Questions from readers - answering sexual questions, finding a therapist, talking about race

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By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children's and Dayton Daily News columnist

Edition: June 17, 2007 | Topic: Questions from readers

Question

My 10-year-old daughter asked me a very explicit sexual question. She is still a little girl playing with Barbies. I told her I was uncomfortable discussing such sexual information and that we would talk about such things when she was older.

She seemed satisfied with my response, but now I'm wondering if I should have answered her question.

Answer

You made a mistake in refusing to talk about sex with your daughter.

Failure to discuss her sexual question sent a message that you are not approachable on such topics. Unfortunately, this only increases the likelihood that she will go to others to seek out the information that she wants.

Speak with your daughter and acknowledge you made a mistake. Answer her questions at a level that is appropriate to her age. Don't ever say, "You're too young to know about that."

If she asks about your own sexual history (eg, "Mom, when did you first have sex?"), it's fine to decline to answer. You also might gently inquire as to what might have prompted such questions. It may have been something that she has seen in movies, television or a conversation she had with friends.

Finally, reassure her that she should come to you with any sexual issues. Check back a few days after your conversation to be sure that she feels her concerns were clearly answered.

This is an uncomfortable area for most parents. However, it is critical that you maintain a close relationship with your daughter so that you are her key resource in dealing with important questions such as sexuality.

Question

I'm having a hard time locating a therapist for my 14-year-old daughter who desperately needs help. I have contacted my family doctor and he was unaware of any therapists in our area. Any suggestions?

Answer

Locating a good therapist can be challenging, as there are a limited number of psychologists who specialize in working with children and adolescents.

Contact your daughter's school and speak with the principal and guidance counselor. Ask for their help in identifying therapists who have a good reputation in your community. You may wish to contact your insurance company, as they typically maintain a panel of approved therapists. However, please be careful in using such a list, as the areas of specialties are not always listed on insurance panels.

When you meet with a therapist you may wish to go alone to the first session. This allows you the opportunity to give a complete history of your concerns, as well as to make a determination as to whether the therapist is a good match for your child and family. Finally, visit the American Psychological Association website at www.apa.org. They have a section titled "Finding a Psychologist" that may be helpful.

Question

My third-grade son made a comment about another boy in his class who is black. Although my son is only eight years old, I felt this comment was very inappropriate and based upon racial stereotypes. I didn't say anything at the time because I didn't know what to say.

Answer

It's important to speak up whenever you hear your child make judgments of others based upon racial or other characteristics. Children as young as eight years old do form impressions based upon factors such as gender, height, weight and race. It's not too early to constantly emphasize to your son that his judgment about others should be based upon the way they act and not the way they look.


Dr. Ramey Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org/ramey and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/drgregramey

©2010 The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. Columns may be reproduced with the permission of Dayton Children's.


 

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