Q- "My husband walked in on our daughter "playing with herself" in her bedroom a few days ago. She is 11 years old. It's been really awkward at home since then. My daughter is avoiding us and my husband is still upset. We don't know what to say to her. Help!!"
A- Although this situation is really awkward, your daughter getting to know her body is a REALLY GOOD THING! There are so many advantages to your teen/pre-teen masturbating! They get to know their bodies and how they work, they establish sexual confidence, being able to take care of their own needs means they don't need anyone else's help (you know where I'm going with this right?), they can release sexual tension rather than try to contain it, and IT FEELS GOOD!!
Your daughter is most likely embarrassed and I'm sure your husband is too. The best thing to do is to have a sit down with her (no other siblings please) and be real about how the situation was awkward, however what she is doing is not only "normal behaviour" it is in fact good for her to get to know her body. Maybe set some house rules about knocking on the door before entering her bedroom or the bathroom. Use this opportunity to tell her she can talk to you about sex.
The biggest mistake parents and educators make in my eyes is teaching your teen that "touching yourself" or sex altogether is bad, gross, immoral, unhealthy, dangerous, etc.... and it's only something older people do when they are in a serious relationship!! (by the way, if you ask a 16 year old to wait to have sex until they are in a serious relationship, this means their one month anniversary cause they've been together FOREVER!) These years are crucial in developing their attitude towards sex and sexuality. If the goal is to make them feel ashamed, scared, disgusted so they won't do it, imagine the confusion when they hit the "right age" to have sex. All of a sudden it's a good thing? It's healthy? It's an important part of their relationship? What a mess!
When is it a good time to have "the talk" with your teen/pre-teen? ALL THE TIME! When your child expresses interest, asks questions, seems to be a ball of raging hormones.. TALK TO THEM! This is not a one time birds and bees conversation, it needs to be an ongoing dialogue. The best way to help your teen avoid early parenthood or disease? Give them as much information as possible. GOOD and bad. Be real. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! A confident teen is more apt to say NO to trying something they don't want to. And if they choose to try something, they will not only know how to do it but how to do it safely! Think that if your teen doesn't know how, they won't do it? They might choose to let someone else take the lead... now THAT is scary.
Pornographic imagery and stories are a click away... don't let the porn industry teach your teen about sex. This is meant for fantasy NOT education. Beat them to the punch. Find them some books if you are nervous about getting into the nitty gritty with them. I lOVE this one..... Sex: A Book for Teens: An Uncensored Guide to Your Body, Sex, and Safety by Nikol Hasler.
It takes a while to establish trust for conversations of this nature, so be patient. Although there is a lot of focus on being age appropriate, every child is different. One 9 year old could be experiencing and hearing much more than the 12 year old in another neighborhood or even their older sibling. Tailor your conversations to your child. Ask what their friends are talking about. You might be surprised to find that they are way further ahead than you thought. Joke about it. Be real. Cover all the bases.... there's way more to sex than penetration! Touch on masturbation, oral sex, even anal sex (huge trend among teens and young adults right now). If you don't know, do the research. If you can't bring yourself to say it... provide the information in writing. They have the right to information.
The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex has a Teens' Sexual Bill of Rights..... It's brilliant!
Keep that dialogue going.... forever! You can chat about sex after menopause later :)