Quora.com invites me with increasing regularity to answer questions on relationships. It is the least I can do: share my own perspective and advice on parenting.
I'm qualified: I have 4 children: 3 girls and 1 boy. Blended 2nd marriage to the "Hunkster Hubster" who often joins me in these discussions and when asked gives his perspective often. Everyone in our family values his point of view and his judgement.
So, here is what I was asked to answer with the following my response:
My daughter is 13 years old. She is an only child who cares much about what her peers think of her. When do I talk to her about sex and how do I approach it?
My first child (of 4) is the only boy.
As his mother, I read all the notes that came home and what curriculum was being covered. When I knew it was being covered shortly, I asked him conversationally if he knew about what was coming up in Health (where sex education falls under here in my part of Canada).
I made him a deal. I said that if he had any questions that he wanted to ask me instead of among his classmates he could.
It was an uncomfortable question. I answered it after clarifying a bunch of things to see where his understanding was or where he may be coming from. That was almost worse.
I answered honestly and it didn’t become a big deal.
NOTE: Any 13 year old girl for generations rates peer acceptance as critical at this age — only child, one of many — same thing.
Sex probably isn’t even on the table, if at all, she just does obsess and worry about what her/his peers think of her/him.
I’d be more concerned if it was a girl and it was boys, boys, boys about everything with little friendships among female peers.
If she wants to look good and not stand out. That’s normal. She notices how other kids dress and wants to fit in. (Him/her)
I would be more concerned with asking her questions that can help you identify her self-image — what may be/have influenced her perception of a positive self-image?
It is likely girls with low self-esteem are more susceptible to doing things with boys that is questionable rather than those busy with sports, extra-curricular activities, hobbies, activities, strong family ties.
Talking about sex didn’t surface until the girls were around 16 — where parental permission was still required for tattoos, piercings — which was a far more important discussion at the time than birth control.
If you worry about sex in an unwanted pregnancy kind of way, then you can go at an angle of annual physical check ups, especially around 15, on whether she would be needing any sort of birth control. (Standard response by abstaining girls: “Geez Mom/Dad that’s gross!”)
You could schedule to meet the school counselor to seek advice on when or how to broach the subject of sex with one’s child. They should be able to give you multitudes of resources: books to reads, website links.
With three girls, two years apart, with the youngest watching, taking in what the older two are talking about, ears open, who liked to report their goings on to me and ask her own questions.
Is there a boy in the picture? That is a bell ringing, as in your door bell. I kept steadfast rules for all: if they were going on a date or out with a boy, he had to come to the house to pick her up, to give us a chance to meet the lucky guy. There are likely signs that you’re picking up on that may challenge you to ask whether there was anything that needed asking or concerned about beyond what is scary for any parent.
Fingers crossed you have a warm, open, dialogue with any kid, so they will be comfortable with your inquiry for their well being, not inquisitive inquisition, or on the ready to pounce and start preaching. At 13, they tend to do the thing that is the most likely to bug you.
Remember, you are setting an example and providing the observance for a child. Heed your own actions and give them the right foundation to expect from healthy, loving relationships between boys and girls in the right circumstance and all the proper reasons.