As I mentally prepare for the impending transition that my soon-to-be 11 year old will be facing, I have given a lot of thought to talk about the next things. She will be leaving her elementary school this spring and facing middle school (6th – 8th grade) which also sits on the same campus as the high school. My assumption is that the high schoolers don’t mix much with the middle school kids, but the thought of her conversing with 8th graders alone has me a bit apprehensive. Y’all, it’s so hard.
We talk about a lot of topics pretty openly, and I’m really thankful for the close relationship that we have. We have started the birds and the bees conversation, so she knows the gist of what happens to a woman’s body. But the more we have been talking lately, I realized how very little she understands about all the rest.
The Big Topics
Here is where my heart sinks. Nobody wants to give their almost middle schooler (who happens to be pretty naïve and innocent) any ideas about sexual exploration. We just aren’t there yet. But trying my hardest to be really honest and wishing to expose her to just enough information is really important to me. I have these fears:
- She will hear something at school and feel embarrassed for not knowing what it means.
- She will ask a friend to explain something that I wish she would just ask of me so that I can give her the right and appropriate answer.
- She will be exposed to something that is unsafe or inappropriate for her and she will be confused and become fearful.
All of this is enough for me to overcome the extreme nausea that ensues each time I gear up for a big conversation!
First up: Body Basics and Puberty (on both sides)! Thankfully, I have great friends who are also diving into the deep waters of preteen parenting who have shared some resources with me. My newest favorite is a three-part YouTube series by Eleanor Stein, teenager and explainer of all things awkward and challenging.
So here goes. Last week, we watched Video 1 and Video 2 together. (I encourage parents to watch alone first to make sure the content is appropriate.) Then we had conversations about each one. Video 3 is about sex (in all the locations), contraception, and STI’s, and I’m holding off on that one a little bit longer. Although I do think it’s important based on the fact that exposure to conversations about sex are sure to arise in middle school, my current plan is to wait a little closer to the start of school to get to that one. Baby steps!
Our conversations that followed were really good. I got to hear from my daughter on which facts she didn’t know about before. We talked about our bodies and what things happen, how it works, and what to expect. She had some questions and asked them openly. I tried my very best to stay casual and approachable throughout. Her biggest takeaway was that uncomfortable and embarrassing things happen to boys too, which made her feel a whole lot better about menstruation and the body changes women have to deal with. No matter what tools and resources you use to educate your kids, it’s worth the conversation to educate them and protect them. I’m pretty sure I felt more uncomfortable than my daughter did, but I forced myself headfirst into some stomach-churning conversations… with the help of YouTube of course.
What tools and resources have you used to communicate with your preteens? How did that first conversation go? Feedback and ideas are always welcome!