#2 Goodbye, Birds and Bees—Hello, Porn – Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years

#2

Goodbye, Birds and Bees—Hello, Porn

Answering Your Middle Schooler’s More Advanced Questions About Sex

My sixth-grade son came home and asked, “Hey Mom, what is sixty-nine?” I screamed, “Oh my God! It’s the number after sixty-eight, now go do your homework!” Do I really have to explain this to him? I’d rather die.

I’ve been presented with variations on this scenario by many parents who are dying inside at these kinds of questions and don’t know what to do. While that is a completely normal reaction, please don’t let sexual questions shut you down completely. Truly, the fact that your son trusts you enough to ask means you’ve done something right thus far. Chin up and stay strong. You can do this.

Because your son is only in sixth grade, your instinct may be to put him off. “You’re too young to know about things like that” or “I’m not comfortable telling you” are not acceptable responses. He’s obviously embarrassed and wouldn’t ask you for the fun of it. Not knowing causes him enough anxiety that he needs an answer, and if it doesn’t come from you, it’s coming from Google.

Let’s pause on that for a second. Recently, a mom shared a story with me about looking through her computer’s search history, only to find links to a pornographic video clip. When she asked her daughter what that was about, the girl dissolved into tears. “Everyone at school was talking about ‘fisting’ and I was the only one who didn’t know what it meant. I just wanted to know what it meant.” What upset the little girl far more than being in trouble was what she had seen on the computer. “Is that how adults treat each other?” she cried.

I’m sad at that piece of innocence lost and even more heartbroken at the misinterpretation of what this girl must have seen on that video as normal adult behavior. These days, answers to their every question lay at your kids’ fingertips. When kids come to you with questions, you don’t have to tell them everything. You should, though, give them enough of an answer to keep their curiosity from driving them to research more on their own.

By the time a kid is in middle school, he will be exposed to just about every sexual innuendo, joke, and slang term you can imagine (and many that you cannot). It’s not just Google with the answers, either. The kids on the bus, in gym class, and at the lunch table are quick to seem experts. And when no one really knows, one kid who feigns intelligence can quickly become the cafeteria Dr. Ruth. If you want your child to have accurate information about human sexuality and development, it needs to come from you or another trusted adult.

Conversations about sex are among the hardest for parents to have with middle schoolers. Once kids head to middle school, they suddenly hear all kinds of things and are eager to seem like experts among friends. Start identifying yourself as the knowledge manager in your family early on. When your kid sees that you don’t overreact when she asks these “shocking” questions, she’ll also learn she can come to you about any of the other hot topics for this age, including: drugs, bullying, body image, and relationship abuse, and you will be there for her.

If you find yourself in this uncomfortable situation, here is what you can do:

  1. Take a deep (yet undramatic) breath.
  2. Admit that it’s hard to talk about these things, but tell your son you’re glad he came to you to ask so you can give him accurate information.
  3. Say enough to squelch curiosity. “Sixty-nine is a nickname for a sexual position involving two adults.” Maybe that’s enough. It’s likely he doesn’t want to know more, he just needs minimal information to save face among his peers in case this comes up again.
  4. Answer follow-up questions. If he wants to know more, you have to give accurate answers. In this case, it would involve a brief definition of oral sex. I suggest you consult a good sex ed book for the right language. It’s okay to say to your kid, “Give me some time to think about this so I can be sure I’m explaining it right. I’ll tell you tomorrow.”
  5. Use the opportunity to work values into the conversation, as in, two people who decide to have a sexual relationship should always respect each other and listen to the other person. Any choice during sex should be made based on feeling love and pleasure, never pressure.
  6. Ask your own questions: “How have you heard people use that word?” or “Is that what you wanted to know?”
  7. Reassure him that you’re glad he asked. Say something like, “I know it’s strange to talk about this stuff, but I’m glad you came to me. You can always ask me about stuff like this.”
  8. Provide appropriate resources to answer any questions you’re not comfortable addressing yourself. This can be a close friend, a pediatrician, or a good book. You don’t have to be the expert at everything; you just need to know where to go for help.