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Talking with your school age child about sex

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What kinds of questions your five to nine year old child asks will depend on a variety of factors, including how they are developing intellectually and emotionally, and how you dealt with sex in their earlier years. If a parent is completely unwilling to talk about sex, even if the child stops asking they will raise the issue through their behavior.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers parents some general guidelines about what kinds of questions to expect and what information they consider it important for your child to have at different ages and stages. Here is an overview of what they suggest for children from ages five to nine:

During this time questions about sex, like questions about the rest of the world, will probably become more specific and detailed. Your children will likely be curious about:

  • The details about how and when girls get pregnant
  • Upcoming puberty questions regarding erections, ejaculation, menstruation
  • The mechanics of different sexual behaviors (like intercourse, or explanations for terms they may have heard such as “blow job”
  • Questions about sexual orientation

Five to Seven Years Old

This is an important learning stage where lessons children learn stay with them and become generalized. What they learn during these years may very well have a significant impact on their adult sexual lives. This is the age at which many parents and adult figures shut down children’s natural curiosity and teach them that sex and even their own bodies are something to fear. It is important to help children understand that sexual curiosity is normal and healthy, regardless of how you expect your children to behave in public.

Eight to Nine Years Old

At this age your child may begin to go through changes in preparation for puberty. Children will likely have developed a sense of right and wrong and be curious about how this applies to love and sex. They may also begin to ask direct questions about same sex and opposite sex experiences and relationships. As children are exposed to sexualized media messages and content at a younger and younger age it is important to talk with your children about these messages and begin to teach them about sexual responsibility, and the importance of waiting to engage in sexual behaviors until they are ready. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that at the time your child approaches puberty they should know about the following:
  • The body parts related to sex and their functions
  • How babies are conceived and born
  • Puberty and how the body will change
  • Menstruation (Both boys and girls can benefit from this information.)
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Birth control
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and how they are spread, including HIV and AIDS
  • Masturbation
  • Homosexuality
  • Family and personal guidelines
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