The "birds and the bees" talk for girls: tackling sex education early

  • Age: For All yrs
  • Social Menu
The "birds and the bees" talk for girls: tackling sex education early

Having "the talk" about sex can be nerve-wracking for parents, but doing so early in your daughter’s development may help her better understand the changes in her body without losing body confidence in the process.

Perhaps you’re not sure if you really need to have “the talk” with your girl. After all, she may already be receiving formal sex education through her school. This does help, but it’s only part of the equation. Encouraging open and honest conversations about sex and her sexuality can give you peace of mind that she will be fully informed before she becomes sexually active.

Research by US sexual health body The Guttmacher Institute found that teens who receive early sex education often delay sexual activity and are more likely to use contraceptives when they do become sexually active (Lindberg & Maddow-Zimet, 2012). Further academic research from the Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention shows that girls with lower self-esteem are three times more likely to engage in sexual intercourse (Spencer et al, 2002), underlining the importance of nurturing her confidence during the often turbulent teen years.

The reality of self-taught sex education

Living in today’s technological age, arming your daughter with accurate and ample information is imperative. A 2013 report commissioned by the Children’s Commissioner for England, titled "Basically… porn is everywhere," examined the impact pornography has on young people and reported, "there is growing evidence that indicates that young people are unhappy with the sex education they are receiving and that they increasingly use pornography, expecting it to educate and give information regarding sexual practices and norms." 

Parenting and sexual health expert Amy Lang explains: "The reality is most children will see internet pornography before they start middle school (around age 12). The long-term problem with children and teens viewing porn is they are incorporating what they are learning into their developing brains and their developing sense of their own sexuality. This can lead to self-esteem problems because kids think porn stars have real, normal bodies and are having real, normal sex."

A comprehensive review of existing research illustrates a link between teens’ exposure to pornography and their sexual beliefs. Pornography can reinforce stereotypical roles of men (in charge) and women (submissive), increase the sexual objectification of females, create unrealistic expectations of sexual behavior and lead to body insecurity in women (Owens et al, 2012).

The easy accessibility of porn (intentional or accidental) normalizes atypical depictions of sex and women's bodies, which means it's important that you raise the issue of porn and explain how it distorts what sex is really like.

How to give "the talk" about the "birds and the bees"

Some parents choose to open a dialogue about sex with their children at a very young age, reducing the pressure of raising the issue when kids are older. But if you have held off having "the talk," know that you are one of many parents. You may not have received much sex education when you were growing up, leaving you lacking a model to follow. Or, you might feel awkward or embarrassed broaching the topic with your rapidly growing "baby girl." Don’t stress. You can start the discussion in various ways

Amy Lang suggests the following: "One of the best ways to start a conversation with a teen about sex is actually to ask them about somebody else's sex life. You can say, 'Hey, do you know anyone who is sexually active?' and see what they say. You want your kids to know that you're interested but you’re not super-pushy – especially if you have not been talking to them about sexuality for years."

While it might frighten you to imagine your daughter being sexually active, remember that it's completely normal for her to be curious about sexuality. Ask her if she has any questions. If you don't know the answer, be honest and tell her you'll find out. But don’t end the conversation there. Use it as a starting point for deeper discussion. 

Teachable moments about sex and sexuality happen all the time in music videos, TV series, movies and advertisements. Launch a conversation based on something you're watching together. And instead of stating your opinion outright, ask open-ended questions and give her the lead. For example, if a teenage character in a TV series is considering having sex for the first time, ask your daughter what sort of advice she would give the character. Or, open up a conversation about what differences she notices in how men and women are portrayed sexually in music videos and what feelings it evokes. Be sure your version of “the talk” is not a one-off but rather one conversation of many. 

Author: Sharon Haywood, health/body image activist and writer

Sex education resources you can share with your daughter

Although the internet is rife with misinformation and harmful stereotypes, there are several sites that contain accurate and helpful sex education resources to help you talk about sex with your daughter. If you want further information, review the following websites with your daughter, or pass them along to her to read on her own:

  • Scarleteen has been one of the top go-to sex-education websites for teens since 1998. In addition to comprehensive coverage of sexual health topics, it also offers information and support for teens who may be questioning their sexual orientation or identity. 
  • Sex, Etc. is a rich online resource "by teens, for teens" that reaches five million young people annually. It can be helpful for your daughter to have other reliable people to talk to, and Sex, Etc. also runs a forum moderated by adult sex-education experts. Additionally, the site boasts a glossary of more than 400 sex terms that can help both you and your daughter be "in the know."
  • Planned Parenthood provides a section just for teens that provides a wealth of information on a wide variety of sex-related topics, from dating to pregnancy to masturbation.
  • Teen Source, a project of the California Family Health Council, has been in effect since 2001 and offers extensive sexual and reproductive health information for people 13–24 years of age.

