The sex talk for today's generation of teens is definitely not the sex talk of the past. Gone is the hush-hush embarrassed discussion of mechanics passed on from mother to daughter and father to son. Today the talk should be a conversation, with diverse talking points along the way. The lofty goal of any parent is to take the conversation beyond the physical side of sexual intercourse and empower their kids to make good decisions about their bodies. This means teaching them to find pleasure in their sexuality, understand the importance of consent and navigate the modern sexual landscape.
But what should your kid know and when? We asked Cory Silverberg, a noted sex educator and author of What Makes a Baby (Seven Stories Press, $16.95), and Marnie Goldenberg, a "sexplainer" who is on a crusade to raise sexually intelligent kids, if there is a timeline parents should follow to teach their kids about sex.
They both agreed it is important to have an open environment where kids feel safe to ask questions. It may be hard, but parents should answer questions without embarrassment and should never make kids – of any age – feel that their bodies are dirty or shameful. Goldenberg says parents should want to be the people who their kids come to with their questions, because that will give them a chance to impart their values about sex and relationships.
Two-Year-Olds Their Bodies: Two-year-olds should know the names of all body parts, including penis, vagina and vulva. Why vulva? Goldenberg says that the vulva is what children see when they look at their â€¨own body. Parents can explain that the vagina is the internal part where babies comes out.
Bathtime is the perfect time to go over these things, says Silverberg. When singing "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes," add in everything. Try singing: "head, and shoulders, knees and penis/vulva." Studies have shown that children who use the proper names for their body parts are less likely to be sexually exploited, says Goldenberg.
Three- to Five-Year-olds Making Babies: This is the time when kids may start to notice pregnancies around them. Answer their questions directly and follow their lead. Tell them that, to make a baby, you need an egg and a sperm. The sperm and egg mix together and result in a baby. You can even add that Daddy has the sperm and Mommy has the egg, and they danced together and made you. They don't need to know that the penis goes into the vagina at this age, but don't be afraid to tell them, says Goldenberg. And you can share that the baby comes out of a woman's body through the vagina, or through a small incision. The doctor or midwife helps the baby come out.
Their Bodies: The way parents act as role models is very important to young kids. How we talk and treat our own bodies teaches our kids how to feel about themselves. They should know body parts and their functions. "Kids are curious. Explain that the pee comes out of the urethra and the baby comes out of the vagina," says Silverberg. This is important in case they ever need to explain to a doctor what hurts, she says.
â€¨Six- to Eight-year-olds Making Babies: Six- to eight-year-olds might be curious about the mechanics of sexual intercourse. Sometimes parents fear that telling them will ruin sex (make it something to be afraid of) or take away their innocence, says Silverberg. But this is not true, especially if parents examine their own fears and approach the conversations in a matter-of-fact way.
If your kids aren't curious or haven't asked you any questions about sex, you don't get a pass to ignore the topic altogether, says Goldenberg. Children this age talk in the schoolyard, and your kids may be getting the facts wrong from their friends. This is your chance to give the correct information in the context that you find appropriate and with the values you find important.
Their Bodies: This age group should know their bodies are theirs alone, and that they can feel good. Ask your child, "What makes your body feel good? Does running, stretching or eating something delicious make your body feel good?" Reinforce that their body is theirs, and other people can't touch them or give them hugs without consent. This can help protect them against sexual predators and inappropriate touching, but it also sets them up for the future, so they'll know they're able to give consent or not while involved with a sexual partner.
Kids this age are exposed to a variety of media messages. Take advantage of sexual topics in TV commercials â€¨and movies by making them into teaching moments. Encourage kids to ask â€¨you questions about what they saw, whether it is a tampon commercial or â€¨a kissing scene. Eight- to 10-year-olds Making Babies: They may have more technical questions about pregnancy and birth at this age, as well as questions about sexual relationships. Answer those questions openly and without judgment, because you are setting the stage for puberty, a time when they will become even more aware of sex. If you don't know how to answer something, be honest and return with an answer at a later date.
