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How do I talk to my tween about sex?

 

Amy Lang, MA had been a sex educator for over 16 years when she freaked out about talking to her young son about her favorite topic.

Amy went on to combine her expertise in adult education and her love of sexual health and started Birds & Bees & Kids in 2006. Her mission is to help parents feel comfortable and confident when they have these important conversations.

She shares such practical insight and tips, including ways to talk about absolutely everything, especially with a 9-12-year-old, which is what her new book entails.

In this episode, she shares...

  • WHY having talks about sex with your child is SO important
  • WHY we have such a hard time with this
  • What to expect in your child's body + behavior throughout puberty

DON'T MISS-

  • How you know you're on the right track
  • A few phrases to take out of your vocabulary + what to replace them with
  • One tip every parent can utilize right away at school pick up

// MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE //
Brain in the Palm of the Hand by Dan Siegel
Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg

// CONNECT WITH AMY LANG //
Birdsandbeesandkids.com
IG: @birdsbeeskids
Her new book: Sex Talks With Tweens: What to Say & How to Say It!   
Her advice-column style podcast: Just Say This!
FREEBIE: 7 Tips to Have Great Birds & Bees Talks
15% discount for The Birds and Bees Solutions Center for Parents


I believe in you & I'm cheering you on.
Come say hi!  I'm @parent_wholeheartedly on Insta.

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Support the show

*FREE* MASTERCLASS: Learn how to CONFIDENTLY parent your strong-willed child WITHOUT threats, bribes or giving in altogether so you can BREAK FREE of power struggles + guilt
www.parentingwholeheartedly.com/unapologetic 

 


TRANSCRIPT


Amy Lang:  

Your kid will Google "rape" and YOU Google "rape" and you tell me how that goes for you. Yikes, and pretend you're nine, right? Yeah. And you know being porn exposed that ruins in a sense to a degree but if you've prepared your child that they're going to see this and they need to be ready to see it and what to do about it. But by and large, your children's innocence will absolutely not be ruined, not doing it will ruin their innocence.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Ever feel like you suck at this job? Motherhood I mean? Have too much anxiety, not enough patience. Too much yelling, not enough play. There's no manual, no village, no guarantees. The stakes are high. We want so badly to get it right. But this is survival mode. We're just trying to make it to bedtime. So if you're full of mom guilt, your temper scares you...You feel like you're screwing everything up, And you're afraid to admit any of those things out loud.... This podcast is for you. This is Failing Motherhood. I'm Danielle Bettmann. And each week we'll chat with a mom ready to be real. Sharing her insecurities, her fears, your failures and her wins. We do not have it all figured out. That's not the goal. The goal is to remind you, you are the mom your kids need. They need what you have. You are good enough. And you're not alone. I hope you pop in earbuds somehow sneak away and get ready to hear some hope from the trenches. You belong here, friend. We're so glad you're here. Hey, it's Danielle. Talking to your kids about the birds and the bees can be really uncomfortable. And most people dread the idea of having "the talk". But it doesn't have to be that way. My guest on this episode, Amy Lang, had been a sex educator for over 16 years when she freaked out about talking to her young son about her favorite topic. Surprised by her discomfort with just the idea of talking with her young son about his body. She knew she needed help. Amy did a bunch of research to learn how to talk with kids about bodies and sexuality and realized that she could help other parents with this important part of parenting. Amy combined her expertise in adult education and her love of sexual health and started Birds and Bees and Kids in 2006. Her mission is to help parents feel comfortable and confident when they have these important conversations. Through her books, classes, online solution center and podcast, Amy has helped 1000s of parents around the world become their kids go to "birds and bees" source. Amy starts off this episode sharing her own parenting regrets and thoughts around parenting differently than her friends. Now if you only hear one answer of hers from this whole episode, I hope that it's her reasoning for why having talks about sex with your child is so important. In this episode, she shares such practical insight and tips, including an indicator of how you know you're on the right track, ages and stages of puberty and what to expect and their bodies and behavior as well as tips for talking about absolutely everything, especially with a nine to 12 year old, which is what her new book is all about. At the end of this episode, you'll be buying her book as well as the book recommendations for kids that we mentioned, and subscribing to her podcast, and taking her one tip every parent can utilize right away and using it today at school pickup. Be sure to stay till the end to learn a few important things to take out of your vocabulary and what to replace them with. So here's my interview with Amy. Welcome to Failing Motherhood. My name is Danielle Bettmann. And on today's episode, I'm joined by Amy Lang. Welcome, Amy.

Amy Lang:  

Hi, thanks for having me.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Of course, I am so excited to have you on the show. I feel like with all the questions I've prepared, we could talk for like four hours, but I'm not going to monopolize your time. And I'll make sure to get it all in. But before we dive into all of the picking of your brain for all of your expertise, go ahead and just give a quick intro of who you are and who's in your family.

Amy Lang:  

I will happily do that. So I am a sexuality educator. I have been for over 25 years. And my company is called Birds and Bees and Kids and I have been married to the same person, Carrie, for 29 years that terrifies me. Congrats. He's a good guy and then we have one kiddo, Milo, who is 21.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Amazing. So you did it. You're done.

Amy Lang:  

I did it! He's launched! We refer to him as a man child and he appears great. He's doing really well and has plans for his future and it's all good.

Danielle Bettmann:  

That's amazing. Oh, that's so fun. So I have to clarify for every guest to bring on even our experts to normalize the feeling of having regrets, or fears and motherhood of screwing up our kids. So have you ever felt like you were failing? or have any regrets while you look back?

Amy Lang:  

Oh, my God, no, I was perfect. Not one, not one.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Oh, well, I guess episode over?

