Having the Sex Talk: Is Your Tween Too Sexy Too Soon?
How to have the sex talk with your tween, plus how to handle 5 dilemmas on kids' sexuality
THE DILEMMA: My 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter love listening to music and singing along with the lyrics. But how can I talk to them about sexually explicit lyrics like “bluffin' with my muffin” from Lady Gaga's “Poker Face,” or the “hoes” in rap songs like “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”?
WHAT TO SAY: You can't always control the music your kids hear—and you don't want to always be in a confrontational relationship with them—so the best way to handle it is to start with an open-ended, positive question like “Why do you like this music?” Of course, they'll tell you it's cool or all their friends listen to it, but you need to welcome their opinions so your kids will listen to you when you tell them how you feel about the music, says Dr. Shrier.
Once you've heard them out, say you understand why they like it, then mention your objections. “You can say something like ‘I can see why you like the music, but I don't like the way the singer talks about women,’” says Kilbourne, who herself had a discussion with her daughter about Eminem. You might also point out that many rap artists try to create a tough image for themselves because it helps sell their music, adds Kilbourne. If your kids ask what the lyrics mean, put them in simple, age-appropriate terms they'll understand, such as “‘hoe’ is not a nice way to describe someone,” says Dr. Shrier.
THE DILEMMA: My 10-year-old son feels pressure to ask girls on dates, but I know he's not ready yet.
WHAT TO SAY: Ask your son why he feels that way and what he really wants to do. “Hear him out in a supportive way, then let him know how you feel about dating at a young age,” advises Dr. Shrier. “You might say something like ‘It sounds like you feel you should do this, but it might not be the right choice for you. Your dad and I can help you decide.’” When you talk with your child in a collaborative way, it will help keep the lines of communication open. Find out what “going on a date” means to him. “It's important not to make any assumptions about what he wants to do with a girl,” says Dr. Shrier. He might just want to talk to her. If that's the case, perhaps he can invite a group of friends over and include her.
Scott Costello's mom, Lisa, is worried about her son's popularity. Girls chase the 10-year-old around the playground, and moms tell Costello their daughters are in love with Scott. “Girls call and hang up if he doesn't answer,” says the mother of three from Summit, NJ. “He's only in fourth grade, and this is ridiculous. I feel like the attention he's getting from girls is taking away his innocence.”