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How to Talk to Your Tween about Sex

by Deborah Cruz

Have you been struggling with how to talk to your tween about sex? Me, too. At what age did you have “the talk”? I mean we’ve talked about puberty. In fact, we’ve talked puberty to death. It’s old news. They both know so much about the inner workings of the female reproductive system that they could probably teach a class. But we’ve not quite made the leap to …you put the penis in the vagina and do that thang. I’ve been mulling this idea over for years, waiting for the right moment. I just haven’t been ready to see the innocence disappear from her eyes.

I told my tween that she and I would have “the talk” before she turns 12. In a culture where Teen Mom is a show that makes celebrities, I want my daughter to know babies are a lot or work and where those babies come from. She wants nothing to do with that conversation. Boys are not even on her radar yet. She is still pretty happy with unicorns, slumber parties and playing with dolls but I don’t want her getting misinformation about sex from other kids. I promised myself I’d talk to my tween about sex before she was 12 and now, I have less than a month, people.

Fool that I am, I made plans. The universe laughed at me and then life intervened. Now, I’m binge-reading all the articles on how to talk to your tween about sex because a teachable moment has arisen. No, before any of you have a stroke, it has nothing to do with her and sex. It’s more of a collateral damage situation.

But how to talk to your tween about sex is not an easy thing to figure out. It has to be the perfect balance of honesty, openness and availability.

The conversation has to be had with every child and no nervous giggling or embarrassment is allowed on the parents part. We have to be a source of information and comfort. They have to believe we know what we’re talking about and not be afraid to ask questions.

Last Tuesday was Valentine’s Day, I’m sure you know where this is going, and let’s just say the Big Guy and I were feeling particularly amorous. Him and all his damn romantic gestures. Anyways, apparently, we actually made some noise. We usually use our inside voices because, you know, KIDS! (TMI, I’m sorry.)

My 11-year-old had the misfortune of getting up to pee at the wrong time and now, we all need therapy. It’s all giving me flashbacks to the time when she was a toddler and she caught us “wrestling”. If these kids would JUST STAY IN THEIR BEDS. (Sidebar, just say no to co-sleeping this is what got us to where we are today. I jest, sorta.)

The thing is the tween is very mature in many ways but very immature in other ways. She’s at that age where she’s beginning to look like a young woman but her brain is not quite there yet. She’s caught somewhere between working her eye roll and still coming in for snuggles and mama cuddles on the regular.

Either way, you’ve got to figure out how to talk to your tween about sex sooner or later.

Anyways, to be clear, I was not howling at the moon or anything like that but when you are a kid and you hear anything coming from your parents’ bedroom other than snoring, you are instantly disgusted. We had no idea any of this took place until the following morning. We thought they were asleep.

All I know was that she got up on Wednesday morning particularly annoyed for no particular reason, as far as I was aware. I just took it for regular tween behavior. Honestly, one minute she’s being all tweeny and the next she is playing American Girl dolls with her little sister. I can’t keep up. She is a fantastic kid. She’s just a bit moody these days. I get it. I’ve been there. I am sympathetic.

But after school, I asked her point blank how her day was. Her answer was,

“It would have been fine if I had gotten more than 3 hours of sleep last night!”

I volleyed back with my standard,

“Well if you went to sleep at your bedtime instead of staying up messing around on your tablet or playing Barbies, you wouldn’t be so exhausted and grouchy.”

Big mistake.

To which she responded,

“No, mom I only got 3-hours of sleep because of you and dad!”

And with that, her lip curled and I could see the disgust. Suddenly, I felt like I was in that commercial back in the 70’s where the kid does the really shitty behavior, I think it was drugs or something, and says, “I learned it from you, dad!” It was that bam! You are to blame.

My next question, the one I wish I had never asked, “What is that supposed to mean? How is this our fault?” I was a little annoyed because I am not, in fact, to blame for everything.

The answer I didn’t want to hear,

“Well, I had to pee and when I got up I heard your “weird noises” coming from the bedroom AND my sleep pillow and FIFI were held hostage in there! How am I supposed to sleep without them and after hearing THAT!!!!!”

There it was. Firstly, I was a little embarrassed that she heard anything so I did what any sane mom would do, I told her that it was her dad. My second thought was, “Oh no, we traumatized her!” I finally did it. I irrevocably damaged my kid. I have to start saving for the therapy.

Then, I thought to myself, this “tween” who pushes me and pulls me back so much on a daily basis that I don’t know if I’m coming or going had purposely left her snuggle pillow and lovey in my room so that she could sneak in there in the middle of the night to sleep. Oh yeah, she still does that occasionally. I’m not complaining but she does bear some responsibility in all of this.I’m not going to lie. I was pretty embarrassed. I don’t get embarrassed but we were both red in the face. Then I sucked it up and said,

“Hey, I know it was uncomfortable to hear whatever you heard but we’re married and we love each other. This is what people who are married and in love do to share physical intimacy. It’s completely natural!”

Then I decided to add, “Besides, isn’t it better to hear “that” than your father and I screaming how much we hate each other behind those doors?”