Amy Lang:  

Yeah, of course. I mean, I think that I wish that in our family, we'd had more sort of kind of traditions that we did. And so we didn't have that. I think that I would have liked to have been closer to him or felt closer to him. He's a very reserved person. And so it's really hard to get close to someone who is very reserved. But yeah, I mean, I think we did a pretty good job. I took positive discipline parenting classes when he was about four or five. And I think that just changed everything for us. It made our parenting life pretty easy. But I do have to say that he was a very, very easy child. I was complaining about him to one of my best friends, like during the pandemic when he was living with us, and I wanted to, you know, hurt him a lot of the time. That's where he's, you know, and she said, Yeah, I've never heard you complain about Milo. And I said, Yeah, what am I going to say? He left his cereal bowl in the living room. And so I you know, I liked out we lucked out. He's a great person. So yeah, of course, I have regrets. I have regrets. Because I traveled a bunch. I missed his prom. I missed his prom and his prom with his girlfriend because I was working. And I didn't Well, he didn't tell me what was happening. And I didn't pay any attention. So there's that. So yeah, I mean, you can't parent and not have regrets.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Yes. Okay. Well, I hope that just helps everybody feel a little bit more normal. Because then, you know, we could soon take out that shame, and we can feel okay, talking about how it really is and ask for help and all those good things. So thank you. For that transparency. It's always so refreshing.

Amy Lang:  

Sure thing, I'm transparent. If I'm nothing else, what you see is what you get.

Danielle Bettmann:  

I'm sure that comes with the territory. Yeah, totally. Totally.

Amy Lang:  

I have some fails there, too. I mean, he's so reticent. He told me that he'd rather talk to strangers than me and Carrie, his dad, about sex. It was just the best moment in my life with that. I was like, Oh, you've got to be shitting. Me. So there's that I've got people all around me whose kids are like, Oh, you've helped me so much to tell me everything. And I'm like, lucky you because I'm trying to figure out how to get this information into this kid while he's not actually noticing it happened. So anyway, that's a fail. It's not a fail, just a personality quirk.

Danielle Bettmann:  

I wonder if that's like related to you know, how interior designers will say that, like their house is a mess. Or like, you know, whatever your trade is, it's like, you can't translate it all into like your own family or your own style, because it's like, it works better with strangers.

Amy Lang:  

Yeah, I prefer to think that it's all about him, and that I did a terrific job. And I did the best I could, right. We all do this parenting, we do the best we can with the skills we have. And yeah, so he was definitely not down for it. So.

Danielle Bettmann:  

So it's okay, if your kids aren't either.

Amy Lang:  

He's still got to figure out how to make it happen. It's on you. It's not on them. It's your job. Yeah, it's your job. Yes.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Right. Yeah, we dive into all of that. But I have to circle back on one last thing. Because it's so fascinating to me that you mentioned positive discipline. That is actually what I'm certified in as a parent educator. That is really what I found that aligned with so much of what I knew going into child development, and my bachelor's and everything. So I would love to just hear how it resonated with you when you initially kind of found it, and then how you felt like that impacted your decisions as a parent, because you said that it was kind of different from the way that a lot of your friends were parenting. So I needed to do a parenting class. I was starting a company that was parenting focused, and I had never taken any parenting classes. And I Googled, and I found this local person, Jody McVitie, who teaches this class. And so I went and Carrie and I, you know, we weren't spanking and of course, there's always yelling, but I just didn't like typical parenting stuff. And we'd read some things. And the thing that resonated with me about it is it's based in research. It's based in legit stuff. It's totally child focused, you know, it's not like people think, Oh, I'm doing positive discipline, because I'm putting my kid in timeout. And it just turned everything on its head. Instead of timeout. You have a calm down corner that you've created with your child. So if they're having a you know, having a fit, you're like, Hey, how about you go spend some time coloring and calm down and then we can have a conversation? And it just helped everything in our household be more chill. And I, you know, I kind of am an outlier parent and I remember watching Milo's best friend's dad his friend Ethan was just falling apart. And he just put that kid under his arm and marched him to the car and shoved him in the car. And I was like, Okay, that is so bad. That is so bad. And I think that one of the things I really love about positive discipline is like, it's our job to teach, right? It's our job to teach our kids and to help them people make mistakes, like we make mistakes, they make mistakes they're learning. And, you know, that was one of the things that really kind of stood out to me. And you know, one of the things I often say is that if I'm upset, or I make a mistake, the last thing I want is somebody yelling at me, and telling me, I'm a terrible person. So it's all about something and connection, right? It's all about connecting with your child. That doesn't mean you give up your authority as a parent, right? It's like you're kind and firm, you're redirected. You have like these family meetings, all kinds of tools. So the tool I recommend all the time in my work is when kids are acting out. But using a lot of potty talk or just acting out in various and sundry ways. I always, always, always recommend special time, which is great, which is counterintuitive, like your kids being it's so counterintuitive, kids being a turd. And the last thing, you want it to just be like, Hey, let's go play Legos. So special time, I recommend all the time because it fills their love bucket, if they're acting out, they're seeking your attention, you can give 1520 minutes a day where you're just doing what they're doing child play. So I always recommend that are child lead time, like you aren't instructive, they are in the boss. And then the other thing I recommend is when they're having a fit is to say, you I know you do all this kind of a hug. And 99% of the time, they'll be like, yeah, and or do you want a hug? And they'll be like, yeah, and then it fixes them and fixes them anyways. So I could say so many good things about positive discipline, as you do. But the one caveat about it, as you know, is that it makes you a weirdo in the parenting world because people don't parent the positive discipline wave, so Mm hmm. And for us, it was worth it. And so I like to think that all of our positive discipline in the way we were parenting helped mold that very easy child also, not really, but you know, what, I think there is kind of a compound interest effect that builds up over time, where the more you're able to put in, in those early years to kind of set the stages for a lot of those expectations and boundaries and communication. And just like how you approach conflict, and you know what tools, you have to be able to set the stage for modeling that it does pay off down the road where you're disciplining, quote, unquote, less and less as they get older, because there's less reason to because you've had the conversation, you've taught the skills over and over and over. And so I do really feel like that's part of it, where my girls are nine and eight now, you know, I don't have to put them in their calm down corner very often, I don't have to, you know, have these types of like, you should know better type of conversations, because they do, right, like, so that is kind of a goal where you work yourself out of a job, you hope that you create these collaborative problem solving conversations where they're understanding a lot of the critical thinking themselves and just taking that ownership and that independence. So yeah, I wouldn't give you credit for that. Because I...

