Faith, Morals, Sex-Ed, oh my! A post about sharing information with my Preteen

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my thoughts on Sharing Fertility Awareness with my Preteen.  I stuck to just the physical aspects of Fertility Awareness and what it means. Of course, I realize that the changes that happen to my daughter now as she is growing into an adult physically are accompanied by emotional and intellectual development that will continue over the next 10-13 years.

Over the past couple of years, my daughter and I have had discussions about sex – what it is logistically and theologically, and how it fits into God’s plan for our lives. She’s discovered that she can hear a lot of information outside of our home that is not in line with our Catholic faith. She’s a smart kid so she knows that everyone does not believe or think about these things the way we do. I want my children to be able to express themselves. They should feel comfortable enough to ask questions and get clarification on this stuff, whether it’s with me or with someone else they trust. I hope my daughter wants to get this information from me, but I’m realistic enough to know she might seek counsel elsewhere at some point.

After I posted a couple weeks ago, I thought it might be helpful to some people to write about how I share our Catholic Faith and the Church’s teaching on Marriage and Sexuality with my Preteen, too. I doubt this is groundbreaking or complete. I’m sure our conversations will mature as she continues to grow up. But I am of the opinion that if she’s ready to ask the questions, then she’s ready to hear the answers and I pray I have the right words.

Following are some things I have tried to remember as we began sharing information on sexuality in the context of our faith and morals with our Preteen:

·         Use proper names for body parts. This is something we started when my now-Preteen was 2 or 3 years old. With our children, we have always used the words “vagina” and “penis” and “ovaries” and “scrotum” and any other words to describe anything related to body parts much like we use “hand” and “arm” and “foot.”
Early on my rationale for this was that if my child were to ever be abused, there would be no question about what body part had been touched inappropriately if my child were to confidently state exactly, using anatomically correct language, where s/he was touched. Now that I have a Preteen, with whom I have had discussions about sex, I find the added bonus that there’s no confusion and there’s less embarrassment. She’s always known the names of girl and boy “parts” and so the discussion had a very “matter-of-fact” flavor to it.
·         Explain exactly how intercourse happens. I remember being so confused growing up about the actual sexual act itself. I was almost relieved when my daughter had the exact same questions I did and that she felt comfortable asking me. I used frames of reference for her. We were blessed that we’d had a son by the time this conversation took place so she had seen diaper changes for both boys and girls and it made the discussion run a little smoother.
·         Understand that the child will be uncomfortable about the idea of you and your spouse engaging in sexual intercourse. I remember when the light went off for my daughter that what we were discussing was something that had actually occurred between her parents. My daughter was very cute as she said, “Wow, you mean you did that FOUR times?!?” (We had four children at the time.) And then, when we told the kids Vincent was on the way, she pulled me aside and said, “Mom, you guys did THAT…AGAIN?!?!” I will cherish that memory because it was so darn cute!

Take that opportunity to explain to your child that getting pregnant is not a given just because a couple has sex. The world will provide plenty of misinformation for your child, so we, as parents, have to counter it early and often. Initially, it was uncomfortable helping my daughter understand that her mom and dad have sex and that it does not always result in a baby. But that led to the Fertility Awareness / NFP discussions.  

·         Explain that sex is a gift from God to married men and women. The pleasure that comes from sex is a gift. The babies that come from sex are gifts. Explain that engaging in sex outside of marriage goes against God’s plan for marriage and sex. It’s okay to use the word “sin.” I tried not to go overboard, since I don’t think a lot comes from the pre-emptive use of hellfire and brimstone to make a point. Kids want to do good naturally. They want to please their parents and, it’s been my experience, they want to please God. I try to reiterate that sin is a turning away from God, meaning we are not following God’s Plan.

When discussing the act of intercourse, my daughter mentioned “gross” and “disgusting.” This led naturally into a discussion about how it could seem that way when intercourse is taken out of the context of a marriage. Of course, I let her know that some time in the not-so-distant future, her opinions of intercourse will probably change. I hope she will remember our discussions, though, and they will remind her to consider what God’s plan for her life is so she will act accordingly.

