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There's No Place Like Home for Sex Education: 5th Grade (page 3)

— Advocates For Youth
Updated on Apr 21, 2014

Urges and Surges

The physical and emotional changes which occur in children during puberty are plainly evident to their parents. But the accompanying transformation in sexual feelings, urges, and fantasies are not so obvious—in fact, they are typically kept hidden. Without a chance to hear that it's perfectly normal for sexual feelings and urges to intensify, and for fantasies to become more frequent during puberty, children may find themselves a bit shaken ("Is this supposed to happen?"). It's also during this stage that masturbation is usually rediscovered (if it had ever been forgotten), along with any guilt or anxiety which may have been previously attached to it. Rarely asked questions about whether masturbation is good/bad often plague children. Give children reassurance that the hormonal changes of puberty can result in new and intense sexual feelings. This is normal and all part of the wonder and excitement of growing up! Deliver the family's party line on masturbation. If you believe it's acceptable, healthy exploration, say so! If not, explain that without causing your child guilt or shame. If you've not built a foundation upon which to discuss some of these emotionally charged issues, it makes it tougher … but not impossible. Possible icebreakers:

  • I remember being 11, experiencing a lot of new feelings and urges. I wasn't quite sure what to make of them. I know a lot of my 11-year-old friends felt the same way, but unfortunately, no one ever talked about it.
  • When I was in 5th grade, I was madly in love with a 7th grade boy. I got chills just looking at him. Have you ever had a crush like that?
  • When I was your age, I felt uncomfortable talking with my folks about sex, but I had lots of questions. How can I help you feel comfortable talking with me about these issues?

Facts vs. Fears

Around 5th grade, young people begin wondering (perhaps worrying) about sexual orientation: How can you tell if you're gay or lesbian? What causes it? Does masturbating mean you're gay? Are lesbian and gay people normal? When you think about it, at this age, these questions are not at all surprising. Puberty is the time when children are at the height of growth, change, AND worry! The events of puberty can arouse anxieties, uncertainty, and confusion as perhaps no other stage of life can. It seems the overwhelming fear is that of being different from their peers. As part of all this, concern about sexual orientation may begin to sprout. There's a lot of fuel for the fire: same-gender play is common, with friends checking each other out, partly in an effort to validate their own development; sexual fantasies may include same-gender friends; young people frequently develop crushes on same-gender teachers, coaches, etc. Add to all this, the pervasive assumptions about HIV/AIDS and the gay community, along with the common derogatory schoolyard remarks about people who are gay and lesbian. Top it off with a lack of understanding or someone to even talk to about these things, and you've likely got a confused kid on your hands. Whether your child has asked you about sexual orientation or not, now is a good time to address it. There are many lead-ins to the subject, including TV shows, news reports, or a negative term overheard in reference to people who are gay or lesbian. You can help your child by pointing out some of the common misconceptions. From what we now know:

  • People do not choose their sexual orientation.
  • No one can cause another person to be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.
  • Being gay is not a sickness or mental illness.
  • Being gay or lesbian is not something that can or needs to be "cured. "

Encourage your child to express his feelings. Ask what he's heard from the kids at school. This may allow him to discuss some of the anxieties he has about his own sexual development. In addition to reassurance, you can offer your personal values and perspectives around sexual orientation. Be prepared to answer the question: Is it bad to be gay? Explain that people have different opinions about sexual orientation. Then specify yours. While sharing your beliefs, be sure to emphasize that it is never OK to discriminate against someone because of sexual orientation. Point out that words like "fag" and "queer" are offensive and meant to hurt. These terms are used in anger or to ridicule. Be sure to acknowledge that gay and lesbian couples have loving relationships that are as wonderful and important to them as any other couple's relationship is to them. Let your child know that you would love and support him, no matter what his own sexual orientation might be. Once again, you're faced with a difficult subject that needs to be discussed—for everyone's sake. It's an issue that evokes a lot of emotion, judgments, values—as well as a hefty dose of misunderstanding … which is exactly why many parents choose to avoid the subject. Please don't be one of those parents.

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