Amy Lang:  

Thank you! I think it was just so hard to know, I can't wait, my friend who has older kids, I like I just want to know, I want to get to know him better. And I want you know, I want to know how it was for him as a child. I'm happy to hear where I fucked up. But I also she said, Yeah, Amy, you got like two years to go, you got 23-24 You're gonna have this sudden, human like an adult human that can have what I sometimes when I'm with him if we're with his grandmothers or grandmother, I'll say so you got to do like, you need to make full sentences and use adjectives when you're interacting with them. And he's like, UGH, at me, but that's how Yes, three word answers. I'm like, dude, adjectives. 10 words. Let's do this. We can do this. So apparently, just have a couple years and then I'll get it I'll have a different same but different human being one that uses more words. Yeah,

Danielle Bettmann:  

their personalities make it a whole nother thing. So the tools are one, but then actually knowing how that works with them, and how they're wired. And you know, their way of learning is a whole nother thing. So that's why I do what I do. I love it. But okay, so let's dive into all of your expertise. Now. I know I did not get the talk as a tween. And I would venture to guess that a lot of my listeners didn't as well. Or maybe it was to be desired. So we don't have an example to work from and maybe feeling a bit lost or a little bit scared of what that's going to look like and wanting and caring about giving our kids kind of the tools that they need to thrive. So can you normalize right off the bat? Like why it feels hard? Like why it's just so intimidating, or we feel that apprehension of like, what do I do? What do I say, you know, just all of that.

Amy Lang:  

Yeah, absolutely. It's the first thing you said we did not have examples in our families, most of us did not get the amount of information we needed. When we needed it. We were, you know, kind of free Rangers, maybe you got some sex ed and your school, depending on where you lived. And you know, most folks learned on the job, right. And we talked to our friends, and we're trying to sort it. And depending on what kind of community you lived in, if you were in a really conservative Christian community, where you got to abstinence only education, which is no, so many NO's about that, you got that or you lived in a more liberal community where you got like, I had pretty good sex ed. And you know, I remember in eighth grade, the health teacher brought out a tray of all of the different kinds of birth controls. And so it was really good. So that was really good. But my parents did not talk to me at all. They gave me books. So we're coming in with a deficit. We don't know what this feels like. We don't know what it looks like. So that's the first thing. The second thing is that in our adult brains, when we think about I get to talk to my kids about sex, we bring everything to the party, right? We bring everything we know, we bring, like what I just talked about, we know how great sex can be. We know how shitty it can be. We know how like our own experiences, we see the sexualized world we know about porn, and we look at our kids and we say, Oh, hell no, hell no, you know, you're too young for this. It's you know, it's too much information. And so we do a little projecting and protecting, you can't see my air quoting, but right and protecting. And, you know, the reality is that if you step back, if you step back from all that crap, and you think about, Okay, what does my child need to know? Like, where can I start this conversation? It doesn't start with BJs. It does not? Right, it starts with the correct names for private body parts, and then goes on from there. And so that's our crap that gets in the way. And then of course, the lack of information like nobody. I mean, you know, we all have this like ideas about when the best time is, and we don't really know. I mean, I really know, I'm going to tell you in a minute. So anyway, so our job as parents is to take care of ourselves. Lots and lots of folks have trauma around sexuality, so take care of ourselves, to get some information to calm down to remember that our job is to prepare our kids for the world. Our job is to prepare our kids to be sexual beings to be in healthy relationships to understand what that looks like. And so, you know, if you can focus on what do I hope for my kids, like, what do I hope for my child, when they're at that point where they're entering into their first relationships? What do they need to know? What do I wish I'd known? So there's a lot of things we can do. But if we hold that mindset of, I want to prepare my child for this important, important, important primary part of life, like calculus-smalculus, if you're focusing on that, ah, I don't even know what it is. But that's the wrong place to put your energy. Right. It's like what we do our entire lives, which is being relationship and being our bodies.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Yeah, I know, I haven't used the Pythagorean theorem in quite a while that was it a grown up? I have a little bit of an idea.

Amy Lang:  

I remember the words. Yeah, I could probably, I could probably come up with it. But yeah, like all our hyper focus on academics is not serving our kids at all.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Yeah, so my kids are nine and eight. So I'm the perfect parent to capitalize on this conversation. And I'm going to be diving even more into puberty and a little bit, but we actually just got done reading the book, Sex is a Funny Word, which I loved. But starting from the top, I think like, if they don't listen to the rest of this episode, I really want to narrow in on the why. So let's start there. Why have the sex talk? Why is it so important?

Amy Lang:  

Well, like I just said, it is a massive part of life. So that is the first thing they deserve. They have a human right to know how their bodies work to know about sexuality, to know about relationships, and all the things attached to that. So consent, orientation, gender, like the whole thing. So they have a human right to that. And the other reasons are like having a conversation yourself with your child, you're going to share your values with your child. And your values are something that they need to hear. It helps them steer the ship, it helps you steer the ship. So when you're really clear about your sexual values, it settles you down. I think about it as giving you roots. So then when you're providing them with factual information, you feel calmer and better about it because it's really three things, its facts, values and limits depending on what you're talking about. And it is your job, right? It protects them. When kids have open relationships with trustworthy adults that can talk with them about sexuality and relationships. They are more likely to come to you if they have a problem. They're also safer from sexual abuse because those people look for Kids who are clueless. So if your four year olds at the dinner table and it's a whole group of people and they announce, you know, Mama, my vulva itches in front of God and everyone that creepster is going to hear the word vulva and go, "Okay, I'm not messing with that kid."

