Essential Resources on Kids, Teens, Puberty, Sex, and the Internet
As part of our special Kids & Sex issue, we pulled together a list of books, videos, courses, and websites that can make the growing up and parenting process a little easier to navigate. Below are resources on puberty, sex, and internet culture, culled from experts like Peggy Orenstein and Dr. Robin Berman, along with the go-to’s that goop parents have come to rely on. (We also threw in some treasures we’ll never forget from our own childhoods.)
Littles & Pre-Teens
Founded by Julie Giesy Metzger, R.N., M.N. and Robert Lehman, M.D., West Coast-based Great Conversations offers highly recommended programs in select regions (CA, WA, OR) designed specifically for girls or boys, ages ten to twelve, as well as presentations directed at parents—all of which touch upon a range of issues and conversations surrounding puberty and sex.
This book was originally born out of the real questions that pre-teen girls ask about growing up in Julie Metzger’s Great Conversations classes—but it’s for both girls and boys: The first half covers questions on puberty that pertain mostly to girls, and then you flip the book over for boy-focused Q&As.
Harris’s classic children’s book has been updated in recent years, solidifying it as a reliable resource for kids to turn to for information on reproduction, STDs, sexual health, gender identity, and more.
Getting your period can be weird and confusing—especially if you’re still in elementary school or just entering middle school (and girls are increasingly getting their periods earlier—see The New Puberty below). This illustrated book can make the process a little less awkward.
Many adults will remember the bare-all illustrations (done by Arthur Robins) in this mega-bestseller that spells out how babies are made.
Teens & Up
Laci Green’s YouTube videos are playful and sometimes silly but she also takes an open, honest, no-nonsense approach to sex ed that makes her tutorials and monologues truly useful to a lot of older teens, as well as college-age kids, especially when it comes to questions they might not be comfortable asking otherwise. Her videos cover everything from the truth about pulling out, to how to properly use a condom, to bisexuality and consent.
Psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry at UCLA, Dr. Robin Berman turned us onto this resource from Rutgers University, which was originally formed to provide training to professionals, but has since expanded to provide info on sexuality directly to teens and parents.
Filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom followed her 2011 documentary on girls and women, Miss Representation, with a film about boys and men. The Mask You Live In, which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, is an eye-opening take on the way we define masculinity in America today, and how we could embrace it differently in the future.
At turns funny and sad, My Little Red Book—a play on Chairman Mao’s manifesto—is a brilliant collection of essays about getting your period. Contributors include well-known names (Meg Cabot, Erica Jong, Gloria Steinem, Cecily von Ziegesar) along with varied teen perspectives.
This summer, nearly ten years after the original was published, a bulked-up, new edition of Scarleteen founder Heather Corinna’s S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties was released. As author Peggy Orenstein says, this is the bible (of sex) when you are in high school or college.
Parents & Educators
Planned Parenthood’s website is a good starting point when you are working through how to talk to your kids about sex. In addition to the advice they provide, Planned Parenthood also keeps a list of other web and print resources that you can add to your arsenal.
In conjunction with a handful of other organizations, like the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Population Council put together a forward-thinking curriculum called It’s All One: Guidelines and Activities for a Unified Approach to Sexuality, Gender, HIV, and Human Rights Education. Educators can download the program, which comes in several languages, online at no charge.
Parenting educator Debra W. Haffner takes you from the infant years through middle school, offering sound advice every step of the way that can help you impart important lessons about sexuality to your children.
Deborah Roffman’s guide to approaching the subject of sex with your kids is an invaluable resource. Think of it as the talk you need to have with yourself before you begin the conversation with your children.
This is a good read for parents and educators looking to reframe the way we think about sex education with an eye toward making it more useful and beneficial for today’s teens.
It’s already clear that we’re big fans of Peggy Orenstein. Her latest book, Girls & Sex, which explores the complicated terrain that girls today face in the realms of intimacy and sex, should be required reading for anyone who has a young daughter—but considered from the “other side,” it’s also a thought provoking read for parents of boys.
Written by a neuroscientist who is also the mother of two teenagers, The Teenage Brain pulls back the curtain on the oft-misunderstood adolescent mind, combining hard science with practical advice.
Psychologist Lisa Damour of the Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls breaks down the transition from girlhood to adulthood into seven stages—like parting with childhood and joining a new tribe—in this smart, digestible book that seeks to better understand the experience of growing up.
Social media is indeed complicated. And perhaps nothing will change that fact. But after reading Danah Boyd’s book you’ll have a better grasp of the nuances that make up your kid’s online world.
Some of the research threaded throughout The New Puberty is absolutely mind boggling. Some girls today are hitting puberty at shockingly early ages, a phenomenon that the authors discuss in the context of environmental and emotional stressors.
Written by the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, Rosalind Wiseman’s Masterminds and Wingmen challenges the way we think about our sons, and suggests better ways that we can support them in the classroom, at home, and in their social lives.
While not about sex, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, touches upon a lot of the most pervasive issues facing kids today (like bullying), and the nine-step plan that educational psychologist Michelle Borba presents for raising empathetic kids is worth considering as you help your kids navigate their young sexuality—and more.