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When and How to Talk to Kids About Sex
It feels like in today’s world before we’ve even had to tackle talks about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, we’re having to talk to kids about SEX. It’s a tough talk for most parents and one that we often start too late.
What do I mean by too late?
Well, basic questions about kids body parts can start almost as soon as they can talk. We often miss the opportunity to lay the groundwork by not calling kids body parts by their proper names or by shying away from simple, but accurate, explanations of where babies come from. So, yes, this means not using cutesy terms like “wee wee” “winky” or “pee pee” or relying on the stork to help us out of an uncomfortable moment.
Okay, but beyond that, you probably want a straightforward answer about when the actual mechanics of how sex happens should be discussed with children?
WHEN to Talk to Kids about Sex
Are you ready?? The answer is around 8 years old.
Believe me, I had a hard time with this as well. However, about the time my son was 8 1/2, a good friend of mine who taught sex education for years, insisted the time was now and that he surely knew more than I thought.
I was thinking, Really!? My Kid? The one who when I asked if he wanted to attend a dance at his school for 3rd through 5th graders, responded “Yuck! That would mean I might have to dance with a girl. No way!” Your telling me this kid is ready for “the talk?”
She hadn’t totally convinced me, so I decided to ask a few of my mom friends with kids around my sons age. Sure enough, many had already had “the talk.” This helped me to realize that other kids in his circle clearly were already in the know, and the last thing I wanted was someone else, particularly another 8 year old, setting my child straight on the facts of life.
I then proceeded to do I what most mothers today do when they are trying to figure out how to handle a particular phase with their child. I Googled it.
Let’s be clear though, I used the Internet to educate myself about how to talk to my son about sex. I DO NOT suggest sending your child on a Google pursuit of knowledge in this area or you might be in for a whole lot of other REALLY uncomfortable conversations.
HOW to Talk to Kids about Sex
Anyway, much to my relief, there were many websites as well as books to help on this journey (I’ve provided a list below for you). I even found some great videos, gotta love youtube right! I particularly liked this one from the Oprah website of all places. It features Dr. Laura Berman (I guess this is Oprah’s sex expert) actually walking a mother and daughter through their first chat about it.
Overall, I learned five key things that I think ALL parents need to know when it comes to how to talk to kids about sex:
1. The idea of one big “talk” is really a fallacy. Our goal as parents should be to start the dialogue early and keep on talking.
2. Laying the groundwork early allows the topic to come up gradually and in a way that helps our kids feel comfortable coming to us with their questions.
3. When our kids come to us with their questions, they aren’t looking for in depth explanations with diagrams, just basic answers.
4. Keeping in mind #3, we also have to realize our kids aren’t just looking for textbook answers, they want to know about the feelings that are associated with sex.
5. When we start talking with our kids early and keep the dialogue on-going, our kids are likely to have healthier attitudes about sex, will wait longer to become sexually active and are more likely to use contraception when the time finally comes.
I also have one final bonus point for you. Want to know one of the best places to have these kinds of talks with your kids? In the car! Yes, it’s true. Direct eye-contact, especially for younger kids, can be difficult and intimidating. They may be less likely to open up or ask you the questions they think are inappropriate in a face to face situation. This is why the car, where they are seated behind you, is perfect.
If you are wondering how things went on my end with my own child. I did choose to initiate our first chat in the car and it went surprisingly well. My friend was absolutely right, my son did know more than I expected. However, he actually had pretty specific questions. I gave him short, but direct answers, corrected a little mis-information and then simply encouraged him to come to me or his father in the future. All in all, we talked for maybe 10 minutes.
Parent Resources for How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex:
Talking to Your Kids About Sex: turning “the talk” into a conversation for life
It’s Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends (The Family Library)
The Boys Body Book: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up YOU
The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls, Revised Edition
Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: Expanded Third Edition: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships
Oh, and why not one more video. You will definitely get a laugh out of these other parents attempting to talk with their kids about their bodies and sex. Take heart knowing that you’re not alone if this topic is uncomfortable for you.
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