Danielle Bettmann:  

Hey, if you're new here, I'm Danielle. My company, Wholeheartedly, offers one on one and group coaching programs to help families with strong willed kids aged one to seven, prevent tantrums, eliminate power struggles, extend their patience and get on the same page. It's kind of like finances, you can read lots of info about what a Roth IRA is and how the stock market works. But if you really want to get serious about paying down debt or growing your wealth, you go see a financial advisor who can give you very specific recommendations based on all the unique facets of your situation. I'm your financial advisor for parenting. And I've designed the way we work together to give you nothing less than a complete transformation. While we work together, I'm able to help you figure out why your child is losing their mind and why you are losing your mind and guide you to master effective long term solutions through three main focuses. Number one, my cultivating cooperation guide, teaching you the tools of positive discipline. Number two, managing your mind by working through my triggers workbook. And number three, establishing your family's foundation by writing your family business plan. My coaching is comprehensive, practical, individualized and full of VIP support. So if you struggle to manage your child's big emotions, if you and your partner's arguments seem to center around parenting, especially if one of you is too kind and one of us too firm. If you struggle to stay calm and be the parent that you want to be, it's possible to stop feeling like a deer in headlights when a tantrum hits, effortlessly move through simple directions and care routines without an argument. And go to bed replaying the way you handled the hardest moments and feel proud. If you have a deep desire to be the best parent you can be, and your family is your greatest investment. Find me on Instagram, send me a message that says SANITY. And I'll ask you a few questions to see if we'd be a good fit to work together. I can't wait to meet you. Back to the show. Yeah, that's so important and reassuring to hear because we have to get uncomfortable. And we're reaching through uncharted territory. But knowing that we're ultimately acting out of their best interest and giving them the tools they need to protect them in this crazy world is all the way we usually need to be able to go and figure it out and do the things we need to do as parents. So I got a sneak peek into your book, which we'll also definitely circle back to by the end of this episode. But it's so straightforward. And so refreshing. And you mentioned a lot of the scripts that you share are tailored from like 9 to 12. But many of my listeners will have younger kids. So when we had the question of timing, when do we start these conversations? And do they need to know these things before age 12?

Amy Lang:  

So the ideal time to start the conversation is when.. is birth. And that is using the correct names for private body parts. So they have the right to know the correct names or their private body parts. Then having conversations about boundaries and body boundaries and friendships and different kinds of families. And then moving into you know how babies are made-reproduction. And it's you really just got to get that out of the way by the time they're five. And people get very worked up about saying the penis goes in the vagina. And it's three little words. It's also not the only way babies are made. It always takes a sperm and an egg. And your kids when you say this is the typical way of the usual way babies are made. When you say penis goes on vagina, and you say this is how butter is made. It's the same weight to them. They don't know there's anything bad, embarrassing, yucky, shameful, terrific, amazing, fabulous. And so they're a blank slate, and a highly recommend you capitalize on that. Because they're super open. There's lots of great books, they're open to the conversations, they're easier to talk to. So you can establish that this is how we roll on our family. You can establish "I am the go-to". It is a myth that you should wait for your child to ask you questions. That's how you know they're ready. Super wrong. Remember my child, he would never ask a question. Again, just so terrific. He'd never asked me a question. And so it is our job. So getting the party started sooner. By the time they're an 8-9-10 like hitting those tween years they get like kind of grossed out they don't want to hear it and find developmentally appropriate and that's not That's tough, they still need to hear it, they still need. So when they're eight or so they need to start learning about puberty, they should know about sexual attraction and gender, you should always you can talk about these things. And I think about it in terms of sort of the lightweight version, and then use add more details. As they get older, you go deeper. So you start at the surface, deeper, deeper, deeper. And then by the time they are in the sixth grade, by the time they're 12, they need to know the basics of everything, which is what's in my book, it's the basics of everything. They're tips, for sure. And then the rest of it is basically script. So how do you talk about tampons? What do you say about masturbation? Pretty much all the things of course, I'm like, Oh, crap, I should have that in there. Dammit. Why isn't that in there? But you know, not perfect, not perfect.

Danielle Bettmann:  

But there's pretty much every answer. Yeah. Give yourself credit for that. You've nearly thought of absolutely everything. I just paged through it again, before we hopped on and there was things on there. I was like, oh, I need to learn these answers. So what about parents that are hesitant to ruin their innocence?

Amy Lang:  

That's not a thing. It's not a thing. You are going to ruin if you do not talk with them, that's when their innocence gets ruined. And you cannot ruin your kid's innocence because you're going to be providing the information. When you read books with kids, the books that I recommend are all sex positive, which means they present sexuality as a positive, wonderful, important, cool part of life, you're going to be accurate, and you're going to set them up to be successful. Now, yeah, there are places where their innocence is just it's not great, like learning about rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault, you know, that kind of thing is really hard, really hard. But they need to know. And when you're talking about it, you can answer their questions in a way again, that's based on your values that can be soothing and kind. You know, I think I remember I think I literally looked up rape in the dictionary, right? And it's not a great way to learn. And now they'll google it, right? I mean, now the Internet is a shit show. And so your kid will Google rape and you Google rape. And you tell me how that goes for you. Yeah, and pretend your nine, right? Yeah. And you know, of being porn exposed, that ruins in a sense to a degree, but if you've prepared your child that they're going to see this, and they need to be ready to see it and what to do about it. But by and large, your children's innocence will absolutely not be ruined... not doing it will ruin their innocence.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Yeah, I saw a quote from your book that said most parents worry about giving their kids too much information. And it's better to worry about not giving them enough information. So same threat there.

Amy Lang:  

Absolutely. Absolutely. And here's how you know that you've given them enough information. So if you have a sweaty upper lip, if you're like, hey, just want to talk to you about erections. I just had somebody asked me if 11 year olds can get erections? Yes, just PS. Yes, they can. Anyway, those penises up and down their entire lifespan. So if you have a sweaty upper lip, you're talking to your person who does not have a penis, and you're like, Hey, I just want to talk to you about penises and what erections are. And then you're like, oh, then you're good. So you want to be uncomfortable. Just a little uncomfortable, sweaty upper lip, and you're hitting the nail on the head. Okay. And it's really hard for us to do that. So don't worry about it.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Yeah, that's reassuring. Good to know. And so you mentioned the word sex positive. Does that mean that you're encouraging sex at a young age?

