I’m not sure why the topic of how to talk to your kids about sex has come up lately for me in conversation but it has. Let me first tell you my experience growing up. There was NO talk about sex or things to do with it. If I had a question, it was answered but don’t remember asking much. The two things that stand out in my brain are getting my period and thinking I was dying (I was in 5th grade) and finding Playboys in my parents closet and my mom telling me she was fine with it because she needed to know the competition! I was also exposed to my first and only viewing of pornography that I remember at a friends house in 6th grade.
Why do I tell you all this? Because it has caused me to be VERY diligent in making my kids experiences and awareness in regards to things related to sex very different from my own. When my kids were 1, 4, and 6 I began to research and read books on how to talk to them, what to say, when to say it and more. So here is what I have come up with from all my reading.
- YOU need to be comfortable talking about sex and your body first. This can be completely awkward. I hated going to the doctor or asking questions and always felt so embarrassed! I was so scared and sometime in my adult years I started asking some close friends some questions and if something was normal and it was such a relief. Over the years it has become easy to ask questions or even say the word “sex” without cringing or getting red in the face. When you talk to your kids they will notice if you feel uncomfortable or awkward. You need to create a safe place for them to talk and not feel like you are dreading it.
- Be the FIRST one to introduce anything to them. Of course tailor the needs to the child and tell age appropriate information BUT it is key that the first time they hear about sex and menstruation is from you! You don’t want them to hear about it from other kids first. You want to be able to set the stage and honestly in this day and age that time is between the ages of 6 and 9! I know its crazy! It’s so early but yet its out there and your child may already know more then you care to think!
- Stick to the facts. When I say “sex” a whole list of images and thoughts race through your head because you have experience and background. You’ve seen movies, heard stories, etc. but to your child sex is just a set of facts. It’s just like explaining how the car works or how to do chores. It is just matter of fact. This does this and that. DONE! No need to elaborate or add too much details.
- Speak early and often. You may not think sex education starts earlier then 6 and you may think it’s a one time event but it’s not. From the time you child is born call the body parts by their proper names: penis, vagina, breasts, etc. I’ve heard some people assign cutesy names to body parts but we need to stick with the facts. It can cause issues down the road. Also try to have regular conversations about their body and issues they may encounter. For instance, I went and talked to my kids all about sex but failed to discuss more practical things like bras, tampons, pads, deodorant, self care, etc. Encourage your child to come and talk to you about concerns they have even if they are small.
So how do you make the leap and where do you start? There are some resources available. For things specific to sex we used two different resources.
- God’s Design for Sex Our library had them. It was nice because they have one for kids that are around age three and simply addresses the differences between a boy and a girl. There are four books total and I haven’t used them all yet but have looked at them. They go into more detail into transgender and homosexuality at the later age.
- The Talk This person used to work or possible still does for covenant eyes. She developed this simple curriculum to use to talk about the specifics of sex. My kids actually find it all very interesting.
As far as talking about body stuff in general and difficult topics we used the American Girl Doll Books. They were simple and covered a whole bunch of stuff like glasses, deodorant, pads, tampons, eating disorders, all things I’m not sure I would have thought of on my own. There is one for younger girls and one for older girls. You will just have to see which one works for you.
Be sure to set aside time to intentionally go through this. We do a morning reading time with homeschool and in the summer we read through the American girl doll one. As for the deeper topics I always tend to go over this in the summer. We have more time and aren’t rushed. I go over the information every summer so that it stays fresh and offers a chance to ask more questions.
I’m careful to tell my kids that this isn’t something to be ashamed of but it’s also not something appropriate to talk about with friends. It’s for them to discuss with parents and each parents choice to decide when to talk to their own child. If someone were to bring up the topic I encourage my girls to tell the person that they will need to talk to their parents.
I try to keep things private that are going on with my kids and realize that to us it isn’t a big deal but to them it is the END of the world! Adam and I try to have open communication and I make sure to let the girls know they can ask dad about things if they choose and that he has knowledge but they certainly don’t have to!
We also personally teach modesty from the start. Adam will bathe our girls but once they reach around 6-8 I take over and help with bathing and really by this time they are doing it by themselves but he doesn’t walk in the bathroom or bedroom while they are changing as they get older. He also does not allow the kids in our bathroom once they are about 2 to see him naked. I will say my kids still walk in on me all the time but I have 3 girls and I am a girl so that is why we have allowed this. Make it what you would like with your family.
If your kids are in public school almost every school I know of has a “sex education” curriculum that starts at kindergarten or first grade! I know it seems early and usually they notify you and you can opt out but there is a list of topics that will be discussed at each age. You have the right to see it and know what they will say about how each topic will be approached. So please be informed!
I’m sure there are things I have missed and I don’t have all the answers by any means! What questions do you have and what resources have you used? What works for your family to talk about the tougher topics? I love learning from others and what they do so please let me know your feedback.