Talking to Kids About Sex
Talking to kids about sex…it’s the elephant in the room that no parent is dying to talk about. I for one would rather hand clean my trash receptacle with its layers of diaper slime, rancid residues, and a mashed spaghetti strand that has been there since last September. But we have to, and I’ll tell you why: because the topic of sex will come up with our kids soon, way before we expect it, and at random times and locations. We have to be ready to begin talking to kids about sex.
When to Talk to Kids About Sex
Last week, I did something no parent ever should. I read my six-year-old daughter’s secret diary. The first few pages were cute, filled with whimsy and innocence like, “My best friend: Elmo” (her favorite stuffed animal since birth). And, “Favrit food: spagetti” (as illustrated by the aforementioned petrified spaghetti). And then I get to a page titled: TOP SECRET. Oh boy.
As I read the following words, an ugly pit fell in my stomach: “TOP SECRET: a boy peepee“
NOOOOO! Not yet! But when was I expecting to talk to my kids about sex?
According to Dr. Louanne Cole Weston from WebMD Magazine, the answer is always, “Sooner than you think.”
How to Start Talking to Kids About Sex
But want to hear some great news? You don’t have to give “The Big Talk” like your parents did…you know, that really awkward one where they led you to a quiet room and hem and hawed their way through an incredibly painful and lengthy talk about where babies come from–the one where you both left blushing as a result. Nope. No more of that! Phew! Dr. Weston states,
“If you talk about sexual matters from the beginning of a child’s use of language, there never needs to be the big “birds and bees talk.” It’s just a series of small conversations spread out over many years. You, as the parent, become the obvious go-to person whenever there’s a question.”
Sounds pretty good to me. Still, there are 5 things that every parent should consider before talking to kids about sex.
5 Things Every Parent Should Know Before Talking to Kids About Sex
1. It’s not just about…ahem…sex.
The modern parent has to be ready to confront a barrage of sensitive topics that come up. Body parts, the differences between girls and boys, appropriate vs. inappropriate touching, and in addition more mature subjects like pornography, inappropriate texting, chat rooms, internet safety, etc. Stay up to date on the issues that will affect kids and teens and consider getting a device like Circle that can help keep your kids safe online.
2. Address topics as they come up naturally.
There’s no way to address all of the above topics and more in one sitting. Rather like the world’s largest hamburger (134 lbs!), it’s just too much to digest. Instead of “The Big Talk,” address topics as they come up naturally with your children. When little Sally sees you changing her baby brother’s diaper and asks, “What’s that?” don’t change the subject. Use it as a teachable moment to help her understand the difference between boys and girls. When your child finds a tampon in your purse, don’t say, “It’s nothing. Put that away.” Instead, tell her it’s a tampon and explain that mommies need to use them once a month. That should suffice until she’s a little older and ready for more information on the subject. Kids should never come away thinking that the topic of sex, etc. is bad, uncomfortable, or something to be avoided.
The bottom line, never shrug off a sensitive subject; be honest and matter of fact.
3. You are the best person to teach your child.
Your child will learn about sex and similar subjects. Either from you or from outside sources who will give your child a horribly skewed version of sex. I heard my first dirty joke from a girl in the second grade and felt very confused and dirty.
It is a million times better your child learns it from you, parents who he loves and trusts, and who have his best interest at heart. You are the best person to teach your child—not peers at school, not the older kid on the school bus, and definitely not television or internet.
4. You don’t need to dump all the specifics at once.
Like stated earlier, instead of “The Big Talk,” address topics naturally as they come up, and know that you don’t have to give specific or intricate details until they are ready. Here is a great age guideline from the editors of Parenting.com that will give you a good idea of where to start:
Toddler to Preschool Age
Ages 2-3: It is recommended that kids know the right words for body parts (penis and vagina). If you’re squeamish about your toddler running around spouting those terms, decide as a couple okay alternatives.
Ages 3-4: Where a baby comes from. You don’t need to explain the full details of reproduction, just a simple, “Mom has a uterus inside her tummy where you lived until you were big enough to be born” is sufficient. If your kids are like mine and want to know how the baby gets out, you can tell them the baby comes out of the mommy’s vagina or private part.
Ages 4-5: A general idea of how babies are made. A friend of mine suggested telling kids that, just like it takes a seed to make a flower grow, the same goes for babies. “Daddy has a seed called a sperm inside of him and it joins together with a tiny egg inside of mommy and a baby starts to grow.”
Ages 6-7: A basic understanding of intercourse. You can explain how male and female bodies were created like a puzzle piece so that they could join together to make babies. Talk about how sex is a special part of a relationship to show love for each other.
Ages 8-9: Sex is very serious. Not something to do until you are an adult, or married. Kids this age can handle a basic explanation about any topic and should know that they should never, ever be forced to have sex (rape).
Ages 9-11: What changes happen during puberty. Be ready to discuss sex-related topics your child might see in the media or television.
Middle School and Beyond
Age 12: By this age, children aren’t really children anymore and are starting to form their own values. Check in with them often. Know where they are spending their time online and outside of school, and who they are spending time with. Oh, and so you avoid the famous eye roll, avoid overkill or you will be tuned out.
5. Let them know they are loved.
Above all, be open and honest with your children, letting them know they are loved and safe to share, to confide, and to ask you any sort of question. Furthermore, allow your children to be comfortable enough to come to you with any subject or problem. When confronted with a difficult question that may shock you, take a moment to gather your thoughts and get your emotions in check. Tell them,
Let me think about that for a minute. Will you meet me back here in 10 minutes and I’d love to talk to you.”
Although none of us loves talking to our kids about sex-related subjects, it is very important. You are fabulous parents doing a great job for great kids. Good luck, and if you have any words of wisdom for us all, please share below!
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