Amy Lang:  

No! No, nobody encourages sex at a young age! No one. I mean, sure, someone but they're evil. No, it means that you see sexuality as a positive part of life. And most of us didn't get that message. And if you think about it, like why do we do sex? It feels good. Why do we have relationships? Theoretically, it feels good. I am going to qualify that it should feel good. Ideally, it feels good, right? Like the, our motivation is pleasure. Doesn't necessarily mean you're gonna get that. But yeah, I mean, it is a good part of life. Families are a good part of life, knowing your sexual orientation is a good part of life understanding that, honestly, that there are ways to be safe and not safe when you have sex. Like, that's all good information. So yeah, there's a lot of misinformation out there. So sex positive does not mean you're telling your kids "Hey, baby, here's what kink is. And you know what, you can just tie yourself up or have your partner tie you up?" That's not it. That's not it. Right.

Danielle Bettmann:  

And if you provide and talk about condoms, that does not encourage or entice that behavior.

Amy Lang:  

No, they're gonna do it, they can do it safely or not do it safely. You know, I believe that girls who are, who identify as straight and could potentially... well, everybody with a vagina could potentially have a penis in there. I believe that they should be offered birth control when there are periods or, like from 14-15. I mean, average age, people have sex, penis and vagina sex, is about 17. So it doesn't hurt their bodies, they're prepared. It doesn't mean that they're going to do it any sooner. That means that when they do it, and hey, did you have a superb birth control plan the first time you did it? Maybe you did? right? Maybe you were there, maybe you weren't. And so it's a family choice. I know it makes people twitch. But you really need to think about what's in the best interest of your child having talking to your child, the child's doctor like medical care folks, and just making sure that this is a good idea. And just one more thing, the Mirena IUD makes period stop, it's can be a really good thing for people. So and you can't get pregnant, and it doesn't hurt their bodies to have it, you know, again, like unintended pregnancy is going to cause way more trouble than being on the pill or something like that, or having an implant or something like that. But it's not for everybody. So I just want to throw that out there. And I know like your kids are pretty young, like this can be like, AHHHH, no, thank you. But pocket. You might change your mind? Right? Just yeah,

Danielle Bettmann:  

Yeah, they already have the sweaty upper lip just listening.

Amy Lang:  

Sorry about that. Take a breath. Here we go.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Okay, so have a coffee. So let's dive into more about puberty, then. Because that's, you know, one of the steps along the way, and most relevant to my family right now. So episode 58 of this podcast. So if they wanted to jump back, I had Aly Pain on here. And she was a teen parenting expert, and talking about the brain development that happens throughout puberty, which is so important and enlightening as a parent to be able to understand. And she brought up the inside out type of like illustration of kind of like the architecture of their brain kind of crumbling and like rebuilding. And so I'd love to hear more of your thoughts about like, what's happening in their body and their head that we need to be able to understand.

Amy Lang:  

Excellent question. I love talking about puberty. And I learned about the brain thing when Milo was about seven, I was so excited for him to be an adolescent. I was like, I got this, I know what you're good, you're going to be crazy. And I'm going to be able to handle it. He was not crazy. Anyway. So first of all, there's a lot of misunderstandings about puberty. Average age of puberty start for people with ovaries is about nine. period starts about two years after puberty starts. And first sign of puberty is usually breast budding. So you see little nipple sticking out. It's not the period, it's the breast buds. Puberty at Boys. It's a testes havers, it's 10-ish. Everybody's different. Some people do puberty in a year, some people do it in six years. It's everybody's on their own timeline. And what happens is that the pituitary gland just kicks off the hormones. And so they get their puberty hormones. And when that happens, it also causes some changes in the brain. And we did not know this for a very, very long time. And we didn't understand why teenagers or adolescents were so irrational and weird and couldn't remember anything and like, What is wrong with you. And what happens is before they start puberty, their brains are huge. They're beautiful. They're juicy. Kids are really, you know, smarty pants and fun and generally, hopefully, even keeled. And then puberty starts and with this brain goes through this process of pruning, and I'll let's put the brain in the palm of the hand and Dan Siegel's stuff in there. I'll make sure you have those links. It's really helpful.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Yeah, well, I have that- I can add it to the show notes.

Amy Lang:  

You have that? Yeah add it. So this pruning thing happens and the neural pathways they're using get drunk than the ones or not get kind of cut away. And when they get around to the prefrontal cortex, which is the if then thinking part of the brain. So if I jump off this bridge, I might die. Adolescence, they're like, if I jump off this bridge, then nothing. So they don't do very well with that they're not very organized, I have trouble with all that kind of executive function. And when the executive function, when that pruning is happening in that prefrontal cortex, they call it lid flipping. So their lids are flipped. They can't do that. They can't do it. And so they can't have their pruning happen and keep their poop in a group. So the amygdala is running the show, fight, flight or freeze. And so when the amygdala is running the show, they're irrational. And so if you say, Hey, your hair looks different today to your kid, they may say, Oh, my God, I can't believe you said that to me. You're horrible. You're evil. I gotta go fix everything. And you're standing there thinking, what was that? That is a lip flip. Your kid is not in the right mind. So anyway, knowing that is super important. So that's happening in their brains, they generally full brain development happens around 25-26-27 It's a long damn time, you see usually see the curve back to kind of, oh, they're getting better around 19-20-21. So they're coming back to their full brain, the development is getting there. So that's what's happening in their brains. Their bodies, as we all know, are going through changes as well. And the best thing you can do for your kids is make sure they have a lot of information starting at age eight, they need to know what's going to happen before it happens. Everybody needs to know what's going to happen to everybody's body because We want to take that mystery away. And just for you understanding, especially when they're getting moody, and all of that it's not their fault. They're not doing it on purpose. And they need you to keep your poop in a group and stay calm and say to yourself, like I just said, Oh, here we go, we're having an adolescent fit, which is sweet. And making sure they understand what's happening with their brains, too. And you know, everybody's very insecure about their bodies. So making sure they understand like, I thought I had breast cancer, because I could feel the lumps of my mammary glands and my breasts, I could not ask my mom. And I don't know when I figured out that I did not have breast cancer. But that's not good when you're 12. Scary. And you don't need to be the expert. That's why we have terrific books about this. There's Celebrate your Body, Guy Stuff.... There's all kinds of really good books for kiddos. So they should have it and you should read them first. So you know what to comment.

