ST. LOUIS PARK, MN—After months of procrastination, Sara Lister, 13, decided Monday that it is "finally time" to sit her parents down so they can discuss sex with her.
"I really can't put it off any longer," Lister said. "It's time my parents and I had 'The Talk.' I know it seems kind of soon to be doing it when they're only in their late 30s, but I'd rather get it over with now than have them bring it up later."
Lister, a seventh-grader at Edgewood Junior High School, said she hopes her parents will feel comfortable enough during the conversation to discuss sex in a frank and open way.
"They were pretty mature about telling me where babies come from when I was little," Lister said. "They answered all of my questions and gave me a book. But this is totally different. This is way more serious, and I don't know for sure if they're going to be able to handle it."
Lister has been anticipating some version of the sex talk ever since turning 11. But after more than two years of waiting for her parents to sit her down to discuss matters of sexuality, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
"I thought they'd talk to me when I got my period last year, but they never did," Lister said. "Mom told me about tampons and pads and becoming a woman and how this meant I could get pregnant now, but nothing specific about sex or condoms or anything like that. It looks like I'm going to have to bring it up after dinner next week. I only hope I can find a natural way to start the conversation without it coming off all wrong."
Lister, who already has a good sense of what sex entails, sees the conversation with her parents as a chance to ease their growing anxiety about her coming into womanhood.
"I catch them getting embarrassed from time to time, like if we're watching some TV show or movie, and there's a sex joke," Lister said. "I usually act like I don't get it, to make them feel better. I think they like to pretend I'll never need to hear about it."
According to Lister, some of what she plans to discuss with her parents has already been covered by her teachers.
"We already went through some of this stuff in our assembly," Lister said. "They separated the boys and girls and told us all about menstruation and pubic hair. [Health-ed teacher] Mrs. Arness looked so embarrassed and uncomfortable. It'll probably be like that with Mom and Dad, since they're about the same age."
Lister said she wants her parents to feel comfortable portraying sex as a normal, natural part of life.
"There's nothing wrong with sex," Lister said, "so there's no reason they should be afraid to discuss it. But even though sex is perfectly healthy, I have a feeling they're gonna be weird about the whole thing."
According to family psychiatrist Dr. Alice Migliore, Lister's desire to get her parental sex talk "over with" is natural.
"At this age, girls start to notice boys, and parents become increasingly uncomfortable thinking of their children as sexual beings," Migliore said. "Often, parents will dance around the issue, so it could take Sara forever to have an open, honest conversation with them. Unless Sara wants to face years of horribly awkward encounters with her parents, she's got to sit them down and have them tell her everything she already knows."