prospect of growing up, many kids (and parents) feel, "I'm not sure I'm ready for this." Let your child know that such ambivalence is common. Encourage him/her to talk about feelings s/he has toward growing and changing; what s/he's looking forward to, or is concerned about. Share your stories about puberty. Kids love being in on their parent's lives. It builds trust and reassures children that the folks appreciate what they're going through. Your 5th grader needs solid information about developmental changes that occur in both sexes during puberty. Knowing this well in advance can lessen anxiety. Children should be reassured that each person has his/her own time clock. The body develops when it's ready … some begin early, others later. Even if they're not satisfied with their personal development schedules, children are relieved to hear they're normal. If your child is embarrassed or genuinely uncomfortable discussing these issues, acknowledge this. You could say, "A lot of people are embarrassed to talk about these things. If you're feeling that way, I understand. I'm feeling a bit awkward too. Maybe we can help each other." If s/he's reluctant to talk, don't force it. You might comment, "I can see this is hard for you to talk about now. Is there something I could do to help? Would you like to try again another time?" Know too, there are many ways to impart this information to your child. Take advantage of the excellent books written specifically for youth. Leave them around the house where your child is sure to find them. (You read them too. Remember what it's like to have puberty strike. Such a refresher can provide you with facts you've long since forgotten … or perhaps never knew!) At a later point, offer to discuss the books with your child. Above all, be persistent in being there and willing to talk. Don't be pushy, or make a big deal of it … simply seize opportunities which allow the topic of sexuality to come up. Puberty consists of a series of events which unfold over the course of 4 to 5 years. Why not do all you can to ease the transition through those years? Your child will not be the only one who benefits!

A Check List

It's a good time to assess exactly what your 5th grader knows (or not) about sexuality. Inventory what's important to understand by this age, and catch up on items which haven't yet been addressed. By 5th grade, children should have knowledge around anatomy and changes during puberty (for both sexes), reproduction and birth. Hopefully you have talked about HIV/AIDS, sexual orientation, masturbation, and premarital sex—and shared your related values. Have you talked about exploitation and date rape? What about sex role stereotyping, relationships, and decision making? This is by no means an exhaustive list. It's merely a reminder of the knowledge that becomes even more critical at this age for your child now. If you're looking at this list thinking, "We haven't covered half of this!", don't panic. But do get moving! The 11-year-old needs solid information—often on issues which parents assume are "too advanced." You may find the following resources especially helpful:

How to Talk With Your Child About Sexuality: A Parent's Guide, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 2000 New York, NY http://www.plannedparenthood.org/parents/

Let's Talk About Sex: A Read and Discuss Guide for People 9 to 12 and Their Parents Sam Gitchel & Lorri Foster Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, revised edition, 1995 ISBN: 0961012226 Click Here to Purchase This Book

Talking with Your Child About Sex Mary S. Calderone & James W. Ramey Ballantine Books, 1983 ISBN: 0345313798 Click Here to Purchase This Book

Beyond the Birds and the Bees Beverly Engel Pocket Books, 1997 ISBN: 0671535706 Click Here to Purchase This Book

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