To which she agreed. Then she looked at her little sister, her voice went down near a whisper and she said,

“But I didn’t want to hear you DOING.IT!”

Then, I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

My response, “Firstly, we never saying “doing it” ever again. It’s called “making love.””

Because hearing my 11-year-old say “doing it” in reference to her father and I, skeeved me out. Of course, hearing myself say, “making love” out loud was nearly as creepy. So we decided to just agree that when the bedroom door is shut, we’re probably together not sleeping. I told her if it really bothered her, I could buy her ear plugs. She was mortified but swiftly answered,

“Yes, please!”

Boundaries were set.

If the bedroom door is shut, stay out. I considered getting one of those old license plates that said, “If the bedroom’s a rockin, don’t bother knockin” and hanging it on our door but I thought it was probably still too soon for that joke.

We still have to have “the talk” but I’m pretty sure she knows what’s going on. I also feel like I need to add a disclaimer to our talk that when she has sex for the first time, what she heard will probably not be what will be happening because, you know, teenage boys are bumbling idiots.

But what am I going to do, tell her to sleep with older men if she wants it to be worth her time? Nope, I’ll just let her suffer through crappy first-time sex like the rest of us besides, after all that eye rolling shade she’s been throwing my way lately, an awkward first time when she’s at college is just what the doctor ordered. Shhh, don’t tell me otherwise. College is my story and I’m sticking to it.

Anyways, I’ve still got to have this talk but now, it feels super weird because I feel like she’s going to relate the entire thing to her father and me. And EWWWW!

What would you do? What’s your best advice on how to talk to your tween about sex?

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Lara Breon 2017/02/20 - 2:25 pm

…and then I died laughing. We told our daughter about the mechanics of reproduction early in life (age 6- hey- she asked VERY specific questions and I could not lie). But when it comes to the “love making”, we have been tiptoeing around that for the last few months… She mentioned that she knew sometimes we wore pajamas and sometimes she knew we didn’t (whoops… D*mn her attention to details). She also gags when we kiss and are affectionate, which of course causes us to do it more. I love your approach and love this post!

Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle 2017/02/20 - 2:33 pm

Oh my gosh, don’t ask me! I made my husband do it with my son, and I muddle through it with my daughters. It could have gone better, but at least I got the point across. LOL

Deborah Cruz 2017/02/20 - 10:27 pm

LOL! It’s just the part of the penis in the vagina that gives me pause. But it has to be done. I still can’t believe she heard us. I am mortified. But, so is she but then again, we talked about it and she knows she can ask me anything. We’re good…for now.

Christy 2017/02/20 - 3:39 pm

As awful as that moment was, it is amusing and you will one day look back and laugh.
What is even harder than all that moment, is being a single mom to 2 boys who want to have “the talk”.
They often catch me at an inopportune time, much like when I’m driving. I do the best I can and we are as honest as we can
be with each other. I’d rather they ask me then get who knows what kind of information from their friends or google!

Eloise 2017/02/20 - 5:21 pm

I remember my talk with my mom about sex, she scared the crap out of me! ‘don’t you get pregnant Eloise, you’ll be in BIG trouble & and most boys will tell you anything just to have sex with you so be careful… blah, blah blah (all that good stuff!)
I think I already dipped into this conversation with my kids a little bit (when my daughter was in Kindergarten and my son was in 1st grade ‘last year’!) I was driving when my son in the back seat asked me what sex was and my daughter laughing at the word, because they learned that on the school bus from the older kids… I had to pause a moment because I was not ready for that question at their age… SOOOO great post to get parents prepared for this pleasant, super fun conversation!) HA!

Deborah Cruz 2017/02/20 - 10:30 pm

My youngest started asking questions when she was like 4. I’ve been having an ongoing conversation for years with them about this. The final step is penis is vagina and I will do it. I just wish she hadn’t heard us right before because now, I totally know that she is going to be relating the entire thing to what she heard. Just hoping we didn’t traumatize her too much;)

Eileen 2017/02/20 - 8:15 pm

I think you handled it pretty well! And I think it’s a good lesson for her too. It’s great that you’re so open and honest about it with her, it sets the stage for you to be able to talk about more grown up stuff down the road too.

Dawn Gibson-Thigpen 2017/02/20 - 9:59 pm

my mom didnt really talk to me about sex. any questions i had i asked my friends which is so not cool. this is a good article. i think my mom was more embarrassed than i was.

Destany 2017/02/20 - 11:53 pm

My son is 12, and I am dreading this talk! I don’t trust my husband, and I’m just not sure what to say !

Dogvills 2017/02/21 - 1:11 am

This is definitely the hardest, but very important topic to talk about. I like the way you are handling this.

Chubskulit Rose 2017/02/21 - 5:54 am

Thanks a lot for this very helpful article. I dread having to do this but I have to soon, I have two tweens at home and it’s important to educate them with this important issue.

My Teen Guide 2017/02/21 - 8:32 am

this is a very interesting article., it is something that i am afraid to do somday! but i know it is something that they need to know!

robin Rue 2017/02/21 - 9:54 am

I have all boys, so their dad took the lead on the birds & bees talk with them. They also learn about it in health class in 8th grade here in our town.