Their Bodies: This is the pre-eye-roll stage, says Goldenberg, so it's the time to start talking about puberty – before it happens. Girls and boys should learn about menstruation. Goldenberg explains it this way: "A period is something I get – most women do – when my body is not making a baby. It tells me that my body is working. It is water mixed with a little blood that my body doesn't need anymore. The blood and water builds up in my uterus over a month as a little water bed for a baby in case I get pregnant. It would be a cosy place for a baby to grow. But when it isn't used, it comes out of my vagina. It doesn't hurt and, though it looks bloody, I am not cut inside." Tweens and Beyond Making Babies: Now is the time to make sure your kids know about pregnancy prevention and how to stop sexually transmitted infections. Your kids should know that adults have sex for pleasure and not just for making babies, because it is nice to be close to someone you care about. Their Bodies: Conversations with your teen should empower them to be able â€¨to speak openly with their partners. "Help them understand that they should have their eyes open when they are involved sexually with someone," says Goldenberg.
Ask them what they think consent means or what they think it should look like, says Goldenberg. Boys and girls should be thinking about what a "yes" looks like – not just what a "no" is like. â€¨
This story was originally titled "The Best Body Talk" in the September 2013 issue.
Our editors share the items they are coveting this February—and they're all under $100.
As much as we love shopping, what we love even more is a good deal. Which is why we asked our style editors to share the items that they'll be shopping for this month. The good news? Everything is under $100, which means you don't have to feel guilty about picking a few things up yourself.
As I think about spring, I always begin to think about what sneakers I’m going to pick up. Spring is sneaker season, at least if you ask me. This year, I’m going back to basics with a classic pair of Vans. Bonus—they’ve been spotted on bloggers, models and off-duty actors, so you know this style is making a comeback. At the very affordable $80 price point, this will be money well-spent seeing as how I'll be living in them for the season. - Alexandra Donaldson, contributing editor
Graphic pants are everything at the moment. Dress them down with sneakers, add heels for a more professional look, pair it with a form-fitting top to keep it sleek. They'll go with everything. - Noelle Gauthier, style intern
Uniqlo women smart style ankle length pants, $40, uniqlo.com.
Easy to apply eyeshadow
If I’m wearing makeup beyond my under-eye concealer and mascara, it needs to be efficient. Which is why I have my eye on this Nudestix eye crayon. The metallic hue will add a bit of pizzazz to my makeup look, without too much extra effort.
Nudestix Magnetic Eye Colour in Twilight, $28, sephora.com.
How come boyfriend jeans always seem amazing in theory, but never translate into the model-off-duty look when worn? These "girlfriend" jeans have a tailored fit making them far more wearable.
Animal motifs have been hot on the runway—but if you can’t afford to spring for Gucci (and really, who can?) you can pick up this panther cropped sweatshirt from Forever 21. At $25 it’s a steal—and super cute to boot.
A few years ago I never could have imagined loving the kitten heel like I do now—but these days everything is old new again. The low-heel allows me to survive in them all day, so I'm thinking they'll be sticking around for awhile.
Say what you want about the Kardashians, but they have the perfectly tousled California-girl waves I'm after. Enter this new haircare line by their trusted hairstylist, Jen Atkin. I'm eyeing this texturizing spray to recreate their manes.
Dainty and flavourful, everyone loves to indulge in tiny bites of traditional tea sandwiches. Though they appear finicky to make, these tea sandwiches are easy to assemble and entirely make-ahead.
Pinwheel Sandwiches Trim crusts from 5 slices white or whole wheat sandwich loaf, cut Pullman-style. (Ask bakery to cut sandwich loaf horizontally, or Pullman style.) Using rolling pin, flatten slices slightly. Spread with 1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, softened; spread with filling.
Place 1 asparagus spear (or 2 baby gherkins) along 1 short end of each. Starting at asparagus, roll up tightly without squeezing. Wrap each roll tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour. With serrated knife, trim ends; cut each roll into 6 slices.
Makes 30 pieces. Pinwheel Sandwich recipe: Curried Egg Salad Triangle Sandwiches Spread 16 thin slices whole wheat or white sandwich bread with 1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, softened; spread filling evenly over 8 of the slices. Top with remaining slices, pressing lightly. Place on rimmed baking sheet and cover with damp tea towel; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Trim off crusts. Cut each sandwich into 4 pieces.
Makes 32 pieces. Triangle Sandwich recipe: Ham Pickle Spread Square Sandwiches Make sandwiches as in Triangle Sandwiches above except use 8 thin slices white and 8 thin slices whole wheat sandwich bread. Cut each sandwich into quarters.
Makes 32 pieces.Square Sandwich recipe: Pimiento Cheese Spread Finger Sandwiches Make sandwiches as in Triangle Sandwiches above. Cut each sandwich lengthwise into 4 fingers.