Danielle Bettmann:  

About, the big part of how to respond to is like the prevention and the front loading. And being able to talk through expectations way before anything ever happens. That is your point of most influence. So it makes sense that having those conversations to anticipate those changes is empowering, both for you as a parent to feel like you're not completely off track. And you know, you've lost all influence over your kiddo. And all hope is in the drain. But also for your child to not feel like they're crazy.

Amy Lang:  

Yeah, yeah. So it's preparation, right? You want to prepare them for this big change of life? It is a big change of life on so many levels, social, emotional, physical, brain EULAR. All I mean, that we're trying to make it whole, like, mental there we go very mental- mental it was in there.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Is puberty happening at an earlier and earlier age? Or is that a perception?

Amy Lang:  

No, it is happening earlier. And earlier. There are a variety of reasons why the main one is that we're just fatter, we're healthier. And so if you have a healthier, fatter body, your you know, your body's gonna say, okay, hey, I can maybe reproduce now. Okay. Yeah, so one of the things and there's also misinformation. So there's that study, we used to think 12 was when puberty started. And the study that gave us that information, this isn't girls was from a group of girls in England from the same area. And they all happen to be starting their puberty around 11 or 12. So we grow up, we do better studies, and we look worldwide and average age of puberty start and girls is 10. So that's worldwide, that's more accurate. Boys are like 11-12, they're a little behind. And they're a little behind the whole damn time. Right? So they're just about two years behind the whole time. And two girls are ahead of the game. And that respect. So yeah, we had misinformation. So we had this is why you have to know and it depends on your race and ethnicity. And so there's some other factors. There's some environmental factors, as well. But yeah, I think the takeaway here is that looking at 10, you're looking at 10, you're looking at 10. Okay,

Danielle Bettmann:  

super good to know, because again, it was probably different for all of us as parents for our own stories. So it's really hard to project what that's going to look like for our kids. And they're growing up in a different world, too. So the more information we have that is accurate and research based, the better. Sure,

Amy Lang:  

yeah. And if you have a person that's going to get a period, make damn sure they know that's going to happen and make sure they're ready for it. So have a pack a period pack in their backpack, make sure they know how to manage that. If you're in they have two homes, make sure both homes have the stuff they need before they need it, before they need it. So they're really as ready as they can be. I don't know if anybody's really ready for that. But right, ready or not.

Danielle Bettmann:  

So what do you recommend for parents when it comes to their challenging behaviors, and trying to navigate just even the relationship dynamic or the social-emotional aspect of it?

Amy Lang:  

Well, the main thing is for you to understand, like I said, they're not doing a whole lot of this on purpose. A lot of it they can't, like can't control kind of, so a couple of things just in your daily life, and I would start doing this now is they spend their whole day keeping their shit together. They're at school, they're doing, you know, soccer, whatever. And so they have to keep it together and be like mini grownups, and so then when they come home, it's their safe place. And so oftentimes, they'll be mean to us, they'll say nasty things. They're grumpy. They're, you know, kind of assholey. And so for you to help them and help yourself. When you pick your kid up from school or they come home from school. Do not ask them a question. Do not ask them a question, say, hey, it's good to see you. food that way. That's it. Shut up. So what happens is two things. For you, you're given this space through like, Hey, how's your day blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You're given a space where you can just listen to music and drive home and debrief. Now if they want to talk to you, talk to them, but don't pressure them. And then when you get home and they do their thing, you know, with Milo, he'd come around about 20-30 minutes later, and he'd start talking to me. And so that is the first thing. So you want to do that now, like today, do it today. Right? Do it today and see what happens. And again, it's a gift to yourself, right? The other thing is watch their moods. Unfortunately, they all get chatty around 930 10 o'clock, which is bed time. Bedtime for grownups. So you need to be ready for that and ready to engage. You can't It's doesn't mean like every conversation you have with them has to be when they're, I call it lucid. But what it does mean is that you're going to give them some grace, and then you need to be there for them when they need you. You know, just some other tips are... when you you know, in particular sex talks in this age group is to warn them and say, hey, I want to talk to you about a sex thing. We can do it now or do it later. And they will always say later, but they might say now, so you need to be ready with the thing. You know, you have to have, you know, you have to get life done, right? Like they have to do shit. You can't just be like, Okay, Hi, are you lucid? Hey, would you brush your teeth, you know, or pick up your bedroom? No, like, there's shit that has to happen. So just be mindful of that. And then thinking about yourself, right, as a teenager, what would have been helpful? That's usually pretty good. Oh, here's another little tip. Shut the bedroom door. Don't tell them to clean their room. Let them have a pigsty, it does not matter does not matter. You will take away this point of contention. They will learn to clean up. the person at my house, his room smelled like goats and farts. It was awful. And I'd occasionally go in to like extract dishes or whatever. And then he started having friends over. And guess what happened? He had got interested in you know, girls, maybe and guess what happened. So I big big parenting tip is shut the bedroom door and let them fester. Also let them make them do their own laundry. It's beautiful. To beautiful things. Yes. My skills, life skills. Somebody told me We love life skills, that somebody told me that their kids is gone off to college, and she just realized she doesn't know how to do laundry, didn't know how to put on a fitted sheet on a bed. So don't let that happen to your kids. Anyway, blah, blah, blah. I could talk about that forever. What else you got? Let's go back to sex.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Yes, yes. So terminology wise, I was scanning all of like the footnotes with like the abstract from your book. And I wanted to make note of two of the phrases that you encourage parents to take out of their vocabulary, one being feminine hygiene products. And the other being virgin. Yes. So just speak to both of those as to the why behind that.

