Growing up, my mum had a very close relationship with all three of us and didn’t shun discussing the birds and the bees. I remember I was about 11 when she started the ‘big talk’ with me. For today’s children, that may be pretty late already, but thankfully, I was still quite naive. It was very awkward at the time. Even as I got older, she would constantly pause and clear her throat. We both knew nothing was stuck in it. It was amusing.
Looking back, I must admit those talks shaped my overall perspective and the subsequent choices I made. My 13-year-old is an only child and I know I absolutely owe her a lot more.
Find 5 core things I’m currently talking to her about, eyeball to eyeball…
1. The biological changes puberty brings.
She started her periods about 2 years ago. Our puberty talks however started when she was about 9, when I started discussing how her about how her body would change soon. We talked about changes including breast development, pubic hair growth, and so on, as well as menstruation.
Our puberty talks are still ongoing as I highlight the changes boys undergo as well, how boys will find her new features attractive, re-emphasize the need for personal grooming and hygiene, especially down there, and entertain her fresh concerns or questions.
She knows why she gets her monthly periods, the process involved in a woman’s monthly circle, including ovulation, and possible reasons she may miss her periods, including pregnancy, and the need to promptly let me know.
2. Peer pressure and saying ‘no’
I’ve shared several stories driving home the possibility of being lured into sex by friends or the need to feel ‘among’, encouraging her to always relate with people who share similar values with her.
We are also discussing ways to relate with boys and be subtle but affirmative while rejecting their advances, as well as precautions to take to prevent sexual abuse, including rape.
3. Possible outcomes/results of sexual intercourse
We’ve discussed how sex makes having babies possible as well as the role played by the man and woman.
I have also tried explaining the various forms of intercourse – vaginal, oral, and anal, what each entails, my views about them and the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases/infections called STDs/STIs, including HIV, which causes the dreaded AIDS.
While I’m strongly encouraging her to abstain from sex, we’ve started discussing the various birth control methods and the cons, including the possibility they may not always prevent pregnancy.
For now, we’re discussing the pill and condoms; both male and female, and she knows condoms only reduce the risk of contracting STDs/STIs.
5. Other sexual expressions apart from intercourse
From kissing, fondling, cuddling, and so on, and how they can create sexual urges and may lure her into having sex, I’m emphasizing the need to decide to wait for the right time as well.
She has asked when the right time would be, and I simply told her when she’s independent enough to properly handle the emotions those activities will trigger as well as other consequences that may arise. I wonder though, if I should have named a particular age – like 18? But I didn’t want to give any license. I didn’t want her to think I would no longer mind if she kissed or had sex at a particular age, and unconsciously start building anticipation.
Some of my friends think I’m giving too much information, but you’d be shocked how much children already know these days, judging by their innocent looks. It’s the Internet age and you don’t know what they’re learning from other sources – from friends at school, to your domestic help and the media. It’s best she hears it all first from me and can freely open up about subsequent independent discoveries.
I try to discuss in bits to avoid overwhelming her with too much information and use lots of illustrative materials to make most of our discussions less vague and more impactful. I keep buying, downloading and printing resources I find useful in this regard.
At the end of the day, as she grows, I know it’s really up to her, and I hope she’ll make the right choices.