Makes 32 pieces. Finger Sandwich recipe: Tuna Olive Salad
Choose the best-quality bread. Never serve end slices. Freezing bread before cutting and then spreading makes for easier handling.
Bread should be lightly buttered no matter what the filling. Butter should be at room temperature before spreading. Sandwiches will not become limp and soggy as readily if you spread butter right to edge of bread.
Cut crusts off bread with long, sharp knife after (not before) assembling sandwiches. This keeps everything neater.
Since tea sandwiches should be delicate, cut each sandwich into thirds or quarters or in half diagonally. Or use cookie cutters to cut into decorative shapes.
Here are some scary truths: 70 percent of new Alzheimer's patients in Canada will be women, and we're diagnosed with depression and dementia at twice the rate of men. But new research says there are three simple lifestyle changes we can make right now to keep our brains healthy as we age.
You brush your teeth to prevent tooth decay and check your blood pressure to monitor for signs of heart problems. But are you doing anything to keep your brain in tip-top shape? Because you should be. Brain health, which experts define as a combination of cognitive (memory, attention, thinking) and mental (emotional well-being) fitness, is a major, albeit under-the- radar, health issue for Canadian women.
It's major because as we age, so do our brains. Vascular changes can decrease blood flow; we can lose volume in key areas, including the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, the regions responsible for learning and memory. Myelin, a fatty material that makes up the protective coating around nerve fibres, starts to deteriorate, causing the brain to slow down. And nerve cells can develop plaques and tangles— structures caused by the buildup of proteins called beta-amyloids that can disrupt the brain's normal function. In some people, these and other signs of normal aging can cause mental health problems, strokes and brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's, and increase the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Brain health is an under-the-radar issue because, though women are more likely to experience cognitive decline (thanks to dementia or Alzheimer's) and to suffer from depression, most of the research on these conditions still focuses on men.
Thankfully, studies are showing that straightforward lifestyle changes—exercising regularly and not smoking are at the top of the list—help shore up what researchers call "cognitive reserve," a buffer that "delays the changes or makes your body better equipped to handle those changes," says Lauren Drogos, a brain researcher at the University of Calgary.
In fact, Drogos says there's evidence to show that, in some people, even serious symptoms do not necessarily develop into cognitive impairment. She points to the Nun Study, a famous long-running research project on aging and Alzheimer's that has been tracking 678 nuns from convents across the United States since the mid-1980s. One of the nuns, Sister Mary, died at the age of 101 showing no outward signs of cognitive decline—but when researchers examined her brain, they were shocked to find she had "abundant neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques, the classic lesions of Alzheimer's disease." Scientists don't know exactly why some people can have severe symptoms, such as plaques and tangles, without experiencing cognitive decline, but, happily, cases like Sister Mary do show that dementia isn't an inevitable part of aging.
And since women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with many of these problems, the more we consider brain health when making our day-to-day lifestyle decisions, the better. (Bonus: These changes also benefit your heart and help prevent other diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and cancer.) So here's what you can do to take care of your brain.
This is your brain on exercise If you had to pick just one lifestyle change to make in the name of brain health, experts agree exercise tops the list—especially for women.
We consider neuroplasticity, the brain's capacity to form new neural connections, an exciting part of a child's development, but we now know our brains can continue to grow, repair and improve as adults, too. Physical activity is a well-researched trigger. Not only can working out bolster our day-to-day functioning and alertness but it also appears to help us repair brain damage. Plus, it slows down aging and the onset of age-related brain diseases.
Working up a sweat and pumping up your heart rate can lead to a healthier vascular system in the brain, which decreases blood pressure and oxidative stress (when your body's antioxidants can't fight off free radicals), and increases antioxidant activity, according to Marc Poulin, an Alzheimer's researcher and professor of physiology at the University of Calgary. Vigorous exercise also floods the bloodstream with a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which readies the body for repair and heightens the brain's ability to learn and form new memories. Plus, hitting the gym helps the brain repair myelin; a lack of the nerve fibre–protecting substance is a factor in developing multiple sclerosis.
Exercising can also restore crucial brain volume. Research has shown that the hippocampus— home to memory, learning and emotion—starts shrinking after age 55 by about one to two percent a year, but just one year of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise done three days a week can increase its size by two percent.
