6 tips for talking to tweens about the birds and the bees
by Christine Leow // April 28, 2023, 12:09 am
Give tweens the facts, say Mark and Sue Lim, who are counsellors and parents of tweens. “When kids learn about sex from other kids, the facts are not really facts." Photo by Pixabay.
When Mark Lim was 13, he went to his mother with dictionary definitions of sex and sex-related terms and read them out loud to her.
“When kids learn about sex from other kids, the facts are not really facts.”
“I just wanted to let my mum know that I knew. She didn’t want to talk to me about it at all. She just said: Skip, skip, skip.”
Suffice it to say, mother and son never had the talk. His parents had divorced when he was a child. So his father was not around to teach him about sex either.
All that Mark knew at the time came from friends.
“When kids learn about sex from other kids, the facts are not really facts but perceptions and attitudes,” he said.
That is why Mark, now 46, is intentional about teaching his sons, aged 12 and 10, about sex. He shared some tips with Salt&Light about talking to tweens about sex.
1. Start young
From the time his sons were toddlers, Mark and his wife, Sue, had already begun talking to them about sex.
“We talk about social emotions such as frustration, exasperation as well.”
It began with naming body parts.
“We gave proper names to all the body parts, not just the genitals. No cute words. It is part of respectfulness.”
Both teachers and now counsellors, the Lims believe in the “whole person approach”.
So not only did they talk to their children about their bodies, they also talked about social emotions as part of teaching them about sex and sexuality.
“We talk about social emotions such as frustration and exasperation as well.”
This paves the way for more deliberate discussions when the children are older.
2. Relate it to everyday life
The Lims work sex and sexuality education into their everyday lives.
Talking about sex as part of life normalises the topic.
When the children were younger, bath and bathroom times were used to teach them about the function of body parts.
“They learnt in the context of using the toilet for example. We explain body parts to them.”
Recently, Mark found out that his sons were listening to a Bruno Mars song The Lazy Song. Part of the lyrics talked about going out for casual sex.
He took the opportunity to tell them that “you don’t go around having sex” but that sex happens within marriage.
Talking about sex as part of life also normalises the topic so it does not become taboo, a secret or something of which your child has to be ashamed.
3. Carve out one-on-one time
The Lims “date” their children. Each would take one child out for a meal.
Those occasions, said Mark, can be used as protected time to talk about sex.
At key milestones in life, a longer time can be carved out.
Now that his oldest son is turning 13, Mark intends to take him on a staycation for an extended father-son time.
During that time, he will deal with matters related to sex and puberty.
4. Allow for gender identification
Keep the talk to the same gender – mothers to daughters and fathers to son.
“This allows for same gender identification,” said Mark.
5. Build on the biology
When the children were toddlers, their sons’ sex education was limited to body parts and their functions.
“This is a man, this is a woman. This is what a man has, this is what a woman has.”
By pre-school age, it became about the reproductive act.
“I told them sex is how mammals reproduce,” said Mark.
If you have not covered that aspect of your talk with your tween yet, talk to him about this first.
6. Address age-related issues
Tweens are on the cusp of puberty and the teen years are confusing times, both socially and physically.
Some issues Mark advises parents to include in their talk with their tweens are:
Mark keeps things factual.
“We tell our children that this is part of puberty as they develop and grow. We say, ‘You begin to produce sperm as you grow up. And at night sometimes you may release this when sleeping, especially when you’re having exciting dreams. It’s a natural part of growing up and nothing to be ashamed about.'”
Instead of concentrating on the do’s and don’ts, Mark discusses with his children the whys of masturbation.
“We frame it more in terms of the why’s of masturbation.”
“We tell them that masturbation often involves thinking about unwholesome thoughts. What’s important is to guard your thoughts and your mind, and to only think of what is good and pure, according to God’s Word.
“We frame it more in terms of the why’s of masturbation. Is it due to stress? Does it have a negative impact on you? Are there other ways that might be more effective?”
Asking questions instead of directing action is preferred.
“This is because as they grow older, they need to negotiate the grey areas of life on their own. At the end of the day, the final arbitrator should be the Word of God.”
Attracting the opposite sex
“My kids were talking about abs. So I told them, ‘Everyone has abs. Otherwise, our bodies will be flopping around. But why do you want abs?’”
That conversation led to a discussion on the desire to attract girls and how to be attractive to girls.
“When my younger son was about seven or eight, he told us that he wanted to marry a girl who was not too fancy, not too much make-up. Someone like Mummy.”
The right perspective of sex
“Sex is meant to bring you pleasure in the context of marriage,” said Mark.
This debunks the idea that sex is taboo.
“Things can be used for good or bad. Like money. It is the same with sex.”
“We tell them that porn objectifies men and women, makes them less than human. When you watch porn, it messes up your mind. It can influence our minds and how we see the opposite sex. We are told to guard our hearts and minds, and fill it with what is good.”
Don’t make it secretive
Mark reminds his tweens that sex is not a secretive topic. This protects them against sexual abuse because children are then free to talk about what has gone on.
“There is no such things as ‘this is a secret’.”
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