Nov. 26, 2001 -- When baby boomer girls were 12 or so, their
mothers would hand over a little booklet called ""Becoming a
Woman,"" which covered the basics of sex and menstruation. A couple of
days later the mother would ask if her daughter had any questions. Typically,
the embarrassed girl would say no, and that was the end of her at-home sex
There was a boys' version, too: A father-to-son talk along the
lines of, "Don't get any girl pregnant before you can support a wife and
family." And there were the horror stories, including a 13-year-old girl
whose mom waited too long to have "The Talk," and poor Sandy started
her period without knowing what it was. After three days of bleeding -- and
thinking she was dying -- she finally went to her mother.
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Later, as part of health class in the ninth and tenth grades,
baby-boomer teen-agers were segregated by gender and told to label diagrams of
the inner workings of the male and female reproductive systems, learning lots
of useless, but impressive details like just how many miles of tubing are
crammed into a man's testicles. They also watched an endless parade of
black-and-white movies on the horrors of venereal disease, but they never
discussed the really burning question of adolescence: Should they or should
they not "do it?"
It's not surprising that today's parents, who had this kind of
experience at home, often find it difficult to talk to their own children about
sex. "I do think it is hard for us as parents, because we did not have
parents who spoke to us with relative ease on this subject, if at
all," says Karen Hoskins, an Oregon mother of three. "I have just tried
to be as honest as I can, and keep any embarrassing thoughts in the back of my
mind. I want them to see my honesty and remember it, and then hope they will
come to me when they need to ask something."
So What's a Parent to Do?
Most experts agree that parents shouldn't wait for some magical
moment to have their own version of The Talk. Sex education goes down better if
it is a part of life, starting whenever your child is old enough to ask
"My best suggestion is to talk to kids really early, when
they're too young to be embarrassed," says Joyce Kilmer, a parent educator
who is employed by the state government in Olympia, Wash. "It's less
embarrassing for you, too, and they are very matter-of-fact at ages 4, 5 and 6.
After they've been on the playground for a few years, and heard a lot of
snickering, is too late."
Even before that, Kilmer suggests naming the sex organs as you
name other body parts while you play with your young child or baby in the tub.
"This is your tummy, this is your penis."