Talking with my daughter about sex
November 11, 2015 7:12 AM   Subscribe

My daughter is eleven. When she was a toddler, the advice about talking about sex that I read emphasised answering their questions. Kids are naturally curious! They will have all sorts of questions! Just answer them truthfully and you’ll be fine! Of course that did not happen. My child is apparently not very naturally curious about these things, and suddenly she’s a teenager and I have not talked to her about sex yet. I now know I should have handled this differently, but I can’t do anything about that anymore and could use some help with how to talk about this now.

Things she does know:
- That babies are made from a woman’s egg and a man’s seed
- That babies grow in a womb and are usually born through a vagina
- The names for her body parts, including vagina and vulva (though not clitoris)
- That it’s not okay to touch someone if they don’t want to be touched - if someone says stop, you stop (I know that’s not quite affirmative consent yet, but at least she’s aware that if someone starts tickling or cuddling her she can always say stop)
- That gay relationships are completely normal
- That her body will change during puberty (breasts etc), that she will get her period at some point in the possibly near future (that conversation was not great either).

Things that I want to talk with her about:
- What sex is.
- How exactly babies are made. Penis in vagina.
- That sex is sometimes wonderful, sometimes not
- That she should never feel pressured to do sexual things that she doesn’t really want to do.
- How to know when you’re ready for sex (I don’t know if I should tell her that the first time should be in the context of a loving long term relationship where you can talk about these things openly?)
- (I’m probably forgetting something)

We live in a place where sex-ed in middle school is quite good, so I don’t think I need to talk about all the details about birth control and std’s immediately, but I do want her to know that those are topics that she can talk to me about.

I’m not a very open person, neither is her father, and neither is she. It’s hard for me to talk about this and I want to do it right because it is important. But then I’m afraid that that pressure will make it even more awkward.

My child is relatively young for her age and so are her friends. I have never heard any of them talk about boyfriends/girlfriends/being in love.

I know there are books about this, but I first want to focus on talking with her. I would really appreciate suggestions on how to have these conversations with her in a way that makes her consider talking to me about all of this when it does become relevant in her life (even though we're both not very open our relationship is generally good and friendly). I know there’s no script for conversations like this, but some actual lines would be really helpful.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

I had this discussion with my son around that exact age. I know you said talking rather than books, but I really can't recommend this book enough. What we ended up doing was giving him the book, then talking through questions he had. There were a lot as he worked his way through.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 7:19 AM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

This was my daughter. I kept waiting and waiting for her to be curious and ask questions and she never did. She is the first born and so were most of her friends so she didn't get any hints or ideas from older siblings that may have prompted questions.

Anyway, it came down to me just having to sit her down, being blunt and factual about it all and giving her lots of time to process it. She may not have any follow up questions right then but keep the line of communication open. I'd ask my daughter periodically over the next week or so if she had any questions or concerns about what I'd told her. She did here and there and we've been able to talk about them.

My daughters response to sex was hysterical laughter and incredulity. She really had no idea about it all. So be prepared for a variety of reactions!
posted by Sassyfras at 7:21 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Things that I want to talk with her about:
- What sex is.
- How exactly babies are made. Penis in vagina.
- That sex is sometimes wonderful, sometimes not

- That she should never feel pressured to do sexual things that she doesn’t really want to do.
- How to know when you’re ready for sex (I don’t know if I should tell her that the first time should be in the context of a loving long term relationship where you can talk about these things openly?)

My subjective response - as someone who raised boys rather than girls - is that your list skews toward the negative. I would suggest your discussions focus more on body-positive subjects, and agency, rather than the nuts and bolts or the potential negatives.

Teach her that her body is AWESOME. That it's capable of AMAZING things. Sports, elegance, strength, beauty, etc. That her mind is capable of good choices. To trust herself and not rely on others (friends, boys, media) to tell her what to do with HER body/heart/mind. This is about sex, about food, about drinking, about what to read ... everything. Sex ed isn't different from other subjects that come up during adolescence - it's about valuing yourself. Much of what you're looking to teach her about sex will follow naturally from that confidence.

