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Talking to your child about:
  • masturbation

HTHGS: Talking to your child about masturbation

   Ask Erika,
   I'm a 35 year old mother with one child. She is 13. I want to talk to her about the joys of masturbation so she wont go to having sex with with her boyfriend but i'm not sure how to help her.
   Desperate mother
   Dear Desperate Mother,
   Thank you for your question. You are not alone in feeling desperate or nervous talking to your daughter about masturbation--many parents find this to be one of the most difficult topics to broach with their children because of its private and often sensitive nature. There are two ways you can do this: jump right into it or ease your way into the topic through another avenue.
   First, jumping right in: If you have talked to her about masturbation before (e.g., private vs. public behavior when she was younger), you may want to "pick up where you left off." You could start the conversation with a statement like, "Do you remember when I talked to you about masturbation?" If you haven't talked to her about masturbation before, the best strategy (of course, very useful even if you have talked before) is to find out where she stands on the subject and what she knows about it. An opening question might be, "What do you know about masturbation?" or "What are your opinions on masturbation?" Open-ended questions that begin with "what," "how," "why," etc... help to keep the door open to conversation and don't allow an easy "escape" with a "yes" or "no" response.
   Second, easing in through another avenue: I'd say in your case, since you are also interested in talking with her about her other sexual feelings and activities, you may want to start with a conversation about her boyfriend. Start generally, with something like, "so, it seems like you really like so-and-so. Tell me something about him that you really like." Move from these less sensitive areas into how they express their affectionate feelings toward each other, what's safe and what's not, what her (and his) limits are, how they communicate these to each other, etc. Masturbation may then naturally follow as an "alternative" to a shared sexual experience.
   Remember, at 13, your daughter is probably just beginning to experience powerful sexual feelings and her boyfriend may be the first person for whom she has felt such things. These feelings are very real and important to her. Taking them seriously and really listening to her point of view can help you continue the conversation as well as get your point across. Whichever method you choose to start the conversation, be honest with her about your feelings. If you are nervous, it's OK to tell her this from the start (i.e., "I have something I'd like to talk to you about and I'm a little nervous. I just want you to know that I'm trying my best, OK?"). If you model openness and honestly, she may be more likely to do the same.
   Good luck and I commend your concern and efforts to talk to your daughter about this important part of life.
   Erika Pluhar
   This tip was written by Erika Pluhar Ph.D.  


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The Founder: "Alex" Caroline Robboy, LCSW, QSW, CAS

Ms. Robboy is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Center for Growth Inc and How To Have Good Sex Inc.  Alex practices marriage and family therapy and sex therapy, and also conducts periodic seminars about human sexuality throughout the northeastern United States.

Ms. Robboy graduated from the University of Pennsylvania where she earned a Masters degree in Social Work, a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Human Sexuality Education and a Post-Masters Certificate in Marriage Counseling & Sex Therapy. Through the American Board of Sexology, she is a board certified sexologist and through the American Association of Sex Educators Counselors and Therapists a certified sex therapist.  Additionally, she is a licensed clinical social worker and a member of the American Board of Marriage and Family Therapy.


  Our Philosophy sex is like dancing, it changes every time. It depends on culture, atmosphere and mood. Sometimes it is done alone, with a partner or in a group. It can be fast and hard or slow and soft. Sex is a combination of non-verbal negotiation and verbal cues: a scream, a twitch of the toes, or a flush of the face. There is no one 'right' way to move, only what feels good to all those involved. 
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September 19, 2006