08/07/2009 16:05 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Ask Joanne - How Do I Talk To My Sons About The Birds And The Bees?

What's your parenting question or dilemma? Send it to our life coach Joanne Mallon at this address. And if you have lots of questions, send them all in. Names can be changed on request.

Jo got in touch via the ParentDish site and wants to know:

I am a single mother of two boys aged 10 and 11. I have always been very open about sex education, explaining where babies come from and differences between boys and girls etc.

The boys' father has sporadic contact with them (his choice not ours) so can't be relied on to have any of 'those conversations'. This has been fine up to now. I decided recently given their age that I ought to broach the subject of male puberty and masturbation. Having grown up with just a sister, my points of reference for 'boys stuff' doesn't stretch to more than what my male friends share after too many beers in the pub! Children seem to get good sex education in school these days but its the extra stuff that often gets overlooked and can be tricky to convey. Any advice? Thanks

Here's life coach Joanne's reply:

Dear Jo

Thanks for getting in touch. I wrote here about how to talk to pre-teen girls about periods, but I think much of the advice also applies to boys: listen more than you talk, answer questions directly without over-explaining etc.

To look at it from a more positive slant - you might not be able to give your sons a male perspective, but I bet you are doing a fantastic job of giving them an understanding of the female perspective. You sound very switched on to their needs.

Help them grow up into great boyfriends, partners and dads by teaching them how to treat their partners. And also how to do housework - knowing how to operate a washing machine, and being unafraid to do so, is one of the most alluring skills a man can have.

I asked some other mothers of adolescent sons about this, and they recommended:

  • The Sexperience website ,a sex education site from Channel 4, covering all the topics you mention and more. Your boys are probably a bit young to be let loose on it, but I think it will give you lots of tips on what to say.
  • The marvellously titled Living With a Willy is an entertaining and informative guide to puberty for boys.
  • What's Happening to Me? comes in versions for boys and girls (so make sure you get the right one)
  • Let's Talk About Sex gets great reviews and is suitable for both boys and girls

If you've gone through these and still feel you need a male perspective, then think about who could give this: a grandfather, male friend, one of their friends' dads? Who do you trust to have a quick chat to them? I know you say their dad is unreliable, but do mention it to him and give him a chance to step up to the plate. Even if he's not great at other aspects of parenting, this could be a chance for him to have some unique input into their lives. Try and put your feelings about him aside, because it will benefit both your boys if they can talk about this sort of thing with their dad.

Hope this helps and good luck

best wishes


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