It’s the age old parent’s fear and dilemma. When to tell your child the facts of life? My tuppence worth.

Do it earlier than you think advisable, and make sure you do it before someone else gets in first.

Apparently children remember what they were first told and who told them. So as a parent if you miss the opportunity of talking to your child about the birds and the bees, and your child’s best friend passes on their version of the facts in all their gory detail, then that’s what they’ll remember … forever, or at least until their own experience increases their knowledge.

It seems the earlier you tell your child the better it is for both of you. For you it’s easier to explain because young children are less embarrassed by the detail. The older we get the more inhibited we become. The other tip is to stop your chat when your child starts to squirm and doesn’t want to know anymore.

We have a teenage boy, and a 9 year old daughter in the target market. They’ve been told the story and seem comfortable with it.

Invariably the questions come when you least expect them. Although our 9 year old daughter’s inquiry came while on the way to the hospital to visit a family friend who’d just given birth.

As my wife was parking the car, the question came. “Mummy, how did the baby get into the mummy’s tummy?”

So the visit to the friend was delayed 20 minutes while the detail was worked through. Our daughter seemed interested in finding out everything, while we remember our son wanting the basics and that was all as far as he was concerned.

It seems that most boys can only take so much. Once they’ve got the basics they generally say “Too much information.” While girls take in as much detail as they can.

Through the ages there has been an assumption that boys should hear it from their Fathers, but I would suggest that the last person they want to find out embarrassing stuff from is Dad.

They find it excruciating going through that process with “the old man”.

I think it is vitally important these days to prepare your kids for the bombardment of images that they’ll face in their early lives.

In this day and age with the sexualisation of children, particularly girls, on the Television, in Movies and Music Videos, and in Magazines, it is imperative that you start early. The rise of dodgy “role models” like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Brittney Spears, mean you have to be vigilant.

In music videos where scenes are so explicit and the words so raw, children need to be prepared.

It’s hoped girls don’t get confused into thinking the likes of Paris Hilton are role models worth emulating. And it’s important that boys learn to respect women and girls. I would suggest that the best way to teach your son to respect women and girls is to teach him to respect his mother and sisters.

When it comes to sex education, some parents prefer to leave it to the school to provide the information, but if you don’t feel comfortable with that you can find out from the school which year and which term they begin sex education and then you can prepare your child for it, so it’s not a complete shock to them.

It’s also a good idea to try to convince your children not to discuss sex with their friends. In other words you don’t want your child becoming the teacher, sharing this information with friends.

To finish, here are a couple of books that work really well in explaining the issues facing kids in a language that they relate well to.

For girls you can try “Secret Girls’ Business” and for boys, yes you guessed it “Secret Boys’ Business”.

Both books are fun and easy to understand with lots of brightly coloured illustrations. Girls learn about changes that happen at puberty and it’s suitable for those as young as eight years of age.

Secret Boys’ Business should be left in the bedroom of every boy at the same stage. Boys generally need information about their bodies and reassurance that what they are experiencing is normal. There are great tips for parents and teachers too.

So I wish you good luck with this momentous event.

To paraphrase, I guess you could say “it’s one small step for the future of mankind.”

 

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Mark Leishman is the devoted dad to three children- Paddy, Molly and Rosie. His children span 10 years in age so he has plenty of experience in everything from sleepless nights to teenagers.

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