How to Talk About Sex and Sexual Identity

This is an age when children are very atuned to questions of rules and boundaries, and may want to talk about whether behaviors that cross or transcend some rules or boundaries are "right" or "wrong." In responding, it's OK for parents to focus on and discuss their own values, ethics and religious concerns, as long as the tone of the conversation is factual and somewhat dry.

Stay calm and remember, it's a healthy conversation.

This conversation can lead into a discussion of gender roles, social expectation, and other issues focused on identity. Parents or caregivers of adolescents should well know that any discussion of identity or social expectation could start a real fire -- and that kids are very capable of responding purely for the sake of "shock value."

Staying calm and factual here can be a real plus.

Finally, remember that, like all potentially sensitive topics, this one may be less about the specific issue, and more about the child's desire to talk with an adult.

If parents and caregivers can give the message that talking to them is positive no matter what the topic, the chances that children will keep up their end of the conversation are good -- and that's good for children.

Jay Reeve is an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Florida State University, and a chief clinical and managed care officer at Apalachee Center in Tallahassee, Fla.

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