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Help for parents struggling to talk to kids about sex

June 02, 2006|by LISA PREJEAN

We were driving to school earlier this week when my 7-year-old daughter asked one of those difficult questions.

She was gazing out the window and noticed the construction workers who were building a new home in our neighborhood.

"Mommy, those men don't have any shirts on."

I nodded and said they probably took their shirts off because they were hot.

"Yeah, Daddy sometimes does that when he's working around our house."

I gave her another nod. "Yes, boys and men do that sometimes."

She thought about that for a while. Then she innocently inquired, "But Mommy, why don't girls do that?"

I explained that we're made differently. There are special parts of a Mommy's body that are designed to feed a baby. We cover these parts because it is considered modest to do so. We keep certain parts of our bodies private. We don't let other people see them.

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"I still don't get it. Boys should do that, too," she said.

I smiled. Helping children to realize that boys and girls are different is one of those parenting subjects that we all want to handle delicately. It's also a precursor to the conversations we'll face with preteens about their changing bodies and their attraction to the opposite sex.

I've followed the discussions about the high teen pregnancy rate in our area. There seems to be an overriding theme. Parents want to talk to their kids about sex but they don't know how or they don't know where to begin.

Talking to children about sex is a process that begins early and evolves over time. Discussions begin when a parent is willing to answer a child's questions with age-appropriate factual information in a matter-of-fact way. We should express our beliefs, but we shouldn't allow our beliefs to prevent us from providing the information that children need in order to understand how their bodies work.

Questions typically surface when a new baby comes into the home.

I've used two books to explain conception to my daughter and my son, who is 11:

"How Did God Make Me? The Miracle of Birth" by Matt and Lisa Jacobson. This includes photographs of an unborn child at various stages inside the mother's womb. The book explains that the baby was conceived with a part from the mommy and a part from the daddy.

"What's He Doing Now?" by Patti Farmer and Janet Wilson. A little boy eagerly awaits the birth of his little sister with lots of questions for his parents.

As children get older, they will want to know about the changes in their bodies. Girls might want to read "Period. A Girl's Guide" by JoAnn Loulan and Bonnie Worthen.

Both boys and girls should read, "Passion and Purity" by Elisabeth Elliot, who gives direction on dating, what to look for in a mate and relationship roles.

As my children grow older and we discover more books on this topic, I'll share them with you. Perhaps you've found some books that would be helpful to other parents, if so, e-mail me and I'll share your comments in this column.

For the last two weeks, I've been sharing the clues I've given my fifth-graders in our classroom President of the Day contest. Here are the final clues:

1. I was the first Catholic to be elected president.

I was an "idealist without illusions."

Jackie married me.

2. Before becoming a public official, I served as a Navy pilot in World War II.

My son became president.

Another son is governor of Florida.

3. My middle initial doesn't stand for anything because my parents couldn't decide between Shipp or Solomon, my grandfathers' names.

During my presidency, the 22nd amendment to the Constitution was ratified. It stated that no person can be elected president more than twice.

I decided to drop two atomic bombs on Japan, ending World War II.

4. I led allied forces to victory in Europe during World War II.

My nickname was Ike.

Richard Nixon was my vice president.

5. During my presidency, America celebrated the bicentennial of its founding.

I was the first person to step into the presidency without being elected as either president or vice president.

I survived two assassination attempts.

6. My wife is a former librarian.

I won one of the closest presidential races in history.

My daughters are twins.

7. I was sometimes called "Landslide Lyndon."

My "Great Society" plan included medical insurance for the poor and elderly.

I supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Answers:

1. John F. Kennedy

2. George H.W. Bush

3. Harry S Truman

4. Dwight D. Eisenhower

5. Gerald Ford

6. George W. Bush

7. Lyndon B. Johnson




Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. E-mail her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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