And while most of the research is about the benefits of getting in your cardio, Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, says strength training is also effective, as it can enhance brain performance and function by 11 to 17 percent. "Women live longer [than men], and age itself is the greatest risk factor for dementia," she says. "But the good news is when we look at the benefit of aerobic exercise on cognition in older adults, women seem to benefit more."
The takeaway: You can reap the rewards from even a 15-minute walk. Of course, the longer you exercise, the better, especially if you get your sweat on and your heart rate up. If you want to tick a few other brain health tips off your list, consider joining a team sport. It blends physical, social and cognitive skills, and "can also add pleasure and meaning to our lives," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto.
If you have an office job and find you're sedentary most of the day, take a few minutes every hour or so to get up and move around. Research also suggests switching to a standup desk may improve your brain function.
Did you know? Taking care of a loved one—most often a spouse in your later years—can be a risk factor for developing depression and, eventually, dementia . But research out of the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto found, for the first time, that cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of talk therapy, can improve both mood and cognition.
This is your brain on sleep After a good night's sleep, you feel alert and ready to tackle the day. But that's not just because your brain has been resting. It has also been busy filing away memories and taking out the trash, so to speak, thanks to the glymphatic system, which washes the brain of waste materials. For example, a protein called betaamyloid, which is known to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's, acts as a neurotoxin when it builds up, killing neural cells in the brain. But a good sleep removes excess beta-amyloid and other waste materials, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
Because one of the common symptoms of Alzheimer's is disrupted sleep, it's unclear whether a lack of shut-eye should be considered part of the progression of the disease or a risk factor on its own, due to the buildup of beta-amyloids.
Nevertheless, poor sleep hastens your brain's aging process—much like sitting in the sun sans SPF speeds up your skin's aging process. And disturbed sleeping has been linked to all aspects of brain health, including an increased risk of depression and a decline in cognitive functions such as memory and reasoning. In one U.K. study out of University College London Medical School, middle-aged women who reported a drop in the average number of hours they slept had lower scores on cognitive tests involving reasoning and vocabulary.
What's more, our central clocks—a.k.a. our circadian rhythms—can drift from the patterns of our childhood, making it hard to get that much-needed rest. "As we age, our central clock is less sensitive to stimuli like light, food and physical activity," says Dr. Liu-Ambrose; this change makes it harder to fall, and stay, asleep. We can also become more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, which further disrupt those rhythms.
One way to combat these fluctuations is to try what seasoned travellers do for jet-lag recovery: Get exposure to real daylight and eat your meals on time to nudge your brain into a routine. And don't use bright screens at night, especially before bed, because they mimic sunlight and tell our circadian system that it's day, not night—and, therefore, not time to sleep. Those who need more help might consider light therapies that have been developed to treat seasonal affective disorder, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
The takeaway: Many researchers consider six to eight hours of sleep a night to be the standard sweet spot, though this can vary by individual. If you're routinely getting less than that and waking often in the night, not feeling refreshed in the morning and experiencing bouts of sleepiness during the day, talk to your doctor about sleep strategies—especially if you're experiencing anxiety or depression. In the short term, napping can reverse some of the effects of poor sleep, including memory loss and increased stress. And you only need a 30-minute catnap to feel the results.
This is your brain on a healthy diet There's no perfect "brain food," but eating a nutritious diet (lots of veggies and fruit, lean meat, fish and healthy fats) is the smartest way to maintain long-term brain function and memory, and to slow the development of brain diseases.
Getting enough of specific nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids is important but not the holy grail. University of Pittsburgh researchers recently found that people who eat broiled or baked fish at least once a week have larger brain volumes in the areas used for memory and cognition, despite varying levels of omega-3 in the fish they ate. Senior researcher James Becker concluded that he and his colleagues were "tapping into a more general set of lifestyle factors that were affecting brain health, of which diet is just one part."
In a 2015 study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, researchers looked at the broad set of eating habits of more than 900 people over 4 1/2 years and found that those who adhered to a diet high in fish, vegetables, nuts and berries, and low in fat and sugar, slowed down their brains' aging by about 7 1/2 years when compared to those with less-healthy diets. The healthy eaters cut their risk of Alzheimer's by up to 53 percent. And even when those people only adhered to the diet part time, they saw some benefits— an effect that has not been found in other diets, says Drogos.
The researchers dubbed the most promising cluster of these eating habits the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which blends the longevity-boosting Mediterranean diet and the heart-healthy low-fat DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that doctors recommend to patients at risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. More studies need to be done on why it works, but in the meantime, there's no downside to eating healthier and ditching the junk.