Amy Lang:  

Feminine hygiene products implies dirt, grossness dirtiness. Right. So when we say hygiene, we're cleaning something up, right. So don't say that anymore. It's old school. It's somehow derogatory. I mean, just think about that. When you see that at the grocery store. I kind of always like, but it's not going to go away. So I say period products, right? Let's just be straight up about it. I mean, I know there's sprays and wipes and all that stuff. So make sure your vagina hacker knows that it is. Nothing needs to go in there soap and water on the outside the vagina takes care of itself. If it's smelly or itchy, then something's up but otherwise no perfumes do Xing, that is not a thing. It wrecks your pH down there and can cause problems. So if that's something you're doing yourself, knock it off, because if it smells down there, go to the doctor. Go to the doctor. Virginity... Well, let's just say this. It is religious. It's shameful. It puts this like purity thing. I'm a virgin. It's a ton of pressure. Did you lose your virginity? It just is again, this old school thought that has so much crap attached to it because right the Virgin Mary, that's where that came from. Right? Anyway, I don't want to go down that pathway. So you saying "first time sex" "the first time you have sex" First time sex is a better way to talk about that. Because there's no value, right? There's a value attached to Virgin, right? There's a value attached to Virgin first time sex is not there's no value attached to that. It's just is what it is.

Danielle Bettmann:  

I love that you provide the alternative. Because whenever that's so often in parenting, it's like, well, yeah, I don't want to use punishments and rewards, but I don't know what to do instead. So I find myself, you know, back here doing the threats and the bribes that said I wasn't gonna do because we need the replacement, we need to know what to do instead. And so it's so practical to be able to just like, edit, delete, and replace those vocabulary words that are kind of unquestioned or ingrained in the way that we were conditioned as a society to expect to have those conversations. So I appreciate that new light that you know, spin on that super practical. Yeah, thanks. Yeah,

Amy Lang:  

it's all a process, right? It's just all a process and there's always more and more and more and more and more and more and more with Yes, yes.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Which is, again, as Parents, we're growing up alongside our kids, we are on this journey together and we can be transparent about I don't have this all figured out, I may not have the answers to all your questions. I am still learning and figuring this out with you. And that's okay. Exactly. Exactly. That vulnerability is an attractive form of leadership. So, okay, for sure. So any other tips for the communication? Your book, you know, has a lot of those scripts, but like, what does that look like to start those conversations? Or are there other ways to do it that aren't verbal as well.

Amy Lang:  

So a few things, one of the tips that I have is, as your kids get into that tween years as yours, and they're kind of getting grossed out, use media, use music, use TV shows, use the world around you to talk with them. So if you're watching a show, like I just watched, Never Have I Ever, which is delightful, which I think would be a good one to watch with tweens. And it's about a girl who's having her first relationships. She's in high school. And there's a lot that goes on. And so you can say, "hey, when we were watching Never Have I Ever I loved it when blah And blah, happened, here's why. They're not going to know what you're doing. Right? Planning is not cheating. Or this thing happened. I thought that was what did you think of that? How that feels to you? Right? So we're teaching without them knowing what's happening. Carrie and I used to have conversations about things I'd be like, Oh, my God, this is happening in the world. Look at this, this woman is 10. And she had four children live, but and then we'd have this conversation in front of him. And he was there. He's listening. And he didn't know it was happening. So it's kind of getting into his, you know, had to be sneaky. So asking, What do you think about or do you know anyone who sort of broad strokes questions, you know, who's crushing on whom like, those kinds of things? Definitely having books, it's really hard for kids to resist books. And the sex is a funny word. And Cory has a new book called, you know, sex, their graphic novels are beautiful. He's got really good stuff in there. So making those available, and then just saying, I got it, you know, like, Hey, I gotta talk to you about a sex thing. Just do it. You can time me, right, two minutes, any two minutes. You don't have to say anything. Just get it out. And remember, it is not their job to ask you questions, it is your job to provide the information. And some kids are like, for some reason, the younger sibling is usually just a total chatterbox. Like, I've heard this over and over and over the younger siblings like this, that and the older ones like, right, they for some reason, so capitalize on the younger kid, you know, one other thing is that if one of your kids comes home, and you've got like a three year age difference, and one of your kids, this is a true story came home. 10 year old and an eight year old, they come home from school, they'd been chatting in the car, I think there'd been some kind of slang words that were thrown around in the car. And she straightened them out about that. Then they came home, the 10 year old went upstairs and then immediately came back downstairs. She's doing the dishes, the mom, and he says, What's a BJ? What's a blow job? And she, she said, AHHH in her head. Then she said, great question. You know, what do you think it is? What do you think it is? Where do you hear that? And she's he said, Well, I don't know. I think it's a sex thing. And she said, yeah, it is. And where do you hear it? Boys on the playground? Right? And then she explained what it is. Sometimes one person will put their mouth on another person's penis because it feels good. It's not something kids do. It's not something you ever have to do. Blah, blah, blah. And she said and got any questions. He said, No. Gross, and walked away and walked away. Just to point out that you're not always going to get that right. And just that he didn't ask that question in front of his younger sibling. And if you had him on the track, if you had, I highly recommend that you have code with any kid that comes home mom, what's a BJ in front of their eight year old sibling? The mom could say excellent question. Let's talk about it when we have some tea. So there's a code. So the kid knows zip-it? We'll talk about it later. Or, great question. I need to think about it. But the worry is they're going to Google so. Right? So that's why may I have the monitoring and filtering rant time?

