SRE (Sex and Relationship Education), despite recent media hype, is not yet mandatory in UK primary schools (it will be from September 2020). Nevertheless, most schools have a policy to discuss puberty and relationships with their Year 6 children around this time of year.
I have held this discussion with over 300 children over the course of the last ten years. I have fielded questions from the deeply concerning to the immensely humorous. I have held single- and mixed-sex talks. I have had that awkward chat with more than one parent persuading them that withdrawing their child would not be in their best interests. I've led the talk in faith and secular schools. It has always been rewarding, easy and fun. It is nothing to be scared of!
Before I get into my tips, it is worth remembering that there is not a lot that will come as a surprise to them, having covered mammalian reproduction already in science. It is also worth remembering that the children live in a world where information is not difficult to come across. And let's be clear, by 'information', I mean the children finding their own answers to those tricky questions.
It is a sad fact but the internet has made it super easy for primary-aged children to access explicit material. According to a BBC article on the subject:
More specifically, it reported that 28% of 11- to 12-year-olds have seen pornographic images. True, not all of them have actively sought it out but some have (11%, apparently). This is troublesome for so many reasons including, but not limited to: desensitisation, negative body image, misunderstanding what sex is, issues around consent, peer pressure to conform, and so it goes on. It's really quite depressing and uncomfortable for even a grown adult to research.
With that introductory pre-amble out of the way, here are my top tips for having THE TALK with Year 6 children.
The children are going to be nervous, embarrassed and excited. Heck, you may be all those things as well. Embrace it. Let them giggle. You will giggle. In my experience, you will outright big-belly laugh at some of the gems they come up with. It's okay. It is a serious subject but that means it is vital that it be a safe environment.
If you are worried about some children going too far, begin by explaining that they are having THE TALK because their parents and the school believe they are mature enough to. Explain that mature people know when to giggle and when to calm down.
They want to be involved. They'll measure up. That being said, give them an exit strategy. I've said on more than one occasion: "If you think you need to take a bit of time out, then sensibly leave the room for a couple of seconds. You won't be judged. Don't disturb anyone and come back in when you're ready." Some children need that. Works wonders!