The birds and the bees: Break it down for your preteen
Knowledge is power; remember that! As a child nears that delicate age, a parent needs to seize the opportunity to educate him or her about sexuality.
As fun as it is to be a parent and possess a sort of omnipotence over your very own dependent cluster of genes, you have responsibilities, and they're kind of a big deal.
At some point your little baby girl or baby boy will start asking those dreaded questions that turn your legs into electricity conductors and your stomach into a washing machine. Yes, the S-E-X questions. While many parents have designed a solid system of blaming the elusive stork baby-delivery system or resigned the "dirties" for school health classes, the importance of having "the talk" cannot be overlooked. Your child looks up to and trusts you; seize the day before the infernal gates of Teen Years seal behind you. Building up the confidence of your child and and equipping him or her with proper knowledge will help prevent an unwanted pregnancy or an STD later down the road. So suck it up, plan it out, and talk it out.
Get 'em young
Kids are curious creatures; they start asking questions at a very early age. Answering a simple question like "Where do babies come from?" using cushioned but accurate terms will ease the transition to a more comprehensive preteen conversation. For example, you could say to a child who's 6 years old, "The daddy plants a seed in the mommy's tummy." A solid base for a more in-depth discussion a few years later, but it keeps things simple.
Your main objective is to ensure your child is comfortable asking questions — build that trust. Even before they hit the preteen stage, encourage inquiry. Do not dismiss or elude it. Make sure your child knows that being inquisitive is good.
Normalize the subject
It's important to normalize sexuality, as all too often a parent will paint the human body and its innate functions as being shameful or embarrassing because they themselves are too uncomfortable to have a serious discussion about it. This can lead to the development of low self-esteem and confusion, and it puts a distance between you and your child. Talk about genitals and sexuality as natural things, not dirty words.
Remember to stay open. You want your child to come to you for information, not outside sources. This conversation also provides an opportunity to reinforce certain values in your offspring.
Dish out the information
The subject of the birds and the bees is best tackled in stages. While a parent would likely prefer to give an unbearably long lecture and get it over with, overloading your child with too much information and all at once will have less lingering power. It's not a marathon; take it easy.
First off, start with anatomy. Yes, you can pull out that fancy PowerPoint presentation or find those diagrams from your school days in the garage — it doesn't matter what tools you decide to use. Ultimately what you need to do is familiarize your child with the sexual anatomy of both genders. Point things out, and discuss different functions; don't gloss over anything.
Next, empower your child. Sexuality and the nether parts are natural and normal, and though this may sound odd, encourage your child to explore his or her sexual organs. Yes, we are referring to masturbation. Self-pleasuring, if you will, puts your child in the driver's seat. Normalizing the activity ensures they maintain control and don't seek relief from someone else. Creating a positive atmosphere around sexuality will not only build trust but will also boost your child's confidence level.
Have the full talk
Once you've laid the groundwork, it's time for the most uncomfortable discussion: sex itself. Don't freak out! Start by having a game plan to ensure you discuss all aspects, then take it step by step, and answer all questions. Don't exclude the topic of oral sex, as this is what girls are most often pressured into performing at an early age. And of course, don't make sex out to be a forbidden act, and don't leave out the pleasure aspect of it. You need to be honest with your child. This would also be a great opportunity to mention sexual orientations and the differences between them. Do not use puppets; Zeus will smite you for it.
Once the details have been put out there, it's time to talk about consequences. Discuss different methods of contraception and their importance. Touch upon the subject of teen pregnancy, and throw some statistics in there for good measure. Finally, discuss STDs, which are on the rise among teens, a fact your preteen should be aware of. Be objective and as thorough on this topic as you can, because knowledge about these matters is crucial to the health of your child.
Is it too soon?
While it may seem premature to educate your child about activities you believe will take place only far in the future, it isn't. Kids are found to be curious about sex as early as while in middle school, which means they've been thinking about and are aware of the act at an early age. It's important that your child is provided with accurate information from you, not tidbits from a kid who knows a kid whose brother's best friend's neighbour's cousin…
Keep an open mind, and be accessible for questions. Do not read lectures; rather, listen to your child, and be available for emotional support.