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Ages & Stages

Common Sexual Concerns

Parent and child alike experience certain sexual anxieties as the youngster en­ters and moves through puberty. Some parents worry that when it comes to sex, all their child is thinking about is sexual intercourse. That belief is erroneous, and it interferes with communication between the generations. As your youngster begins puberty, he or she will be much more interested in looking attractive to the opposite sex, and finding and keeping a boyfriend or girlfriend, than in the act of mak­ing love.

Another misconception is also quite common among adults: Many parents are convinced that if they teach their child about sex, they will be encourag­ing him or her to become sexually active at an early age. They feel that by talk­ing about sex, they are sanctioning it. But in fact the opposite is true. As children enter and pass through adolescence those who are the best informed about sexuality are the most likely to postpone intercourse. School-based sex­uality education that promotes abstinence but also teaches birth control methods has achieved both delays in sexual activity and increased use of con­traception by those who become sexually active.

By contrast, when children do not get information from their parents, they turn to friends or other sources from whom they are more apt to receive misinformation; that igno­rance—and the inability to discuss sexuality with their parents—may lead them to earlier sexual intercourse, and a greater vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. To repeat, it is misinforma­tion or a lack of communication that gets youngsters into trouble.

As mentioned earlier, when you talk about sexuality, do not overlook dis­cussing values. Perhaps your own value system seems old-fashioned by cur­rent standards—which can cause you to become anxious. Even so, do not feel pressured to change. If you openly explain your beliefs—and the reasons for them—to your child, you may give your youngster the strength to resist peer pressure to have sexual intercourse before he or she is ready.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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