What Your Child Needs To Know About Sex (And When)

A straight-talking guide for parents

Teaching Your Nine-Year-Old How to Use a Condom

You have to start sometime, so let's start at nine.

Okay, so let's get some of the values messages out of the way before I go any further with this blog. Before having your first discussion with your nine-year-old son or daughter about condoms, there are some real important values that as a parent you will want to establish with your child. If you have read any of my previous posts these will be familiar to you:

Sex can be great but it can also be devastating and ruin one's life http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-you-child-needs-know-about-sex-and-when/201109/when-talking-about-sex-age-10-is-the-new-16.
• When one has true love, respect, and trust in a relationship sexual risks will be minimized http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-your-child-needs-know-about-sex-and-when/201109/teach-your-child-the-three-biggest-sex-wor.
• The risks associated with being sexually active as a teen far outweigh the benefits http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-your-child-needs-know-about-sex-and-when/201110/want-reduce-teen-sexual-intercourse-make-s?page=2

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Critics frequently charge that discussing condoms with kids, showing kids how to use them, and providing kids with access to them at best sends a mixed message about sex and at worst, actually promotes sexual activity. While there is no empirical evidence that suggests these claims are true, we continue to hear these charges. Sadly, what we don't hear often enough is the truth about having a comprehensive condom discussion with our kids. So let me be real clear right from the outset. When as parents we communicate regularly with our children about sex and sexuality, are clear on our values about sex as stated in the above examples, and also have sincere and open conversations with our children about condom use, not only are they more likely to use condoms when they become sexually active, but they are more likely to DELAY initiating sexual intercourse. These are the real facts all parents need to hear, not the made up ones that are conveniently used to scare and deceive us.

While I believe that all teenagers whether in middle school or high school should learn about condoms, there is nothing like starting out early. You should know by now that I am a huge advocate of starting our discussions about sex and sexuality with our children early in their life. When we establish ourselves as approachable parents on all matters sexual during our children's early years, not only will we be more effective in helping them develop healthy sexual behaviors as they grow older, we will also ensure the likelihood that our kids will be less likely to tune us out as they naturally start to pull away during adolescence. So let's think seriously about having our first conversations about condoms, along with an actual demonstration of how to use them by age nine. Okay you got that? You didn't faint did you? First mention and a condom demo at age nine.

I've discussed before that we want to have our first conversation about sexual intercourse with our kids sometime between the ages of five and eight years, and will have included along with that an explanation of the concept that a sperm cell when combined with an egg cell creates a pregnancy
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-your-child-needs-know-about-sex-and-when/201109/parent-s-first-mention-doing-it-sometime-b. By age eight, we want to have introduced as well the idea that HIV and other sexually transmitted infections can be spread through sexual intercourse. It follows then that a discussion about condoms and how they are used is not far behind.

My visits to fourth grade classrooms through the years have taught me that most nine year olds have heard something about condoms. Most all of them have some understanding that a condom is used by a man when he has sex and that it's worn on his penis. Anything more specific than that you can pretty much forget it. Oh, don't get me wrong; I do get the occasional kid who's heard it all from his or her parents and could probably get up and take over the lesson from me. But for the most part nine-year-olds typically don't have any real considerable knowledge base about condoms and their use. They do however have the capacity and capability for learning a whole lot more about them. I can virtually guarantee that when you have your first condom discussion with your nine year old he or she will be riveted. So much so that if a pin were to drop you would be able to hear it. There may be some initial squirming and shifting in the seat, along with some anticipated discomfort, but trust me you will have her attention. This is because finally someone is going to help her make sense of something she's heard about before but has never been able to really put into context or been able to make any true sense of. Such is life in our supersexualized culture right? Kids are hearing about and being confronted with adult related sexual concepts without the necessary adult guidance to help them make sense of what they are exposed to http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-your-child-needs-know-about-sex-and-when/201109/the-super-sexualization-children-time-take. You are now going to help correct some of that!

So get yourself a condom and let's teach your nine year old what it's all about.

"You know how we've spoken about vaginal intercourse before, how a man's penis goes into a woman's vagina?"

Your son or daughter is starring wide-eyed at you right now, convinced he's about to hear one of your sex talks again.

"And you know how I've talked to you about how some people have anal intercourse by one person putting his penis into the rectum of the other person? That this is something that both a man and woman can do, or two men who have sex with each other might do?"

"Yep", your kid says to himself, "Dad/mom is definitely gonna have one of his sex talks with me." 

"And you know how we've talked about how vaginal intercourse can cause a pregnancy and how having vaginal sex or anal sex can also be a way of spreading infection or HIV? Well, I want to talk with you about how a person could protect him or herself from getting pregnant or spreading any sort of infection when they do. It's by using a condom when having vaginal or anal intercourse."

"A condom is made out of a type of rubber called latex."

Feel free at this point to take out the packaged condom in front of your child and start to tear the package open.

"You want to make sure you carefully tear open the package at the end so that you don't tear the condom inside."

Take the condom out of the package and say, "Only the man can use this condom. He rolls it down his penis hen he has an erection; when his penis is stiff and hard."

Put your index and middle fingers together and say, "Pretend for a moment that these two fingers are a man's erect penis and I'm gonna show you how the condom rolls down the penis."

Your kid's probably got some pretty big eyes right about now, but she or he will be listening intently.

"So the condom can only roll down the penis one way. You look at the rolled up condom and using your fingers you figure out which way it rolls down. A man always does this before he tries rolling it down his penis; he's got to make sure beforehand that he knows which way it's gonna roll out."

You can pass the condom to your child. Let him or her touch it and see that it can only roll out one way.

You can take the condom back from your child and now begin to roll the condom down your index and middle fingers.

"When the condom is rolled all the way down the penis he can now start to have intercourse. Any sperm cells and fluid that comes out of the penis will be captured by the condom. The condom will also prevent any infection or HIV from passing between them. When the man wearing the condom has his sperm and fluid come out of his penis he will be finished having intercourse. Before he takes his penis out of the vagina or rectum he must hold the condom against the base of his penis as he removes his penis from his partner's body. When he slides the condom off his penis he puts it into tissues and throws it in the garbage."

You can demonstrate for your child how this would be done. Now take another packaged condom out, give it to your child, and walk her or him through the steps again having your child doing the demonstration. When done, you will want to address any questions your child might have, explain to him that you will have additional talks about this and other aspects of sex as time goes along, and you will be sure to reinforce that these are private talks between you and your child (no need to blab any of this to his classmates at school!). You'll want to give your kid a big hug, tell her you love her, and that you have these talks with her because you want her to grow up smart and safely. It really is this easy to do. Don't be too concerned that you weren't perfect in your delivery or that you didn't spell it all out as if you were a walking, talking, sexual encyclopedia. You don't have to be anything close to perfect when you have talks like this. Just make sure you have the talks!

This is only the first of many additional conversations you will have with your child about condom usage as he or she grows older. As you continue your talks they will become more graphic as needed and more precise in nature. Your child will become more sophisticated in his understanding of condoms and their use, and your discussions will slowly take on a more mature tone. You will no doubt talk about different types of condoms, eventually discuss the female condom, and get into discussions of the use of condoms and dental dams during oral sex. You will gradually expand your child's awareness of how to use condoms responsibly and develop in him or her the skills that are necessary for their effective use. But you will need to have your first talk about condoms with your child at some point. I say make it nine years of age.

Fred Kaeser, Ed.D., is the former director of health for the NYC Department of Education. He is the author of What Your Child Needs To Know About Sex (And When).

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