And when she is ready, teach her to be responsible. No matter what, she is responsible for her own health and fertility. She should carry and use condoms. (I told my boys the same thing. No matter what the other person says, you are responsible for your own health and your own birth control.) And teach her to respect other people's decisions about their own bodies, just as she'd want respect for hers. There is nothing wrong with remaining a virgin, for boys or for girls. And there is no such thing as a slut. She's not one, and neither are any of the other girls she knows.
posted by headnsouth at 7:29 AM on November 11, 2015 [43 favorites]

Does your daughter have an aunt, or a family friend that you trust? Dan Savage suggests deputizing someone like this for sex stuff, and telling your daughter that if she has any questions at all about these things, she can talk to this person. This has always seemed like a nice idea to me, some kids just don't want to talk about this stuff with their parents, especially if they can sense your hesitation or discomfort.
posted by cakelite at 7:31 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you're all not very open people, I'd aim for a combination of conversation and books. I think I'd tell her, OK, you're on the verge of becoming physically an adult, so it's time for you to learn more about sexuality and reproduction. I want to talk to you about it, but first here's a book to look through that will introduce some of the basic information. Look at it (or not) as you wish, and we'll talk more about it in a few days, ok? And if you have any questions before then you can ask anytime.

That way, it's not, "here's a book; we shall never speak of this again" but it's also not blindsiding her with things that you or she might feel weird or awkward about. I mean, it may still be an awkward conversation, but at least she'll be coming in somewhat armed.

(Nimmie Amee's recommended book is the one I see most often recommended for this topic. I've also seen the American Girls puberty books often recommended, though I don't have personal experience.)
posted by telepanda at 7:36 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

My parents never had this conversation with me, because (like your daughter) I studiously avoided having this conversation. I think odds are good that your daughter is curious, because people are, but if indeed you are not very open people who are awkward - like me and my family - she isn't asking you her questions.

I know this goes against the grain but I think that's okay, especially since her sex ed classes are good. My mom eventually realized that I would freak the hell out if she tried to tell me about sex - to be real the thought still makes me cringe - and so she gave me a bunch of library books and said I could ask her anything (I didn't), and we called it a day.

You should also direct her to some internet resources that you deem age-appropriate and useful. Like witchen says, I also remember my parents commenting on relationships and stuff in TV shows, in ways that allowed me to figure out what was going on without having to have an awkward conversation.

I'm just saying. I don't think it's actually necessary to force this. I am a normal, well adjusted adult.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:58 AM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

- That she should never feel pressured to do sexual things that she doesn’t really want to do.
- How to know when you’re ready for sex (I don’t know if I should tell her that the first time should be in the context of a loving long term relationship where you can talk about these things openly?)

One thing about "should"s like this: I think it's important to make it clear that this is advice, and not a rule that she will get in trouble if she breaks. Otherwise, you're setting up the possibility that she'll get into a bad situation and then feel obligated to hide it from you for fear of getting in trouble.

And you might need to emphasize that more than you realize for her to get it. After all, adults have lots of experience getting non-binding friendly advice from more experienced adults — but in the experience of an 11-year-old, "You should X" is basically always a polite way of saying "You will be in trouble if you don't X," or "I will be angry at you if you don't X," especially when it's an authority figure saying it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:04 AM on November 11, 2015 [8 favorites]

I have a suggestion that helped me immensely, and that I have shared with friends: have the talk while driving somewhere. The terrifyingly awkward part of this event is where to look! Driving takes the edge off, gives both parties a break from the intentness of talking about sex, and if the drive happens to end with shopping and ice cream, WIN!! And a stroll through the drugstore to actually see where condoms, tampons and paraphernalia live is a helpful field trip.
posted by LaBellaStella at 8:14 AM on November 11, 2015 [8 favorites]

If I were you, I would give her a copy of It's Perfectly Normal and invite her to ask if she has any questions.

My four year old is totally uncomfortable talking about anything even vaguely related to sex, though I have brought it up a few times (once in an attempt to answer her question about why I didn't like Bill Cosby! That... is not the ideal context. Though I was just trying to say something about consent, and private parts, in an age appropriate way.) I have tried to respect that, and not push it, even though I want her to know it's okay to talk about and specifically okay to talk to me about, and even though I don't want her getting her information from unreliable sources.

