One day my 7 year old daughter saw a word and started giggling. I asked what was so funny. She said, “sex.”
I was a little shocked but calmly asked “what do you know about sex?” She proceeded to tell me some basic concepts of reproduction that she had heard from her cousin. I remained calm and said that I would talk more with her about it later that evening….when we weren’t about to go out to eat for a family dinner.
I was caught off guard. I thought we had more time! We don’t watch cable, we go to church, we don’t allow our kids to be on the internet unsupervised, we are a pretty open but conservative family.
Here’s what I’ve learned though…if I don’t talk to my child about sex, someone else will.
And if they don’t feel comfortable asking me for answers guess what the alternatives are?! The internet! Friends! Guessing! Random magazines like Cosmo! Did any of those make you wince? They should. Just imagine what your child will see when they type certain phrases on Google on their friend’s phone when no one is looking. Or what they’ll read when the cover article “5 Ways to Please Your Man” catches their eye on a magazine. These things make me shudder.
So back to my story…what did I do? I won’t lie, I panicked a bit. I had some friends who had already approached the topic with their kids, who for the most part seemed uninterested, or simply said “Hmmm…that’s weird,” then skipped off to play with more toys. I was kind of hoping for this interaction with my daughter.
I knew the time was probably approaching soon and I’d checked out a few books from the library to help prepare myself a few months before. Some books seemed too elementary with things she already knew, while others seemed to give WAY too much info for the time being. I wanted to be prepared with the ball in my court and then she threw me for a loop and I was caught off guard! I decided to wing it without a book for a crutch!
I started out by asking her what she had heard and then we went into the facts and the body parts and the fact that BOTH adults needed to be able to talk about this decision before hand. (Preach consent to your girls AND boys!) If you can’t talk about sex with your partner…then you probably shouldn’t be having sex with your partner. Because we are religious I went into some spiritual aspects that I believe about sex, but without casting any kind of shameful or sinful narrative about it. I kept it simple and basic hoping she’d want to go play with toys soon. Nope. She had SO MANY QUESTIONS.
Do you and daddy do that?
If you don’t want a baby why do you still have the sex?
How does a penis go in there?
Does it hurt?
How do you tell daddy you wanna have sex, just walk up and say, “Hey let’s sex!”
Do you HAAAAVE to do that to be a mommy?
Since she’s wanted to be a mommy more than anything when she grows up I could tell that she was squeamish about this fact since she let me know quickly she would just adopt a baby now! I let her know that it’s not something that she has to think about for a long time and that when she is an adult someday and falls in love she might change her mind, but until then not to worry about it!
She then let me know some other things she had heard from friends at school that were not true and inappropriate and that’s when I told her what I think is the most important part about the birds and the bees speech.
I told her that the most important thing is that she always feels safe to come and talk to me or her daddy about things she hears or questions or concerns she has. I let her know that there’s a lot of misinformation out there. There’s a lot of strange conclusions kids can come to. And that she can ALWAYS come to me to talk.
You may blush, you may fumble over words, you may ask for them to give you some time before answering their questions, but you simply HAVING the conversation is already doing the right thing. When things seem like a big secret or a big sin, then kids feel ashamed to ask questions. So be open about it, start calling those body parts by their clinical name, use minimum basic facts when they ask where babies comes from, and keep it an ongoing conversation as they get older.
You obviously will have to expand on the things you tell them now versus the things you want to go over when they start dating, but if you wait until then to start talking about it chances are they may not feel like you are the one to talk to about those things.
I don’t know what the right age is to tell your child about the facts of life. Every child is different and every family is different, but the longer you wait the more they will hear from outside sources. They are human beings who will become curious and even more curious the older they get. If you want your children to have a healthy view of consensual sexual relationships for their future, then that conversation is best had by the people who love them and know them best…and that means you!