Have you noticed that you preteen/teen may be spending more time in the bathroom, have their music turned up loud, you’ve discovered pornography in their online search history or asking for more privacy? Your child may be masturbating, and may not want you to find out about it. So what do you do? First of all RELAX, this is perfectly normal behavior for your preteen/teen to engage in. Next take the time to do some self reflection, how do you feel about masturbation, what were you taught (if anything) about masturbating at this same age, how do you want your preteen/teen to view masturbation? Would this be an acceptable alternative to have sexual intercourse? If you feel comfortable about it, have an open, honest, candid conversation with them while you and your preteen/teen are both in a relaxed stated to reduce the tension in the air. You may not have to come out and ask them if they are engaging in masturbation, but talk to them as their parent, about your views. Be careful not to shame your preteen/teen, but instead instill rules and boundaries about where they can and cannot have their ‘private time’. Depending on their age and what you and your preteen/teen have already talked about previously, it may be a good time to ask them other questions about their sexual history. If they have been watching pornography, address it. Explain that pornography is not safe for them to watch and that there may be consequences if it keeps happening. This can also be a good opportunity to reinforce the value and beliefs you want your preteen/teen to learn from you about sex, whether it be abstinence until marriage, or safe/healthy sexual practices.
If you do not feel comfortable having this conversation, ask yourself why this may be difficult for you to address at this time? If you find that having this conversation may be more harmful than good, to you or your preteen/teen, maybe you can turn to another adult family member, or friend, you trust and your preteen/teen trust to have the conversation with them for you. Children, at any age, want to feel validated by their parents. They care about what you think about them, so consider this a sensitive subject to address with them. Use this time to affirm your love for them, and your desire for them to succeed to become healthy happy adults. Once again RELAX, yes your child is growing up, but that’s why they have you, as their parent(s), to guide them.
Tia Evans, MSW, LCSWA Sex Therapist
I remember riding with my mom on a bright Saturday morning I was about 10 or 11 I turned to her and said. “When are we gonna have the talk?” She looked shocked that I had asked her that so randomly. She proceeded to say, sex is when a man puts his penis into a woman vagina and its also called making love. That was THE talk. About two days later she brings me this book entitled Almost 12 by Kenneth Taylor. She told me to read it then ask questions when I was done……. So basically at 10 I’m supposed to teach myself about sex through reading? Right, but I did I read it. And I begin to use all these new vocabulary words with my friends at school!! Almost 12 teaches adolescent tweens about sex from a Christian point of view. It is supposed to supplement “The Talk”, but not be it!!! At that age it was very informative, but the experience was unbelievable. 4 or 5 years later I would be losing my virginity to a guy Id only known for a month because he told me I was beautiful….. I say all this to say parents, YES that conversation is hard YES, you may be opening your children’s eyes to a whole new world, but that’s you job to lead you child in the direction you want them to go. You want your baby girl or boy to say no if they feel pressured to have sex, you want them to use condoms if they decide they do want to have sex. NO you are not consenting your tween/teen to go have sex, but you are educating them that if they do decide to do so, to please be careful and responsible!!! If you do not teach your child about sex they will learn from someone else, and when you don’t know facts from fiction, especially as a child its easy to spread false information (just like a STD). The talk will not be easy, so I suggest you practice it and let the child’s other parent(s) know that its time. Don’t just shove a book into their hands. Be open and willing to hear those adult questions come from your baby, because I promise you they will appreciate it in the long run. Also it doesn’t hurt to start early. I’m not saying tell your 3 year old about what sex is, but saying things like these are your no no places when he or she is getting dressed in the morning, or things like “The places we have to cover up when we go swimming, should always be covered up”. Don’t underestimate your kids because children are soooo smart. If you don’t talk to your children about sex, the wrong person will.
Tia Evans, MSW