So... she has a copy of It's So Amazing!. She hasn't read it, but I did find it useful to show her line drawings of boys' body parts in response to her claim that the difference between boys and girls is that boys have short hair. So it's been a useful tool.
posted by OnceUponATime at 8:18 AM on November 11, 2015

My mom got this process going by taking me to the bookstore, gently placing me in whichever section had sex Ed books, and bought which ever ones I wanted to read. I had a lot of shame about it initially and smuggled the books around my house and to school until she told me to not be ashamed. I never had the talk with either of my folks (in fact my dad is not sex positive and regularly shames celebrities for being too sex oriented) so maybe books + no negative shaming from parents about people other than daughter being sexual being = possible first step?
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:20 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you had a rough go with the period talk, but I wonder if you could try again to use that as a jumping off point for sex and the role of periods in reproduction, just to cover the nuts and bolts. It's also good to set an idea of what's normal for periods (if it's long/painful/heavy/absent, etc, she should let someone know). You might also start with another more general talk on body changes, that can lead to periods, that can lead to sex. Maybe you can incorporate this with a back-to-school shopping trip, getting training bras, etc.

I think the bottom line should be stressing your rose as a non-judgemental and safe resource for your daughter. It sounds like she has good sex ed at school, which should cover the penis-in-vagina and STI stuff. I wonder if it would help if you said something like, "[Jane], I just wanted to let you know that if you have any questions or concerns about your period or feelings about boys or girls, you can always talk to me. I know and trust you are a smart, strong, intelligent young woman and will make choices and find information on your own. But I am always here for you if you have any questions." Maybe you can add something like "I know we talked about this before, and it was kind of awkward for both of us, but I wanted to let you know again about periods. I got my period when I was 12, so I figure you might get yours soon. When I got my period, it was [easy/hard/embarrassing/terrifying]. My [mom/sister/aunt] helped by getting me pads and not making me go to swim class. One thing that was especially helpful for me was ____. Is there anything you think might be helpful for you when that time comes? I am going to put pads and pantiliners and tampons in the bathroom cabinet. I also got you some extra underwear because sometimes periods can be messy."

And along the lines of the deputizing idea--do you have any friends or family who are nurses, OBs, or midwives? They talk about this stuff for a living and can sometimes provide an openness that helps girls your daughter's age. They can also be used as conversation starters ("You know Aunt Sarah? She's an OB/Gyn doctor, so she helps deliver babies and helps with periods and stuff.")

There's also great information online: scarleteen is a well-regarded resource that she can peruse at her own leisure.
posted by stillmoving at 8:21 AM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't think period talk should necessarily be entwined with sex talk. I know I found it pretty horrifying when my mother kept emphasizing to me at 11 that I was a woman now and could have a baby. It contributed to the very real fear and grief of losing my childhood in a way I wasn't ready for, and while I was privately exploring my own body, it was pretty divorced from anything, well, reproductive.

Which isn't to say that you should talk about these things. I'd recommend The Care and Keeping of You books by American Girl, which are really good and age-appropriate. When she gets a little older, maybe 13 or so, I'd recommend Our Bodies Ourselves and Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I know they're older books, and often aimed at adults, but I received that former from my sister around this age and it was instrumental in my being well-informed about birth control (and my sex ed classes were okay, but not great). And the latter was what helped me finally understand what was really going on with my body and how it really worked. I wish I'd read it at a much younger age.

Beyond that, I think the best way to normalize discussions about sex are to just talk about it. If you haven't been casually talking about issues like consent and reproduction, why expect her to do so? Just dive in. Start talking. Talk about your periods. Talk about what's going on when people make out on TV. Talk about how real childbirth is divorced from childbirth on television. It will feel weird at first, but this is a big part of human life and the only way to reduce shame about it is to treat it as quotidian, boring, and normal. Don't have "a talk," have a series of many conversations over your daughter's burgeoning adulthood. It's not too late to change the way sex is discussed in your family.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:35 AM on November 11, 2015 [9 favorites]

I'm sure others here will have great ideas but I just wanted to say that it's totally okay to straight up tell your daughter, I feel awkward talking about this but it's important, and it's okay if she feels awkward talking about it, but it's too important not to talk about. And she can always always always ask you or your partner if she has any additional questions - you might not have the answer but you can find it together.

