My kids are 11, 8, 5 and 2. We’ve been talking about sex since the oldest was about 4 years old. That’s when the awkward questions started surfacing unexpectedly. I wasn’t really ready for it, but it happened whether I wanted it to or not. Coincidentally, I had recently watched an episode of Dr. Phil in which he discussed when, where and how to talk about sex with your kids.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m wordy and tend to lean toward over-kill in most aspects of my life. I don’t typically take Dr. Phil’s advice, either. Nonetheless, Dr. Phil did not disappoint and suggested answering their questions plainly, simply and age appropriately. Just give them the details they’re asking for, he said. Don’t offer up the whole cow when they only want milk, so to speak. For goodness sake, Jesi, don’t over-think it.
The sex talk ebbs and flows in our house and lately there has been an influx of sweaty and anxious parental moments because we’ve been reading a couple new books about puberty and courting. You can read about one of our more mortifying moments in this week’s Funny Friday here.
The illustrious Dr. Phil also eloquently stated that if you’ve waited until “The Talk” is inexorable, it’s too late. The sex talk is not one angst filled embarrassing sit-down with your teenager. It’s an ongoing, albeit terrifying dialogue that begins well before you’re ready and NEVER ENDS.
People really get bent out of shape about talking about sex. Everyone wants to have it, but no one wants to talk about it – especially with the kindergarten set. We end up a culture of nymphomaniacs who are afraid to discuss one of the most fundamental and beautiful pieces of our humanity in a real context. Our children our shushed and shamed for being curious and put off with dum-dum and watered-down explanations to their honest questions.
If we wait for the state to formally “educate” our kids about sex, they get the “if you have sex your penis with wither up and fall off because you’ll get an STD because you didn’t use a condom and your girlfriend will get pregnant and you’ll have a miserable life” rhetoric using dry medical texts written by asexual robots. The fact that it’s done within the school and the “peer culture” where everyone giggles and spreads fallacious information makes it even worse.
Folks seem convinced if you give children genuine answers about sex or any other uncomfortable subject like drugs or prostitution, they’ll head right out and begin recklessly having sex for cash and smoking crack. All because we talked about it.
I think the opposite is true. If our kids are getting regular, authentic answers to their questions and are being made to feel good and comfortable about the notion of sex and their bodies, they might be more selective and careful about their choices in the long run.
As with everything I do regarding my kids and their raising, I’ve researched “sex talking” many times to make sure I think we’re doing right by our little minions. (don’t Google “sex talking”, though. That’s not what you’re looking for.) We’ve checked out many books, watched YouTube videos, drawn pictures, talked over dinner and watched documentaries. Our 11 and 8 year old got to see their baby sister being born which was incredible and life-changing for them. (their words, not mine) We’ve tried to teach with our hearts and making use of any other tools we can to make it more real and understandable.
I’ve made a little list below of the things I’ve decided are the most important things to remember when talking about the birds and the bees with our kids.
- As a parent you have to “declare a major” – you can’t just take general ed classes at this university. You have to decide where you stand on the big issues – morality in general, premarital sex, premarital touching/kissing, abortion, homosexuality, etc. This is no time to be wishy-washy. Think about the issues, discuss them with the father of your children and determine where you, as parents, stand on these issues and be prepared to fully teach these principles to your kids. They need guidelines and support. The world-at-large offers none.
- The emotions are just as important as the mechanics. While they need to know that you engage in intercourse to create offspring, they also need to know that sex can be an expression of love or just for pleasure. You don’t have to go into cringe-worthy detail, but your feelings about sex will come out in the course of your conversations – don’t taint your kids’ view of sexuality before they ever experience it.
- Don’t ever let shame or embarrassment be a part of the picture. Be approachable and open. Don’t laugh, try to appear relaxed and pleasant. Kids are keen to these little nuances and will wonder what the deal is if you’re twitchy and squirrely about answering their questions.
- Use books and other teaching aids if you don’t know, can’t remember or feel like you might barf at the thought of discussing the purpose of a clitoris. See my list with links to our favorites below.
- “The Talk” is not just about sex. It’s an ongoing expression of your family’s values. It’s about puberty, bodies, families, homo- and heterosexuality, babies, life and choices people make – drugs/alcohol, children outside of marriage, prostitution, promiscuity, pornography, infidelity, etc. It’s all interconnected and has to be talked about.
Following is a list of books that our family has liked and bought to have around. We checked out some real duds and doozies at the library, (like the one that had freaky drawings of people doing it in weird positions –and yes, it was geared toward youth) so this is a list I wish I’d had from the beginning to weed through the jungle of sex books out there. (Disclaimer: we have all girls, so most everything on this list is estrogen charged and some are biblically based. Take it or leave it.)
The American Girl Care and Keeping of You Series (Books 1 and 2 as well as “The Feelings” books) – these are really good books for general information about puberty and bodies for girls. There’s nothing strange or questionable in these and you can feel comfortable letting your girls read them on their own.
Period: A Girl’s Guide by Vicky Lansky – as far as I’m concerned, this is the definitive book about periods for pre-pubescent girls. Straight-forward and easy to understand information. This is another that can be read independently without fear of terrifying your daughter into a fetal ball with crazy illustrations.
The Trap by Karmel H. Newell – This is a really good one to open up a comfortable dialogue about pornography and what to do if they come across it or are introduced to it in some other way. Great for girls or boys. Especially boys…
What is God’s Design for My Body? by Susan Horner – This is one is, as the title makes obvious, written from a biblical perspective. If you’re turned off by sexuality as viewed by religious folks, skip this one. I thought it had some really good information presented in a way that made sense to me and the girls appreciated. Some of it was a little hokey – like referring to a woman’s sexuality as a budding flower – but I was able to over-look that stuff.
Before You Meet Your Prince Charming: A Guide to Radiant Purity by Sarah Mally – Again, this one is religulous so if you don’t like that sort of thing, move along. I totally dig the notion of courtship and it’s something I want for my girls, so this one appealed to me for many reasons. My girls enjoyed the story of the princess which was interwoven throughout the book. Not really about sex or puberty, it’s about preparing for your future and deciding ahead of time how you will interact with the opposite sex.
Got any good suggestions about “The Talk”? Please share…
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