I knew it. My 6-year-old son’s inquiring mind finally brought him to the age old question as he watched my belly grow with his brother.
In the moment, I panicked. Up to this point, I have been completely open and mostly honest about certain questions he had; I want our son to be informed. But I think this uneasiness came from my inability to decide which route I should take.
Should I tell him about the stork? Maybe I could tell him about how babies are grown in utero? I mean, he loves science and biology, maybe that would help him learn. Or, is he ready to talk about … sex? My self-talk was going a mile a minute! Finally, I just told him God puts babies in mommies’ tummies and to go play!
The birds and the bees. It’s a conversation some parents dread for the first few years of their children’s lives. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons why a parent dreads the responsibility of informing their child about sex. There may be a certain level of fear. Perhaps it is a reminder of hurtful memories. It could be the realization that your baby is growing up (how dare they) and you’re not ready! Regardless of the reason, it’s crucial to be prepared. You’re in luck today because I am here to offer a few pointers on how to talk to your kids about sex.
Make sure the conversation is age appropriate
It’s important to give kids information they can process for better understanding. A 5-year-old child is not going to comprehend what a teenager would–and they shouldn’t have to. This also helps avoid overwhelming the youngins with concepts they can’t handle. So, start small.
First, ask them what they know.
Asking them what they know will give you a chance to figure out a good starting point and begin to tackle any untruths. Separate what they already gathered from other kids, which is likely a bit off, from fact.
Talking with your child in elementary school
With an elementary school-aged child, there will likely be questions about why girls have different parts than boys. Teach them the anatomically correct names for their body parts. This is also the perfect opportunity to have the conversation about public and private areas. (You may tell your children that private parts are anything their bathing suit covers.)
Notice that this conversation doesn’t have to be the sex talk; they’re kids, after all! But it does start that open dialogue early so your children are comfortable coming to talk to you about changes they will see in their bodies later. It builds trust both ways and confidence! Take this opportunity to address the subject early enough to dispel myths and incorporate your values.
Talking with your middle schooler
Things get a little more advanced with a middle school-aged child. This is where the actual sex talk can begin because surveys tell us that kids have a pretty decent idea of what sex is between ages 9-12. Kids are starting puberty before it’s noticeable. Therefore, talking about it before the changes happen enhances self-esteem and, again, gives them more confidence.
It is crucial that a child knows what is going on with their body. This includes talking about sexual urges and normalizing it, instead of leaving the kids to figure out what to do with their feelings in the moment. I mean, don’t you want to know when something major is going to happen beforehand so you can put a plan in place?
Some parents make the mistake of making up some outlandish explanation about where babies come from or why things happen to our bodies at that age. There are others who avoid it altogether. Those options are extremely counterproductive! I understand it’s hard to have these conversations. After all, we like to think we had control for so long. But, we have to release the reigns, guys. It’s time to get a hold of our own stuff, whatever it is, and empower our children with knowledge that will help learn to take care of themselves.
Talking with your child in high school
There will come a time when I will be raising high school boys. Yikes! Sex is at the top of my list of things I don’t want to talk about, if I’m being real. All I think about are hormones, my babies making babies … ahhh! But let’s say I’ve done the ideal thing and my kids know what sex is by then. Now would be the time to build on what they already know and discuss what healthy versus unhealthy relationships are. This includes a conversation around consent, boundary setting, and what it could mean if certain lines are inappropriately crossed. All of these things are important for any young man or woman to know as they continue to grow and make sense of emotional and physical changes.
Is this still a little nerve wracking? Don’t worry! There are great resources out there to help you get equipped to have this conversation with your kids. Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands (STSM) is an amazing nonprofit organization that serves Richland, Lexington, Newberry, Sumter, and Clarendon counties. Part of the STSM mission and vision is to educate community members about sex and how to talk about it. Kitchen Conversations is STSM’s in-home, parent-led party where you, your friends, and family get together to discuss topics that are most relevant to you. Kitchen Conversations will teach you how to use teachable moments to establish open, honest, and ongoing dialogues with your child while being age-appropriate. For more information about how to be connected to this initiative contact Alek Reaves at [email protected].
It’s amazing to have experts at your disposal, isn’t it? All in all, take care of yourself! It’s crucial to be mindful of what you need as you facilitate this process.
Let’s be empowered to have these important discussions with our kids. Let’s use this opportunity to instill our values in them and trust that they will make healthy decisions and/or feel comfortable enough to come talk to you when they don’t. Please be kind to yourself and remember, you are not alone. Whether you have a partner in this parenting game or not, there are resources available to assist as we try our best to foster healthy development for our youngins. Do your research.
I wish you happy planning!