·         Remember that your Preteen probably already knows more than you think they do. The whole reason we have discussed this at all is because my daughter asked questions. The fact that she had the questions to ask helps me understand just how far she had gotten on her own.
·         Be honest. I remember when we heard a news blurb on the radio one day that mentioned sexually active eleven year olds. My daughter’s eyes about popped out of her head and she looked at me and said, “But, I’m eleven…” This led to me asking questions of her about how she felt about learning that children her age would be having sex or whether she knew how those opportunities arose. Without getting too personal, suffice it to say, it was eye opening for her to know there were circumstances in the world that led to children her age becoming parents. But I didn’t shy away from it.

Throughout these discussions, I have had an opportunity to reiterate to my Preteen daughter:

·         That God loves her and us and that our Church has taught on these subjects in such a way to protect us and draw us closer to Him in all things
·         That her parents love each other very much and that we love her and her siblings
·         That we try our best to be honest with her and will do the same with her siblings
·         That boundaries are something set out of love for her guidance and protection

I hope my Preteen will continue to ask questions and communicate with us as she grows older. I know the questions have only just begun. There will be many more opportunities for growth in the coming years.

I am linking to Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary and posting every day this week! Click HERE to see who else took the challenge!
 

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Sharing Fertility Awareness with my Preteen

It’s happened. I’ve entered that part of life where I have one of my kids morphing into an adult. My oldest turns 12 later this month. She grew 4 inches in 9 months. She gained just shy of 13 pounds in that amount of time. She started shaving her legs. And then, a few months later, under her arms.

Yup, full-spin puberty going on around here.

As a Natural Family Planning (NFP) touting momma, sometimes I feel like my responsibility to my children with regard to teaching them about their bodies and their reproductive systems is even greater than it would be if I ascribed to the contraception/sterilization mentality. That seems weird to say, though. Our society would have us believe that the responsibility to teach our children about taking contraceptive pills, using condoms and ultimately, having one or two kids and one partner getting sterilized is the most important as a parent.

Mostly, I try to answer her questions or give my opinion when she asks for it. Recently, I switched her over to seeing my doctor because I know I will have the support I need with regard to how Craig and I want to teach our children about sex and fertility awareness.

So far, here are the things my oldest and I have discussed with regard fertility awareness as she has begun to mature:

1. Puberty and physical development  There is no one right time or way to develop. We are all unique, some girls start to develop when they are 10 or 11, some girls when they are 13, some girls when they are 16 or 17. Nothing is wrong with if they develop earlier than their peers and nothing is wrong if they develop later than their peers. It happens when it happens. 

We’ve talked about what the physical changes are or have been — mostly from her perspective. She can see the changes in her body now, but before they were evident, she told me she was having trouble sleeping sometimes and I informed her that her hormones were probably kind of crazy and were most likely interrupting her sleep patterns. These explanations can help ease some of the annoyance she feels.

2. Periods and mucous and cramps If she knows what to watch for by way of mucous, there’s a good chance she’ll know when her first period is coming (and every period after that). Cervical fluid, little abdominal pangs/twinges to pay attention to, headaches, cravings.

3. Acne Birth control pills are NOT the way to treat it. She will most likely experience some level of acne irritation, but there are other ways to treat it without affecting her fertility.

4. Cycle lengths will vary Even after almost 30 years of menstruating, my cycles vary. Talk about hormones — estrogen, progesterone and how they work within the cycle. We talk about my cycles and we talk about how sometimes daughters can take some cues from mothers with regard to fertility — not always, but it’s good to know if there’s a history of anything (for me, that would be the progesterone problem).

5. Different Methods I tell her that I’ve used three different FAM over the years. I’ve shared with her what I’m using now, but that starting out, just regular old cervical fluid checks and noting the start of her cycle is probably the best place to start.

That’s about it so far. She’s only about to turn 12, so I’m sure there will be more to come. The past year has been a whirlwind in the way of development for her physically and emotionally. I’ve been pleased to be able to address her concerns and these changes in a natural no-nonsense way. These changes are natural, and by letting her know that I experience them, too, still at the age of almost 40, she can see there are natural ways to handle the changes and there’s nothing to fear.