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Issue Date: January 24, 2010
More RelationTIPS
Ask columnist Dennie Hughes your question
RelationTips with Stephanie Oakes

Kids and "sexy" talk

My 6-year-old shared that of all of her friends, she's the "sexiest." I didn't know how to respond or what to do next about this news. Any advice?
N.R., Oklahoma

With little ones so influenced by their older, sexy-dressing, racy-picture-posting pals and siblings, this kind of talk is more common than you might think.

And Diane Levin, co-author of "So Sexy So Soon," says, "TV ads, clothing store displays, overhearing adult conversations, or friends with less parental involvement all expose the 5-to-8 set to confusing, age-inappropriate information."

Little girls are anxious about being pretty enough to attract boyfriends; little boys are curious about kissing and hugging, referring to it as "having sex."

Scary? Yes, but here's how to handle it:

Be calm. Don't panic or dismiss this chance to probe into what "sexy" means to your daughter.

Answer with a question. If she asks about sex, say, "What do you think it is?" Know where she is with the subject so you don't give her more info than she wants.

Pay attention. Listen to what kids talk about when they're together. Later, you can casually insert your thoughts -- and rules -- on those subjects.

Be self-aware. What are you saying about things such as relationships or self-image? Kids are sponges, and little ears pick up more than you know.

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