Someone above mentioned Dan Savage - I think he has also said that going somewhere in the car is a good time to talk about some of this stuff because kid can't leave but you don't have to look at each other or make eye contact. Just some ideas. My mom plunked my sisters and I down in front of a PBS special, then asked us if we had any questions. Shockingly, we did not.
posted by kat518 at 8:40 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

One thing I did was to tell my daughter that if she had questions but didn't feel like talking about them in person, she could leave a note on the relevant page of one of her books (The Care and Keeping of You, mentioned above, was one of them) and put it on my bed. I could then reply in kind or ask to discuss it in person. It was a good system for us because it allowed time for reflection and removed a lot of awkwardness.
posted by atropos at 8:58 AM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

I had a similar relationship with my mom growing up, and was a similar kind of kid, and honestly, I was pretty grateful that our Talk was not especially talky. She mentioned that (Catholic) school sent a thing home saying they were talking about our bodies, asked me if I knew what sex involved, and I said "yes" (though not from school; mostly from dictionaries and medical books). I think she added that she would answer any questions, any time, and except for asking for help in getting an OB appointment for birth control when I was 19, that was about it (we have a great relationship; we don't discuss our sex lives, because ick.). All of the social bits you're describing came as parts of other conversations that weren't about sex but were about relationships and fun and warning signs.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:59 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think PhoBWanKenobi has it. This needs to become something you are comfortable talking about.

My parents took the "give her a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves and ask if she has any questions" route that so many mention, and I was too embarrassed to read it. I was too embarrassed to tell my mom when I got my period. I am a grown adult who has taught sex ed and I still could not imagine bringing up any remotely sexual topic with either of my parents. I got a lot of my info from my friends' mom, who used words like "boobs" and talked about periods and sex freely. You don't necessarily need to become THAT mom, but if you can try to relax a little around this topic, that would help.

Your daughter might also be old enough for some teen-ish TV show for you to watch together. I also learned a lot of (mostly wrong) sex and relationship stuff from TV around that age, but the shows now are a lot better. Something like "Switched at Birth" might work--a family show that also shows teens in romantic relationships.

Good luck! Thank you for asking this.
posted by chaiminda at 9:18 AM on November 11, 2015

I know there are books about this, but I first want to focus on talking with her

What about finding a book that you like and reading it to her out loud? My mom read me a book like this when I was around 9-10 I think; it discussed both puberty/body changes and sexual activity. It might be a good jumping off point as well - you start off just reading, but if you have anything to add to it, you can, and she can ask questions if she wants to.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:27 AM on November 11, 2015

Please tell your daughter something about the clitoris and non-PIV sex. As a not tremendously curious young teen, I had some ideas about how one decides to kiss somebody and some ideas about how one decides to have intercourse, but really no notion of what happens in between, and therefore no notion of what an intermediate boundary might look like.
posted by yarntheory at 9:32 AM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'd be shocked if she hasn't already put together the basic biology and mechanics of making a baby. I'd concentrate on consent, masturbation (totally normal and OK!), and that she should listen to her own inner voice about what she is and isn't ready for and that being pressured into sexual activity of any kind is not ever OK.

Puberty and periods, while also great to discuss, should probably be a different conversation. Buy books for her if you don't feel comfortable taking to her at length.
posted by quince at 10:04 AM on November 11, 2015

My parents were also not super good at this stuff, and are both in the medical field, so they tended to just hand me books or pamphlets about this sort of thing rather than having open conversations. This was both good and bad.

It was good, because yeah honestly this is just information that needs to be imparted, and giving someone a book is an efficient way of doing so that avoids all the cultural noise we have around sexuality. But then it was suboptimal because I didn't grow up having conversations with my parents about sexual stuff, which didn't equip them to impart the less informational and more emotional stuff like "how to know you're ready", "it's OK to say no but also OK to say yes", etc. I thus had to get that stuff from school sex-ed, which was based on Catholic religious teaching (and my family isn't even Catholic!).

I think it would be absolutely OK to give her some books about sex and sexual health to bring her up to speed on the informational stuff. (And I agree, this should include information about non-procreative sex, since that is the kind of sex she's going to be having for probably the majority of her life.) However, I also think the ethical/emotional aspects of sex should come from you, conversationally, and she should know that this stuff is OK to talk about.

I'll also say that anytime my parents brought up puberty stuff or sex stuff or whatever when I was your daughter's age, I was a total shit about it, so I think you shouldn't expect a lot of great input from her or evaluate whether conversations went well based on her performance. Puberty sucks and is not fun to talk about with your parents.

