My 10-year-old daughter French kissed her 11-year-old boyfriend. I’m certain they went further, but she won’t admit it. I thought we were close and she would tell me anything, but obviously things are going further than I expected when she’s home from school and I’m still at work. For the time being, this boy is not allowed at our home unless I am here. But I need to talk to my daughter about sex. Can you give me some tips?
Forget about “the talk”—that one-time-only, oh-so-awkward attempt at dialogue about sexual intercourse. Instead, commit to a series of planned conversations about healthy relationships, emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy. Initiate impromptu chats inspired by the behavior of characters in the TV shows, movies or songs that you enjoy together, too. Spontaneous teaching moments help your daughter develop the critical thinking skills necessary for good relationship decisions. Eventually, she will realize that feelings are only one source of information to use when evaluating life-determining choices.
Of course, conversation is useless if you don’t have honest definitions, so here goes: Sex is a range of activities that elicit arousal and can lead to orgasm. It begins with French kissing, extends to sexual intercourse and includes everything in between. But avoid scare tactics. Kids aren’t that worried about contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Advertising teaches that a daily pill suppresses, for example, the herpes virus—so kids imagine no threat. The possibility of pregnancy is not a huge deterrent, either, because they either fantasize about being loved by a baby or they dream that a baby means a forever connection to the girl or boy they “love.” Many have also been taught that abortion is an easy answer to an unwanted pregnancy and don’t understand the physical, emotional and spiritual consequences.
It’s your privilege to educate your daughter in the truth. Focus on helping her to understand how to have a healthy romantic relationship. Teach her how to establish and maintain boundaries, value honesty and trust, and to respect her body and how it works. Remind her that girls often give sex in order to solicit and maintain attention from boys, and boys often give attention to get sex. Help her to see that girls translate that attention as love. Teach her the difference between love and infatuation so she realizes that sex and love are not always simpatico. Lather, rinse, repeat the message. She has to understand how and why our culture markets certain messages before she can accept what you are telling her about love and sex.
Your daughter’s boyfriend needs education, too. Boys need to learn that the media-promoted “Did you get some?” mentality damages them and the girls they date by driving them into sex-centered, rather than love-centered relationships. The “boys will be boys” excuse absolves boys of responsibility, which sickens society. So does the belief that it is sufficient to buy a box of condoms, hand it to your son and call it sex education. Parents should never dismiss behavior as “raging hormones,” either. At a time when you want your son or daughter to understand that they can make good decisions, why would you tell them they are victims of hormones?
One last thing, if you have stumbled through bad romantic relationships (haven’t we all?), get help to process your problems so you can be direct and truthful with your daughter. If you tell her one thing but practice another, you can be sure that she will imitate the behavior, not heed your words.