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by Louise Hajjar Diamond

The other day, I overheard two of my sixth grade students describing a classmate as sexy.ö For a moment, I must admit, I actually thought to myself, Does the word sexy really belong in childhood?ö I thought, Is it healthy for children to be describing other children as sexy?ö Then I remembered being their age in the 1970ís and being exposed to sexual images on television, movies, and music. Then of course I realized that my studentsí use of word sexyö could have been consequences of our increasing sexual culture, peers, and not to mention, hormones.


Our preteens are constantly soaking up what the media is selling us. Most of them do not have the sophistication to understand that dressing and talking provocatively could land them in a dangerous situation. Kids need to be taught that itís not all right to put their hands on someone else without their consent. They may also need to be shown that it can be a good thing to say, No.ö Getting touched inappropriately isnít a necessary part of growing up. Perhaps some things have improved since the 1970ís.


Personally, as a guidance counselor and a parent, I wish that the media would take its audience into consideration and be more responsible when promoting sex to kids. We are not only combating TV, movies, and music; we have added the Internet to the mix.

Some preteens actually believe that there is such a thing as safe sex.ö Unfortunately, the reality is some middle school students are sexually active and some do become parents prior to entering high school. What can we do as parents and educators to increase human dignity and sexual responsibility? How can we encourage preteens to enjoy these years as kids instead of becoming sexually active and growing up too soon? How can we protect our kids from being victims of othersí sexuality?

First, we need to remember that sexuality is part of life and an integral part of being human. To ignore or avoid sexual issues with our kids can be as harmful as teaching them incorrect information. Integrate sexual topics in normal everyday conversation with your kids. This should begin in early childhood and continue into the teen years. Many middle school students donít really understand all the consequences of sex. Tell your kids about all the physical, emotional, and social consequences about becoming sexually active. Make sure they understand the facts about pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases as well as the impact on their emotions and reputations if they chose to become sexually active. 

Itís beneficial for kids to learn the facts about menstruation and reproduction from their parents long before they are interested in sexual things. Boys and girls should learn about changes to expect in their bodies before these changes will occur. Both boys and girls need to learn to respect each other and be sensitive to each other feelings. Make sure your kids know that they can always come to you if they have questions or need to talk.

Naturally, kids have many questions. Most schools offer lessons in human sexuality with parental consent, but these classes are usually offered at certain times of the year. Often they are taught as separate units and not revisited throughout the year. Although these academic lessons are helpful, it is best when they are received only to supplement what the students have already been taught by their parents. Listen to your kids and answer their questions. If you need assistance with factual information, use a book or a website as a resource. There is a limit as to what school are permitted to teach on this topic. Let your kids know your values and your hopes for their future. Reassure them that their feelings, concerns and questions are normal and expected. Encourage them to come to you instead of relying on information form their peers. Remember to always validate their feelings. It may have taken a lot of courage on their part to talk to you about sexual topics.

Kids learn the most from what their parentís do, not what they say. This aspect of parenting is heightened during adolescence as preteens are struggling with forming their own values and identity. When kids see their parents do something irresponsible, they may react in different ways. Depending on their age, personality, and life experiences, kids may react to their parentís behavior with confusion, anger, or acting out. Some may seem unaffected but may imitate the behavior without the maturity of an adult. As parents we are constantly making choices and decisions that will best effect our kids. Modeling the behavior we want for our kids, may be one of those choices. This may also include teaching and modeling tolerance and understanding for those who are different from us. Teach them through your words and actions about the fundamentals of respect.


Talk to your children about appropriate, social sexual behavior. Teach your sons and daughters about sexual harassment. Children just entering adolescence need to be taught about sexual harassment and how to avoid potentially problematic situations both in and out of school. Sexual harassment is unwanted, repeated, sexual comments or touching. Tell your preteens to respect others and to recognize disrespect towards them. This may include teasing, name-calling, and unwanted touching. They should be aware that when they are not with you, there is safety in numbers. Tell them about the warning signs of adult predators when your children are out in public without you. Again, we canít assume that kids will understand what is socially acceptable behavior and what is inappropriate.

It is our sincere hope as parents, that our kids will make it through adolescence with no or few scars, physical or emotional. As we all know, there are no guarantees in parenting. Open and honest communication is one way to help kids to make responsible and healthy choices throughout their preteen and teen years. Listening and acknowledging their questions and concerns is crucial for kids to realize their parents experienced similar growing pains when they were young.


(Louise Hajjar Diamond is a guidance counselor, freelance writer and mother of two. To reprint this article, e-mail her at weazer@sprynet.com.)



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