Alli Smith 2017/02/21 - 9:59 am

My husband talked to our sons and I talked to our daughters. I made sure they knew they could ask me anything. Some questions were embarrassing, but I muddled through. I also found out that they already knew a lot about sex from hearing kids talking about it at school. Seems that lots of kids knew way before being a tween. Yikes!

Paula Schuck 2017/02/21 - 10:01 am

Oh man. The talk. As someone who’s already had the talk twice, I can say that this post should be bookmarked. It’s a tough conversation to have.

candy 2017/02/21 - 10:15 am

Really wish more adults would be adults and talk about sex with their children. Glad you are addressing and give great suggestions on how to go about talking with teens about this subject.

Echo 2017/02/21 - 10:59 am

This is a fantastic “how-to” LOL! I am in a completely different boat though! I have a kid that technically understands, but doesn’t get it. That’s autism for you.

Victoria Heckstall 2017/02/21 - 11:38 am

very great information. my mom was worried with my teen sister! i should show this article to my mom so she has guidelines

Natalie 2017/02/21 - 1:13 pm

Haha this was entertaining! I grew up in a pretty conservative household, I wish my parents would have been more open about the topic.

Bonnie G 2017/02/21 - 2:15 pm

Ugh, such a fun topic! Just kidding lol. Just had the talk with my oldest boy, not easy.

Pam Wattenbarger 2017/02/21 - 2:54 pm

It can be so hard to talk to your tween about sex, but it is an important conversation. You want them to have the facts!

Christopher Lewis 2017/02/21 - 3:08 pm

As a father of girls I have wondered about this myself. With a daughter who is 12 and one that is 9 I have tried to talk to them over the years. We interviewed a Sex Health expert on the Dad Spotlight podcast a few times to talk about this and she recommends that you start talking at least about biology from an early age and make sure your children and you are using the right names for the right body parts and be open and honest with your kids as they get older, not being afraid to interject and talk about “tough” topics along the way too.

Krystal 2017/02/21 - 7:35 pm

I just had a talk with my son last month. I am starting with the basics making sure I answer any questions. Then I plan on building with more information over time.

Jacqui S 2017/02/21 - 8:21 pm

OMG. I would have been mortified. I had the talk with my daughter, but I never had to worry about her hearing that. I’m a single mom, and haven’t gotten back into a relationship yet.

Katie Kinsley 2017/02/21 - 8:51 pm

One thing I’m glad I’m not parent of a tween in this day and age. I feel like I only just got done online dating when I got married last year. I would never want my child trying to date now, but I’m glad I don’t have one!

Annemarie LeBlanc 2017/02/21 - 11:47 pm

It was very uncomfortable to speak to my daughter about these things. Thankfully, she attended an exclusive all girls Catholic school and the nuns were very vigilant in educating the girls about being aware of their body. Although the nuns are no expert in sexual reproduction, I guess it is their authoritative status that made the girls listen, and listen well they did. With my boys, it was always, “When you can’t be good, at least be careful,” or “I think you can’t afford the cost of diapers at this time if you keep on playing hide the sausage.” LOL.

Paula Bendfeldt Diaz 2017/02/22 - 5:23 am

Oh my! I would be mortified if this happened to me … I can’t imagine. It brings back memories of my own traumatic experience hearing my parents making love; I was forever scarred. I’m totally messing with you, I’m sure you did not traumatize your daughter. 😉 I am not looking forward to having the talk with my kids but it’s time!

Mimi Green 2017/02/22 - 8:38 am

My son is 12 and we totally need to have this conversation. I don’t want it to be awkward for any of us. I wish my Mom had given me the talk.

Lynndee 2017/02/22 - 9:48 am

We have a teen son so I’m going to let my husband do the talking. LOL. For me it’s weird to talk to him about it. A boy to boy talk is more like it, I guess. 🙂

Polarbelle 2017/02/23 - 3:29 am

honestly, as mortifying as that was, I think you’ll be glad that a teachable moment came up where you could talk about sex some. It’s the hardest thing in the world as a parent because we know it will gross out our kids, but yet we know that we HAVE to talk to them. And we want to be comfortable and natural but you know you’re going to get the gross-out factor from the kid. It’s very very difficult to decide when a child is ready, and I know for me, I misjudged it, so haven’t that moment happen and bring it into the open…I think you’ll be really glad it did. In more ways than one…(get yo mind outta the gutter, lol)

Jasmine Eclipse 2017/02/23 - 10:42 pm

I think this is an awesome post and a great idea. I never had “the talk” growing up, so I kind of figured it out and learned about it on my own. I wish I had someone to teach me about it!

Marielle Altenor 2017/02/24 - 2:10 am

Oh, my Gawd!! I would be mortified if my son heard or walked in on us. That being said. We had the first level of “sex” talk with my son and let me tell ya; I wish they stayed little and innocent forever! I don’t have any solid advice other than being honest and answer all the questions without freaking out! lol

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