My daughter has been asking me a lot of, ahem, questions lately. She recently ambushed me in the middle of Target to ask “how babies got into your stomach” (and, if she stopped eating would one grow in there instead?).
Yesterday, after picking her up from school, she wanted to know when she would get a boyfriend, how and who it would be.
Did I mention that she’s FOUR?!?
When to Talk to Your Kid About Sex
Clearly it’s time to talk to my daughter about relationships and maybe have a little sex-lite discussion. All of the experts that I’ve read say the best time to talk to your kids about sex is when they start showing an interest. And, she’s showing interest. Shockingly, some kids show interest as young as two or three when they start to notice their “private parts.”
And, by the way? For the love of all that is good it is ok to tell your kids the real names of their body parts (no need to gloss over “penis” or “vulva and vagina” just because you’re uncomfortable). According to KidsHealth.org, “a Gallup poll showed that 67% of parents use actual names to refer to male and female body parts.” So while it’s not fun for my mom when the four year old pulls out the vagina talk at church, at least the kid has an understanding of her body parts and not some weirdo name for them.
How Do You Talk to Your Kid About Sex?
The best way to approach sex talk with young kids is to stay basic in descriptions. Preschoolers don’t need a lot of detail at that age. And, by the way, “where did I come from?” may just mean the kid wants to know where he or she was born. So, make sure you understand what they’re asking before you launch into a sexual anatomy dissertation.
If by age 7 or 8 your kid hasn’t brought up sex, experts say you should talk to them about it.
ChildrenNow.com recommends something like this:
Say, for instance, the mother of an 8-year-old’s best friend is pregnant. You can say, ‘Did you notice that David’s mommy’s tummy is getting bigger? That’s because she’s going to have a baby and she’s carrying it inside her. Do you know how the baby got inside her?’ then let the conversation move from there.
Bottom line? Be honest with your kids … even if you’re uncomfortable. Use books or television shows or even real-life situations to segue, explain and illustrate. And, be sure you’re getting the real point across.
“What is so fascinating to me is 90 percent of the mothers, our readers, thought that they had had the conversation with their daughters about sex. When you talk to the daughters, you’ll find out, well, no, you didn’t really quite have the conversation,” Gayle King, O magazine’s editor-at-large, told Oprah.com.
O Magazine’s survey results showed that 78 percent of mothers think their daughters feel comfortable talking to them about sex, but really only 39 percent of daughters actually feel comfortable talking to their moms.
So, make sure that your kids know that it’s ok to ask questions about their bodies, their feelings and sex in general.
What to Include in Your ‘Sex Talk’
Your “talk” will vary and expand as the child ages. A first talk should certainly cover the “basics” like male and female anatomy, understanding their own genitals and how a baby is made. As your child grows and develops, you continue the talk based on changes in his or her body and also understanding of the topic.
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WebMD recommends using the following as a guideline for what to cover when you’re talking to your kids. (Of course, you are going to edit based on age and understanding.)
- Explanation of anatomy and reproduction in males and females
- Sexual intercourse and pregnancy
- Fertility and birth control
- Other forms of sexual behavior, including oral sex, masturbation, and “petting”
- Sexual orientation, including heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality
- The physical and emotional aspects of sex, including the differences between males and females
- Self-image and peer pressure
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Rape and date rape, including how being intoxicated (drunk or high), or accepting rides/going to private places with strangers or acquaintances puts you at risk
- How choice of clothing and the way you present yourself sends messages to others about your interest in sexual behavior
Remember, talking about sex doesn’t mean you’re condoning it and you can make that clear during your discussions. Don’t you want your kid learning the truth about sex from you instead of relying on kids at school for incomplete information? Shudder.
Have you talked to your kids about sex? How did you handle it?
Parenting Sex Talk Resources
Your Body Belongs to You (Preschool)