Talking about sex with anyone can be weird. But having the sex talk with your kid . . . well, that’s a whole new level of weird. Some parents try to avoid having “the talk” for as long as humanly possible. Other parents jump right in at the first hint of their child’s curiosity. Some parents find the topic relatively easy to discuss, while others are humiliated just thinking about it. No matter where you fall on this wide spectrum, one fact remains: someone has to teach your child about sex. And it should probably be you.
So, where do you start? How do you talk about it? And when? Of course, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Each parent will broach this subject in the way they feel is best. But if you’re like me and need a bit of guidance, here are some tips for teaching your kids about the birds and the bees.
How (and When) to Have “The Talk”
Clearly, you’re not going to sit down with your 18-month-old and tell them how babies are made. They don’t have the capacity to understand such things at that age. But the sooner you start talking about subjects surrounding sex, the better. For instance, as soon as they’re old enough to start asking about their genitals, answer their questions with correct terminology. It may seem harmless to call a penis something like a “pee-pee,” but it really does your child no good. And it perpetuates the concept that terms like penis, vagina, breasts, testicles, etc., are “bad” or embarrassing words.
As soon as you start incorporating correct words and phrases into your normal conversation and using those terms without embarrassment, your children will also start to be able to describe their bodies factually and without shame. Over time, and as they get older, moving naturally into talking about the act of sex and all that comes with it will be much easier for you both.
One of the most difficult things for parents to talk about with kids when it comes to sex is the pleasure of it. For whatever reason, we in this country seem to be ashamed that we find sex pleasurable. And to imply that you like sex (gasp!) is downright blasphemous in some circles. While sex is pleasurable, it is also very scientific and purposeful. Start by talking with your child about the science and function of the act first to ease your way into the subject.
For example, when your kid asks how babies are made, and they want DETAIL, respond with something like, “Women have eggs inside their body, and men have sperm inside their body. A man will fit his penis inside the woman’s vagina to leave the sperm so that it can find the egg and fertilize it. Once the egg is fertilized, it grows into a baby.” Sometimes, that will be enough for the child, and you both can move on until the next opportunity comes up. Eventually, you will want to discuss the pleasure of sex because most children will start exploring their own bodies by around age 8. But if you have already broached the subject scientifically, it will be easier to talk about when the time is right.
Listen, talking about this subject with your child is going to be nerve-wracking. You may feel a whole range of nervous emotions. That’s okay, and it’s perfectly normal. However, do your very best to remain calm and collected when you have the sex conversation with your child. He is going to feed off of your energy more than anything else. If you are acting embarrassed, he will feel that the topic should embarrass him. If you’re acting nervous, talking about sex with you will make him feel nervous as well. Do yourself and your child a huge favor and keep the conversation (and the emotions surrounding it) as light, straight-forward, and calm as possible.
Use your resources.
Unfortunately, our kids did not come with instruction manuals. Similarly, there is no instruction manual for having the sex talk either. However, there are some great resources, online and in print, that can help you start the conversation and continue it in a way that will benefit your child and help you stay calm, focused, and factual. Check out It’s Not the Stork! and Who Has What? All About Girls Bodies and Boys Bodies, which are best sellers on this topic.
Remember, sex is a natural, normal, and important part of everyone’s life. Learning about it in a safe and healthy environment is crucial to how your child will grow up understanding the act and all of the complicated emotions and feelings that surround it. Beginning “the talk” with them early and often will help you both approach this topic with at least a little bit more ease.
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