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Gill Lough – Helping your child develop a healthy sexuality

Archive for the ‘9-12 year-olds’ Category

What do boys want to learn in sex education classes?

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Boys are not being taught what they want to know in sex education classes,  recent UK research has found. The study by Middlesex University was of boys in year 12 (age 16) at eight schools.

Boys were asked what they wanted to learn from from a sex and relationship course and how they wanted to be taught.

They wanted more sex education at an earlier age. The areas of feelings, sexuality, sexual techniques, sexually transmitted infections, pornography and the effects of ‘boy culture’ were not addressed sufficiently, or not at all.

Boys also called for smaller class sizes, more active methods of teaching and some boys-only sessions to be able to express themselves freely without girls present.  There was also a strong view expressed that they wanted to know ‘what it’s like to be a girl’ from girls themselves.

The 2007 study collected data from a questionnaire and from three focus groups in three schools.  The study is likely to be relevant to sex education programs outside the UK – I’ll present the findings in more detail in later posts.


Written by frombirthtopuberty

March 5, 2009 at 7:58 pm

12-year-old: How do you know if you’re in love?

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Last night your 12-year-old daughter asked you,  ‘How do you know if you’re in love?’ In the past few weeks she has talked about a special friend, and she spends so much time daydreaming and talking on the phone to this friend that you are concerned. Now her question suggests to you that she thinks she is in love.

Asking about love does not mean your child wants to have sexual relations.  There are a number of possible reasons why she has asked you the question:

  • She wonders if she could really be in love.
  • She has loving feelings for a special friend.
  • She wonders if it is normal to feel this way.
  • She wants to know if you approve.
  • She wants to know if it is okay to be sexual with the friend if she feels she loves them.
  • She wonders if this is the “real thing” or the “right person”.

In thinking about your response, remember that many preteens express “being in love”.  It is exciting and scary for them to have these feelings.   While you may doubt they are real or long-lasting, if you say this to them they may choose not to share feelings with you again.

You can help your child learn the difference between feelings and actions. Be positive about the good feelings, and talk about the results of acting on those feelings. You can set limits at this time, for instance, ” In our family the dating age is _____, because ______.

Possible responses

“Being in love is a great feeling. And it’s different for 12-year-olds, 16-year-olds and 20-, 30- 50- somethings. Let’s talk about it.”

This give the message that you are willing to talk and can help her make sense of her feelings.

“This is a sign you are growing up.”

Message:  She is entering a new phase, with new issues for her to face.

“Being in love is one thing.  Sex is another. I’d like to hear what’s going on for you and to share my feelings and thoughts.”

The message here is that you want to help her learn about love and sexuality. You can share some of your experiences at her age to help her understand her own situation.

Written by frombirthtopuberty

February 8, 2009 at 10:03 pm

I don’t want you to talk about sex: ten-year-old

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Your 10-year-old son (or 11 or 12-year-old son or daughter) has never asked you any questions about sex.

You may assume that they know all they need to know at their age, or they may have told you that “I already know all about it.”

Sometimes a child may resist their parents efforts to talk about puberty and sexuality. They may protest and walk out of the room when you raise the subject.

What can you do in this situation? A good first step is to ask yourself why they are behaving this way. It could be they are embarrassed, or they think they should already know the answers. They may know a little and think they know a lot. Or your past reactions may have taught them not to ask.

Here are some suggestions of things you could do.

Use incidents on TV shows to start discussions about relationships and sexuality. Soaps and sitcoms  are scripted with many aspects of relationships, and sexuality topics are frequent. You could ask, “How do you feel about what that person did? What might happen because of their choice?”  This gives the message that there are choices in sexual situations and that people should think about the choices they make.

Talk about sexuality with another adult while your child is present. For example, “Have you seen the news report about…?” The message to your son or daughter is that it is okay to talk about sex in this family.

Ask your preteen to help you explain something to a younger child. For example, ask your 11-year-old son to help you talk to his eight-year-old brother about his aunt’s pregnancy. This will give the 11-year-old a face-saving reason for listening to what you have to say. The younger brother is likely to ask questions the 11-year-old also wants to have answered.

Mom, do you have sex with the men you date?

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The 11-year-old daughter of a single mother asked this question.

If your child asks you a similar question, ask yourself, “Why is she/he asking that?” There is often a question behind the question. It is an opportunity to understand the question your child really wants answered.

In responding remember what you want them to learn. A positive response could be:

‘I’m happy to talk about my choices. I thought hard about them and they were right for me at the time. My choice may not be the right one for you when you get older. But first tell me why you want to know.’

This answer gives the message that this is an okay topic to discuss, that wise choices require thought, and that you are prepared to help your child learn to choose wisely.

Written by frombirthtopuberty

January 18, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Children’s sexuality from birth to puberty

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play21Regular readers of this blog may know (or maybe not?) that I have written a popular parenting book on children’s sexual development.

It’s titled From Birth to Puberty – Helping your child develop a healthy sexuality.

It features the topics that I have blogged here in more depth, with case studies and questions and answers. Order a copy from

12-year old son: Are the puberty stages constant? Like each month will I go to another stage?

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You could say to your son:

Puberty is a very unpredictable process. It is also different for each person.

What we do know is that things generally happen in the same order for most people but there is no way of telling when they will happen or how long they will take.

Boys can start going through puberty as early as 10 or 11 and most will be fully physically developed by the time they are 18 or 19. That’s a lot of growing and changing in a reasonably short time.

Written by frombirthtopuberty

December 29, 2008 at 1:55 am

My nipples are almost the same size as my breasts, is this normal?

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A preteen going through puberty asked me this question:

I am 12  years old and my breasts are larger than my sister who is 14 and i have noticed that my nipples are almost the same size as my breasts, is this normal because my sister tells me im a freak and i just want to know why my nipples are so big and if this is a bad thing.

Different people grow at different rates and we all look quite different with our clothes off. There’s a huge range of normal and guess what? You’re well within that range.

Don’t stress over your body so much. It can be difficult coming to terms with all the changes your body is growing through. Get some information on puberty, a book form the library, ask your parents. There are some good websites with excellent information about puberty. Can you talk to the school nurse?

It may be that your sister is just a bit jealous!

Written by frombirthtopuberty

December 19, 2008 at 6:30 pm