Sixth Grade: Boy Meets Girl
Bubblegummers, tweens, preteens - whatever label is used, sixth-grade youth are unique. Approaching the teen years can be happy and harmonious for families, school friends and teachers. But too often parents fear the brink of a storm - the teen years. Fearful parents usually get what they expect. Parents of sixth-graders can prepare themselves for changes and talk to their youth openly. Let your child hear about the positive things you see happening this year as he grows and matures.
Curiosity - The Teachable Moment
Many sixth-graders are like butterflies. Not only is a physical metamorphosis taking place, but mental and social changes are also occurring. The onset of menstruation in girls and signs of puberty in boys emphasize the difference between men and women. Physical changes initiate a normal sexual curiosity in youth.
Sexual curiosity is increased through magazines, movies, television commercials, T-shirt slogans, bumper stickers, greeting cards and music videos. Although most parents believe sex education should begin in the home, few seem to find the time or the courage to accomplish the task.
Studies show that parents can be a great influence on the preteen's sexual knowledge. But because parents provide limited information, schools, peers and literature are the biggest sources of sexual information for preteens. Are these the accurate, complete sources of education you want for your child? Preteens deserve factual information for their healthy development. They need to feel free to talk with an informed sensitive adult about all the changes in their lives. They need to have resources and books available to them for personal reading.
Perhaps parents are confused or embarrassed or don't feel like they know what to say. Parents need to be prepared for the preteen questions. "Is necking or making out wrong?" "What is it like to have a baby?" "What is abortion?" "How is AIDS spread?" Lots of other questions on dating, kissing, petting and intercourse are answerable. Parents should view preteen curiosity as the teachable moment for transfer of facts, morals and values. This is the golden opportunity to teach your child. It's not a sign of a promiscuous child. Some children will not ask questions, but they have the curiosity and the need for information. If you do not pass the facts and values on to your child, another source will!
Many local hospitals, clinics and churches sponsor parent-child workshops on adolescent sexuality. A parent and child can attend together, listen to a professional present the facts and begin to open the communication on this topic.
It's important to keep current books with the facts on your bookshelf at home. Children need to refer to them and ask questions. They will re-ask many questions as they try to sort it out. Be honest, and express your values and the facts. Let them know you are approachable.
If you need help finding current resources, contact the local Iowa State University Extension office for suggestions.
Reprinted with the permission of the Iowa State University Extension. © 2008 Iowa State University Extension.
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