Danielle Bettmann:  

Yeah!

Amy Lang:  

So your children will see pornography, the average age of porn exposure is about nine. They don't do it on purpose. They Google like you would have Googled they Google sex they Google blow job they Google boobs. And so just like you would have been curious, they are too. We go to the internet for everything, right? We just I don't know what that is. I'm going to google it. Your kids are the same way. So your job is to protect them. And what we've got now that seems to be the best thing we've got aside from talking with them about sex that reduces their curiosity is to use monitoring and filtering. Monitoring is watching. Filtering is blocking terms. So I like to use an analogy of being in the car. So you get in the car, you always wear a seat belt that's monitoring. Everyone in the car has a seat belt on the filtering or the car seats. So your baby starts out in a bucket, rear acing, and then they get a car seat, and then they get a booster. And then they get their front seat. So that's the filtering. So you start out really tight. And then you let it out. You let out the search terms. By the time they're in sixth grade, they should be able to go anywhere online. But you're watching, you're monitoring so and then you have conversations, right? So they know you're watching. So if they Google something like you go to a porn site, and you're like, you try to and you're like, hey, porn, not okay. So this is required. This is required. It's all we've got right now. And you have to do this for your children. And, you know, you may be thinking my kid would never, what if a kid comes over and like Google, Google Google, right? Their friend comes over. So it's a health issue. It's a public health issue. Again, it's a safety issue. Most kids when they see it, they're like, Oh, gross, and don't look at it again, but some kids rabbit hole. And the older they are, the more likely they are to watch it more. And the other sad thing is that teenagers see porn as sex education, they use it for sex education. It's not. It's not good, like that. Not good. So get talking sooner rather than later use monitoring and filtering, talk about pornography, their books that were recommended, good pictures, bad pictures, was really helpful. And talk about it. Don't be afraid to talk about it. They're not you know, same thing with like talking about sex, like they're gonna do it. So they can prepare them they're gonna see porn so you can prepare them or not, sir choice. I'm all for the preparation.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Yeah, and that's so relevant to today's day and age, because I heard the analogy, letting your kids use unfiltered internet is like dropping them off at a street corner in the middle of New York City at midnight.

Amy Lang:  

Yeah, totally. We would never do that. would never do that. Good luck. Enjoy yourself. Yeah.

Danielle Bettmann:  

It's so important to bring that into context. Because of course, we want to say, my kid would never...

Amy Lang:  

Right, or here are the car keys drive the car. Good luck. Yeah. Oh, don't hit anyone. You know, be careful, because there's oncoming traffic. So okay, good. That's a brake. That's a gas bike. Right? Same thing. We would never do that.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Yeah, we would never do that. So tell it tell us more about your book and all the ways that we can connect with you resource wise.

Amy Lang:  

Thank you. So my new book is called sex talks with tweens what to say and how to say it. And you basically described it, it's scripts. And there are also tips, a cover pretty much everything I can think of. And it is completely legal to read the script out of the book to your kid. If you have younger kids, you can scale it back. If you have older kids, you can add more information. But the really the focus is that 9 to 12 year old range. The other place you can learn about you know, learn more from me is I have a podcast too. It's called "Just Say this" and I answer questions from parents like we did right now. So that's it's a hodgepodge. I generally don't like, make them like a half a question from a three year old, a parent of a three year old whose kid can't let go their penis and then a question from a parent and 14 year old who's spent watching porn. So it's all over the map, because I believe there's something to learn from every question for every age group of like that, you know, a parent, right? Like me, you know, maybe have an 11 year old who's hanging on to their tally, whacker. 24/7 kind of the same conversation, a little different, but so there and then my website is birdsandbeesandkids.com. And if you click up in the corner, it says freebie, and you'll get a really helpful handout called Seven Steps to great sex talks, amongst other things. So those are the best places to find me.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Yeah. So, so relevant, so helpful, and so needed. So I'll make sure that all of those things are linked on the show notes in the blog post, and you know, all that stuff. And thank you for all the time that it takes to put in all that work and create those things for us, because we are going to soak it up.

Amy Lang:  

Thanks. Thanks for having me on. And thanks for great questions. And thanks for your work.

Danielle Bettmann:  

There's so that I can't let you go without asking the last question I asked every guest I have on. So how are you, the mom that your son needs?

Amy Lang:  

I think I'm really open and accepting and have been able to really roll with who he is and his needs and who he's growing into. You know, I have my moments, but by and large, I trust him. And he, you know, he knows that we believe in him and will back him up whatever he decides to do in life. Just for an example. He's was going to Western Washington University. And as you can imagine, online college was not great. And now he wants to be a mechanic. So he's going to tech school to learn how to be a mechanic. He's super excited about it. I had twitching. But I was like, You know what, this is what he really wants to do. He's 21 It's a great skill to have, he'll be employable forever and He'll love it as long as he loves it. Right? He may love it. Right? So that I think that being able to be flexible with that kind of thing, which we have carries really good Much Better that than I am but yeah, like having that ability to say, Yeah, this is who you need me to be and what we need to do for you is to be flexible and open and trust that he's gonna land on his feet.

Danielle Bettmann:  

So important. He's-He's lucky to have you having that perspective because I'm sure that means everything that has age.

Amy Lang:  

Thank you. Thank you.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Thanks again. This is amazing, and I can't wait to share this episode. So thanks for coming.

Amy Lang:  

My pleasure.

Danielle Bettmann:  

Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of Failing Motherhood. Your kids are so lucky to have you. If you loved this episode, take a screenshot right now and share it in your Instagram stories and tag me. If you're loving the podcast, be sure that you've subscribed and leave a review so we can help more moms note they are not alone if they feel like they're failing motherhood on a daily basis. And if you're ready to transform your relationship with your strong willed child, and invest in the support you need to make it happen. Schedule your free consultation using the link in the show notes. I can't wait to meet you. Thanks for coming on this journey with me. I believe in you. cheering you on.

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