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Having ‘the talk’

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Dear Sharon,

My 12-year-old son is soiling his bedclothes. I think it’s sexual. You know, “wet dreams.” Should we say something to him or ignore it? My husband and I are conflicted.

Dear Parents,

I can understand why you are conflicted about talking to your son about wet dreams. Potentially embarrassing conversations with preteens are rarely comfortable or simple. Nevertheless, discussing puberty with children is usually a good idea.

Twelve-year-olds are exposed to a lot of unreliable information about sexual topics, and parental support and perspectives are often invaluable sources of clarity and reassurance. Of course, it is important to tailor any communication to match the needs and personality of each particular child.

If a young person is generally open to discussion, naturally, talks are easier. If he is easily embarrassed or resistant to broaching personal topics, then parents need to proceed more delicately.

Either way, it is important to set up the conditions for a potentially awkward talk to go well. Setting aside ample time and ensuring a relaxed atmosphere for the time together is an invaluable first step.

It is also important to convey that wet dreams are a natural part of physical development and nothing to be ashamed of or worried about. Sometimes books that explain the human body at different stages can be a helpful resource before, during, or after addressing the topic.

Making sure that a child has ample opportunity to express his opinion without feeling overwhelmed by adult thoughts or emotions also helps keep the dialogue productive.

Discussions about puberty don’t have to be lengthy, it depends on a child’s personality and what works best for him.

If parent-child communication is strained, then the conversation may need to wait until everyone’s relationships are on more solid footing. When this is the case, it is important for moms and dads to set aside regular enjoyable time with their child, discussing less sensitive topics (music, the media, sports, etc.). When contact is more relaxed, it will be easier to pass along reassuring parental perspectives.

Sharon C. Peters is a mother and director of Parents Helping Parents, 669 President St., Brooklyn; (718) 638-9444. If you have a question about a challenge in your life (no issue is too big or small) e-mail it to Dear Sharon at SWeiss@cnglocal.com.
Updated 4:58 pm, July 9, 2018
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