One more thing: she has almost certainly already found out about the mechanics of sex from her friends. This is something that was talked about pretty regularly in my social circle by middle school. And is, in fact, how I found out about non-PIV sex, which is another reason you should be giving her real information about this stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 10:36 AM on November 11, 2015

I distinctly remember not wanting to have this talk about sex with my mother, at about 11 years old. I had questions but not the ones she wanted to answer. What I wanted to know at 11 was did I need to use shampoo for the pubic hair and arm pit hair? (this was early 80s in central Europe so no female I knew was shaving, it just was nto done). Would that hair grow or did I need to trim it? I did not dare ask. I did not really care about boys or a penis.
My mom wanted to talk periods, which I found akward and embarrassing. All I wanted to know was did animals have them too? (eg my cats), and got angry because it seemed she would now know exactly when my next peroid would come. She so much wanted to celebrate and for me to enoy my body and I would have none of it. I look back and feel sorry for her trying so hard to do the right thing.

So maybe your daugther really just does not want to talk to you about it. My mother so much wanted to, but I would rather have bitten off my tongue. I did however, find a source for info on sex: my father's copies of Penthouse magazine. I read them clandestinely and found it bemusing and some if it confusing. I liked the descrptions and pictures rather than talking to someone about it. I think it was the summer I turned 10 that I read the first one.
I am not suggesting you give her Penthouse to read (it was not a really good intro to female sexualtiy) but just don't be surprised when she finds her own sources of information.
posted by 15L06 at 12:14 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

My parents gave me a copy of Where Did I Come From? It did the trick, and some of the funny illustrations have stuck with me ever since.
posted by schoolgirl report at 1:12 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

With regard to learning about her body, I strongly suggest The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls and then The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Older Girls. Yes, they are American Girl publications. They are also well-written and researched, and have been a great resource for my 12-year-old daughter, who is reluctant to have any "embarrassing" discussions with me, but definitely needs resources and information. Read the first book and then give it to her. Then read the second book and give it to her. My daughter likes to pretend she doesn't need the info, but I know for a fact that her copies are frequently referenced.

You might also look for a class similar to For Girls Only: A Heart-to-Heart Talk on Growing Up. That particular program is put on by Great Conversations. I did this program with my daughter a few years ago, and again, she was mortified. But it gave us a common language to talk about bodies and sexuality. Most invaluably, I took away the idea of 100 1-minute conversations. Not many tweens or teens are going to sit and talk with you about anything as intense as puberty, sex, etc, for a solid hour or one hundred minutes. But you will have opportunities to have at least one hundred 1-minute conversations over time - in the car, loading the dishwasher, at bedtime, taking out the trash, whatever. I promise, you can talk about even the most uncomfortable things for ONE MINUTE.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 2:24 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Even though my parents were comfortable talking about this stuff and we had plenty of conversations about things that I consider even more awkward and difficult, neither I nor my older brother apparently ever had sex questions for them. According to my mom, they waited and waited for us to ask and we just never brought it up!

What I remember though was that the sex ed in school was pretty good, I had internet access starting in middle school and could look stuff up on my own (and a solid idea of how to tell if a site was legit or a pile of junk), and I knew with bone-deep certainty that I could say no to things I didn't want to do, and that if I was worried or in trouble or a friend was having a problem, even about a sex related kind of thing, I could ask my parents for help and they would. And they in fact did help with a friend who was being pressured to be sexually active and didn't want to be. Even then we didn't have the sex talk! It probably helped that I wasn't interested in anything more than kissing until I was 18. But I also am not straight, so my confused feelings about ALL of the kids I liked should have prompted... something. Didn't, though.

Later, I had a few discussions about sex with my parents, and when I got my period all the menstrual stuff immediately went from "mystifying weird puberty thing" to "ugh, this is gross and annoying" and definitely made it as easy to talk about with my mom as, say, if I was getting a sinus infection or how to deal with zits. We had way more trouble with bra shopping than menstrual product shopping. Anyway later on when I was a young adult and sex was something that came up with my parents in the course of things, their attitude was that sex is a part of life, and so is everything else that can be confusing and hard but also potentially wonderful and fun and silly. And it was obvious that this attitude was one they always had, they just didn't bring it up around me in a way that was directly related to me because I never gave any indication that it was a part of *my* life.