What next: action steps to help your daughter learn about sexual relationships

  • Encourage body confidence by having shame-free discussions. For example, using the proper terminology for "private" parts implies that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. 
  • If you are worried she might accidentally encounter porn on the internet, install filtering and/or blocking software on her computer and mobile devices. Such methods aren’t 100% foolproof, so back it up with discussions of what material you think is appropriate for her to be viewing and why.
  • Be careful not to assume that your daughter is heterosexual. Discuss sexuality as it applies to both straightand gay sex. If she is struggling with her sexual orientation, having this discussion can help her feel safe in opening up.
  • Don't limit your discussions to just the mechanics of sex and contraception. Explore other topics such as masturbation, STDs/STIs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Sexually Transmitted Infections), oral sex, healthy relationships and sexual orientation and identity. It's worth doing some research first.
  • As a parent, you want to instill strong values in your children but take care not to assume a judgemental attitude when you talk about sex. If you want to keep the lines of communication open, she should feel confident that you’ll support her in her choices — even if they don’t completely coincide with your preferences.
  • Bring up the topic of sexting. Ask her if she knows of anyone who has engaged in it, and then, explore why people do it and the risks it carries. 

Action checklist:
Sex education resources you can share with your daughter

Although the internet is rife with misinformation and harmful stereotypes, there are several sites that contain accurate and helpful sex education resources to help you talk about sex with your daughter. If you want further information, review the following websites with your daughter, or pass them along to her to read on her own:

  • Scarleteen has been one of the top go-to sex-education websites for teens since 1998. In addition to comprehensive coverage of sexual health topics, it also offers information and support for teens who may be questioning their sexual orientation or identity. 
  • Sex, Etc. is a rich online resource "by teens, for teens" that reaches five million young people annually. It can be helpful for your daughter to have other reliable people to talk to, and Sex, Etc. also runs a forum moderated by adult sex-education experts. Additionally, the site boasts a glossary of more than 400 sex terms that can help both you and your daughter be "in the know."
  • Planned Parenthood provides a section just for teens that provides a wealth of information on a wide variety of sex-related topics, from dating to pregnancy to masturbation.
  • Teen Source, a project of the California Family Health Council, has been in effect since 2001 and offers extensive sexual and reproductive health information for people 13–24 years of age.

What next:What next: action steps to help your daughter learn about sexual relationships

  • Encourage body confidence by having shame-free discussions. For example, using the proper terminology for "private" parts implies that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. 
  • If you are worried she might accidentally encounter porn on the internet, install filtering and/or blocking software on her computer and mobile devices. Such methods aren’t 100% foolproof, so back it up with discussions of what material you think is appropriate for her to be viewing and why.
  • Be careful not to assume that your daughter is heterosexual. Discuss sexuality as it applies to both straightand gay sex. If she is struggling with her sexual orientation, having this discussion can help her feel safe in opening up.
  • Don't limit your discussions to just the mechanics of sex and contraception. Explore other topics such as masturbation, STDs/STIs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Sexually Transmitted Infections), oral sex, healthy relationships and sexual orientation and identity. It's worth doing some research first.
  • As a parent, you want to instill strong values in your children but take care not to assume a judgemental attitude when you talk about sex. If you want to keep the lines of communication open, she should feel confident that you’ll support her in her choices — even if they don’t completely coincide with your preferences.
  • Bring up the topic of sexting. Ask her if she knows of anyone who has engaged in it, and then, explore why people do it and the risks it carries. 
undefined undefined undefined undefined undefined undefined undefined

Tags

 

All comments (0)

Add your comments

 

© 2017 Unilever

This web site is directed only to U.S. consumers for products and services of Unilever United States. This web site is not directed to consumers outside of the U.S.