The takeaway: Add more veggies to your diet. Research shows that older adults who report eating more of this food group perform better in mentally stimulating activities than those who don't.
Did you know? "Menopause brain" is a real thing. As with "pregnancy brain," its more famous counterpart, women approaching menopause really do experience memory problems and brain fog. Researchers think a drop in estrogen levels might be the cause.
Can you train your brain? Does firing up a brain-training app actually help improve your memory and ward off dementia? Sorry to disappoint, but right now, evidence for the benefits of computer-based brain games is weak, says Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal HealthResearch Institute. Brain games appear to help you learn to play them better, but research doesn't show that those tasks transfer to other aspects of brain performance. The same goes for crossword puzzles and sudoku, which help your vocabulary and math skills, but nothing more.
How to maintain your mental edge at any age
In your 30s: This is the time to make sure you establish healthy habits—such as getting plenty of exercise and sleep, and eating a good diet—that will affect your brain health throughout your adult years. "When it comes to maintaining brain health, the best time to start is yesterday," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto. If you feel you need a boost at work, consider old-fashioned writing instead of typing on your computer. A study in the journal Psychological Science found that university students who made handwritten notes were better equipped to recall conceptual ideas from their professors' lectures than those who had typed notes on their laptops.
In your 40s and 50s: People in this age group are part of the "sandwich generation," and often face caring for their aging parents on top of dealing with their other work, financial and parenting obligations. So, unsurprisingly, they're super stressed—and this can affect both mental health and day-to-day brain function. Dr. Khatri says it's essential to prioritize and edit out activities and commitments that increase stress without adding value to your productivity or happiness. That's because "maintaining mental health in early and mid life is key to safeguarding cognitive health later on," she says. "Untreated depression in midlife doubles your risk of developing dementia in later life."
In your 60s and beyond: In your senior years, socializing with friends and family, and picking up activities that allow you to connect, such as volunteering, are key to maintaining brain health. And sorry, keeping up with folks on Facebook isn't enough. "Ask yourself: Is social media rounding out my real-life social experiences?" suggests Dr. Khatri. What you need is face-to-face interaction.
Drop that takeout menu, and walk away from the fast food. These tips will make you an ace at Monday-to-Friday dinner prep.
Set for success
Shop once, eat all week
If it's Sunday and you haven't thought ahead to what you'll have for dinner on Thursday, you're missing out on the world's simplest time-saving tool: meal planning! Write out a list of what you'll need to prep your family's meals for the entire week, and get it all in a single supermarket trip before your busy weekday cycle begins. There's no need to worry about wilted veggies when you have a Bosch refrigerator that is equipped with the special VitaFresh system. It maintains just the right level of humidity and helps keep produce fresh longer.
Call in the troops!
You don't have to handle meal prep alone: enlist your family's help. Even young kids can gather ingredients from the fridge, and Bosch's large-capacity drawers and shelves mean it's highly unlikely the broccoli will have been flattened by a jar of pickles. (Everything in its place!) Plus, the efficient LED lighting system keeps items in clear view without hogging a lot of electricity. Once your ingredients are on the counter, kids can shift to sous-chef mode. Safe tasks for little ones include tearing lettuce, crumbling cheese and whisking dressing. Older kids can peel veggies and stir sauces or brown meat on the stove.
Love your leftovers
Plan to make a double batch of your favourite casserole, soup or stew, allowing you to easily transform leftovers into lunches or use them as a base for tomorrow's dinner. Consider cooking more than one recipe at a time: Bosch stoves have five burners and three oven racks, so you'll have space for it all. Don't your weeknights feel less stressed already?
Label and date all freezer foods so you can know at a glance what you have on hand at all times. This minimizes waste, as you're less likely to buy items you already have, and makes it easier to put dinner on the table efficiently by using up leftovers.
Thaw frozen dishes in the fridge, as opposed to on your kitchen countertop, to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. To avoid freezer burn and keep food at its best, use airtight storage containers or large bags that are designed for the freezer.
To maximize storage space in your freezer, package items like soups and sauces in resealable freezer bags so you can flatten and stack them on top of one another.
Freezer staples—like peas, edamame, corn, bread, ravioli and puff pastry—make weeknight cooking easier. Have these on hand at all times and make a note when one of those items is running low so you never run out.
For more on how Bosch appliances can make prep, cooking and cleanup easier, visit bosch-home.ca.