So I suggest that you divide things up in different discussions, starting with what is most immediately relevant to your kid - menstruation (they tend to start earlier these days! How aggravating. Even if she isn't going to start any time soon, her friends will and she can be really helpful by having factual info) bodily autonomy and respecting boundaries (this doesn't need to be about sex, this can also be about any kind of touch and social pressure), and making sure she knows you trust and respect her and will always help her out if she is worried about something, even if she has broken a rule.

Practice being an open talker with things that are less directly related to sex but no less vital for it. That will lay the groundwork for sex talks, and if you choose to get some of the great book suggestions in this thread it will also make it easier for your kid to see it as an ongoing thing where she can count on you as someone to offer information and guidelines, without it being "now is the day of the sex talk. We will never speak of this again."

The suggestion upthread to use media to bring up related topics can be a good one but it can also be super awkward. One great show your kid might already like that is often about issues of consent and early puberty and love in varying gender combinations is Steven Universe, a show on Cartoon Network. It has a ton of things you can springboard off of. We talk about it on Fanfare here if you are a bit lost.
posted by Mizu at 2:57 PM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

This is probably not part of your first talk but one thing that I thought was important was to make a distinction between values and safety. We have lots of family values that we hope to pass on to our children - values about who to have sex with and at what age (as well values about hard work, practicing their parents religious etc.) These are all things that are important to Mom & Dad and hope you children will take them on as your own when you grow up. However, you will make your own choices and we respect the fact that you might not make the choices we do.

At that same time, there are also safety issues around sex - not making babies until you are ready and not getting or giving diseases. Keeping safe is very important - you need to know how to do it and you need to do the right things. Like buckling seat belts this is non-negotiable (although if you do mess up and something bad happens, we will be there for you because we always love way more than we would be upset with you. )
posted by metahawk at 11:54 PM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

I say, give her the books What's Happening to Me? and Where Did I Come From? Seriously, they're great. They make sex education cute and fun. Then you say, "Do you have any questions?" (Note that those books are mostly about biology, and don't talk about things like consent. Those are separate conversations you'll have to have, but they'll probably be a lot less awkward than talking about clitorises.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:55 AM on November 12, 2015

Heathet Corinna's book S.E.X. is very good.
posted by listen, lady at 2:59 AM on November 12, 2015

My family almost never talks about sex and my parents never had a talk with me. I think books and some straightforward conversation should cover it.

One thing that also helped me was my parents were affectionate with each other and really modeled how to be in a happy relationship.
posted by betsybetsy at 7:04 AM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

If I could go back in time (and yet simultaneously move society ahead like 15 years), I wish someone would have told me, along with the puberty talk, "your body will change and for some people, it might feel wrong or make them extremely uncomfortable" or "sometimes, when people are born as a girl, they don't feel like they are supposed to grow up to be a woman" and "please tell us if you feel this way and we will do our best to help make it better".

I stumbled across a video on YouTube one time of a mom and her daughter having a supposedly "funny" conversation in the car, according to the description. Her child was 8 or 9 and seemed truly distressed about the thought of growing boobs when her mom asked her benignly about it. I didn't find it very funny knowing I had similar thoughts at that age (except in my case I thought I just wouldn't grow into a woman) and had a very hard time of it up until I started to transition.

Being transgender is pretty rare, so there's a good chance your daughter will just be like "ok" and when puberty happens, it's new and weird but not extremely distressing or depressing. But please make it just a small footnote in the event that it is relevant, because it could make such a difference. Obviously, it would not be an easy road if your child were to be transgender, but statistics show having a supportive family decreases a trans person's risk of suicide and I feel, myself, that having some kind of understanding and support for my situation might have saved me years of pain.
posted by sevenofspades at 8:05 PM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Your attitudes toward sex are likely to have been transmitted to your daughter. If you'd like her to feel less awkward, and to convey some of the values you describe (especially if they don't come naturally to you), you might look at how to expose her to other attitudes (at age appropriate times). I remember my puritan mind being blown by a Yes! Magazine issue on sex positivity. Our culture is full of negative attitudes towards women's bodies and sexualities, so resources like Our Bodies, Ourselves are valuable in part for conveying positive and empowering attitudes.
posted by salvia at 6:39 AM on November 19, 2015

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