How to talk to my teenage daughter about puberty, sex and precautions?
Yes, I am a parent and I fully understand your thoughts on whether or not to talk about SEX and precautions with your daughter. Believe me, the time has gone about wondering whether to talk about it or not, the time has come to accept, yes accept and embrace the fact while equipping yourself with the best help available and taking action.
Most children even in India explore their bodies and other children’s bodies while roleplaying at a younger age (much before they turn teens). They may not do the “act” but they are smart enough not to mention these episodes with cousins or friends to their parents. I am talking here about kids as young as four or five years, so let us not assume that our children will not need to know about having urges, different touches and safe sex before marriage. Sorry to say even pre-marriage counselling is avoided in our country when we ASSUME that kids who we never talked about these issues must have miraculously gained the wisdom about them.
Also, let us not fool ourselves about the number of illegal abortions that happen in our country, most of them because either the parties were unaware of using protection or too shy to buy it. I know I am being brutal here, but someone will have to be brutally honest and I feel very strongly about this cause. I am sorry to see educated, open parents who treat their children with a lot of respect also cringe at the thought of sex talks with their children.
So, what are the first few questions in your mind? I hope I already answered the whether or not question. The next one is mostly: Who will talk to the child? As this article is solely written for daughters, most often mothers will have to be the ones doing the actual talking. But fathers please don’t shy away from your responsibility; you will have to be the motivator for the mom. It is advisable to make some points together as parents about what you wish to convey, objectivity really helps reducing the awkwardness. In rare cases where one of the parents is unavailable, the other has to assume the whole responsibility rather than playing the victim card.
When should I talk to my child? Since I said teens, some parents would love to wait till 19, sorry that won’t work. The answer is : earlier the better. Puberty is arriving earlier in children and hence the urges and bodily changes will too. We cannot expect a girl to start her menstruation cycles, grow new body hair etc. but not have curiosity and not feel attracted to the opposite sex (or in some case the same sex).
Experts believe children as young as 3 years should be taught about good and bad touch since a lot of children get touched inappropriately at a very young age by cousins or relatives. Talking about basics of having a child, making love can start from 7 years of age. Kids already know that children don’t come from hospitals miraculously. In my personal opinion( which is also shared by a lot of experts and psychologists), parents should talk about “the birds and Bees” once a girl is 9 years of age. Why do I stress on the girl child here? Because I see a need for the girl to understand her body first, she should be aware of the facts of what could happen to her if someone touches her. Knowledge will surely empower her.
It is observed that kids who have an open dialogue about sex, pregnancy and contraception with parents wait longer to have sex.
So, even if as a parent we make the above statement the sole reason of talking the talk, we should do it. Don’t we wish for them to wait? To do it with the right person, at the right age, rather that doing it with just anyone out of curiosity?
The biggest question of all: What do we say exactly?
- Do not assume any prior knowledge: First tip for parents (I know it is hard) do not assume they know this and they know that and start from the middle. Please begin at the beginning. I remember a girl who was in her twenties who believed one can have children by kissing.
- Use right words: Gone are the times to use slang words for these conversations. Kids get confused why a nose is called “nose” and penis has to be called “peepee” or “lala” or whatever. Please name the body parts properly.
- Write your points down: This step will really really help you. It will take some of the awkwardness away. I love the idea of ticking each one out once you talk about it, you will feel your burden dropping after each one.
- Use graphics: Am I mad? No, believe me I have seen girls get second and third thoughts about doing something which is not age appropriate if they see simple graphics of how a baby sits in a mother’s womb. I am not advising to use gross graphics here, just some basics.
- Get some books: There are some beautiful books that kids can read on their own about these topics, mention that they are free to come with you for any queries. This link has a wonderful list of books on puberty and sex talks. (https://www.thebetterindia.com/53187/11-books-sex-ed-puberty-teens-kids-indian/)
I am providing a basic worksheet below for the TALK. Please feel free to print and make it your own and use it. Hope this article encourages you to talk to your child freely about such topics. May you have the required courage ! Please feel free to post your questions in comments below.
The author of this article, Kshama Dudpuri is an enthusiastic reader and writer,education and parenting influencer, founder of POISE7 and wants to bring a change in the compassion meter in this world.