The Family Project: Facts of life talk ongoing with children
Q. What age is the best time to talk to my children about the facts of life and sex? I have a boy, 14, and a girl. 9, and they seem to know more than I think they should at their ages.
If the mother thinks her children know more than they should, panelist Chad Stefanyak said, they probably do.
“They are at an age where they have gotten or are getting information about sex from school. It starts in about fourth or fifth grade,” said Stefanyak.
“A 14-year-old boy already has a lot of information,” panelist Joanne Raftas agreed, adding. “These conversations with children should be had throughout their lives, not just at a certain age.”
After suggesting that the 14-year-old and nine-year-old be talked to separately, Raftas said the conversation should be about more than just biology.
“It should also be about the emotional part, and the decision-making aspects of sex,” said Raftas.
While she said she doesn’t mind the biological aspects being taught in the schools, panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo said decision-making needs to be discussed by families “according to their own values and principles.”
Panelist Pam Wallace noted that it is difficult for some parents to talk about sex.
“Schools provide information the children might not get at home,” said Wallace.
Wallace agreed with Raftas that the topic is something that should be discussed at an early age.
“Use the correct body terms, and answer any questions simply, based on the age of the child. As they get older, parents can give them more information as needed,” Wallace said.
It is important to find out what the children already know, or think they know, panelist Erin Stalsitz said.
“Start the discussion from there,” said Stalsitz.
Raftas asked whether the mother wanted to talk about sex or whether or not to have sex.
“The mother has to decide depending on the maturity of her children, and she needs to consider that the maturity of nine-year-olds and 14-year-olds differ greatly from family to family,” said Raftas.
“The question is about sex, but much more than that,” Stefanyak said, “It should be about discussing how to handle situations of peer pressure, and where drinking and drugs might be involved in the decision-making.”
The discussion should be ongoing because if children are curious about something, they are going to get information somewhere, Stefanyak said, adding, “Mom has to decide whether she wants her children to get the information from her or from the internet or a classmate.”
This week’s panelists are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh Children & Youth; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, educator and former school administrator; Joanne Raftas, Psychotherapist, and Chad Stefanyak, school counselor.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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