No-Dread Sex Ed

Explorers Club

Uh-oh. You've just walked in on your son and his best friend -- a girl, no less -- with their clothes off playing doctor. Perhaps you should have been dropping hints about an accounting career instead of a medical degree?

"This isn't erotic behavior. They're interested in how things look and work," Haffner says. So resist the urge to yank up their pants and scold them for their actions (studies suggest such a reaction can cause feelings of shame and guilt that linger into adulthood).

Instead, calmly ask the children to get dressed. Next, tell them that while you understand they're curious about boy and girl bodies, their private parts must remain just that -- private. Now that you know your child is interested in boy/girl anatomies, spend time together looking at a book on the topic. And let the other child's parents know about the incident (after all, you'd want to know if the situation was reversed). If your child has taken to exploring his own body, remind him that any activity involving his private parts should be done alone. "It's natural for children to explore their body, so be careful to avoid making them feel guilty for doing it," says Dr. Schuster. Remember, as with many things it's not what you say but how you say it. Don't worry about having the perfect words; and don't be afraid to say: "I have to think about it." As long as you seem open about discussing sexuality (even if the topic makes you nervous), your child will learn to bring up issues with you. It's worth the awkwardness.

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