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Talking About Love, Relationships and 'Sexy and I Know It' With Your Kids

Patch users and local experts weigh in with advice of all kinds.

Does your 8-year-old sing along with “Sexy and I Know It”? Does your 10-year-old and his friends play Tomb Raider just for the, uh, visuals?

It’s easy for elementary-age children and tweens to get confusing messages about love, sex and relationships — Sunday School offers one perspective and “Glee” the opposite.  How do you help children straighten it all out?

We sought advice from Patch’s Facebook army and professional experts, and browsed the web for more. The wisdom took all forms and here is the best of it.

  • Share your own advice for talking to your kids in the Comments section below

Kristin Hasbrook is a counselor at Hamilton High School in Sussex. She conducts a “Love and Logic” program that provides regular discussion on best-practice parenting techniques.

“Every age and every child and every temperament and every maturity level is different,” she said. “The standard line is, answer the question the child asks. If they ask what does this mean, answer in the most simplistic terms."

Joy Hartman, a counselor at Clinical Psychology Associates in Menomonee Falls, offered a tip for dealing with the ambitious young person who refers to a classmate as “sexy.”

“A good starting point is to ask, ‘What does sexy mean?’ in a curious tone,” she said. “Once you hear your child's definition you will know better how to respond. If they respond that the classmate is ‘pretty,” then a simple explanation (is) that the word ‘sexy’ is really an adult word or not a word you like , and then emphasize alternative words.  Perhaps they are drawn to their creativity, academic abilities, sense of humor, kindness, or confidence.

“If your child has a greater understanding of the word, it is a good time to talk about sex, your family’s values about sex and open yourself to questions they may have.”

Another Brookfield Patch Facebook follower, Samantha Brojanac, employed a practical-but-less-fuzzy approach with a pre-teen son: “We taught the son (now 30) about love and relationships by teaching him math. ... What is 17% of your paycheck ... keep it zipped. What is 25% (second mistake) keep it zipped.”

Online Resources

A survey at KidsHealth.org found that most pre-teens are highly embarrassed by the concept of “being liked.” Learn more about what they had to say.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology offers some ideas for the “sex talk,” though Hasbrook suggests to parents not to turn it into a ceremony.

“We really try to shy away from ‘the talk,’ because that puts a lot of emphasis on something that should be a normal and natural conversation,” she said.

Sofia Reino February 09, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Very good and important topic. Perhaps due to the fact I was brought up in Europe where in general we are more open about our own bodies and the types of talks a family has, I have always tried to be pretty open with my older daughter since she was very young. Every question she would ask I would give her an "adult" answer. I know that when she was just a toddler or even already in Elementary school she would not understand everything I would tell her, but I would always tell her she could keep on asking questions and little by little she would understand more. I always used the music, the shows she would listen to as good starting points to talk about it. I would ask her if she understood the words, the meanings. We do not have taboo topics. Conversations come in a very natural way, much as asking how her day at school was. We talk about our own experiences and so on. In terms of sex I always told her it is something she has to think a lot about when she "thinks" she is ready. Much as what she would write on her facebook account. Meaning, are you sure you want to share something on your post that in 3 month a year down the road you wished you had not? Then you know you should not write it. We talk about clothing, the difference between perception and reality, how by wearing certain clothes one is sending out a message which may not be the reality. Till now it seems she has been on the right track for a teen and thankfully still very open to talk and ask me questions.
Andy Ambrosius February 09, 2012 at 06:28 PM
To me, this is perfect parenting. Good job.

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