How old are your kids? Young, right? Have you started having “the talk” with them yet? If not, now is the best time to start talking to your kids about sex.
I know, it’s scary to think about it. They seem too young. It’s uncomfortable to try to explain very adult concepts in kid-friendly language. And sometimes, we don’t even know the answers to their questions ourselves!
But stick with me and I’ll let you know how I talk about sex with my kids.
Start From The Beginning.
From day one we use anatomically correct terms. Boys have penises, girls have vaginas. As they grow and mature, we use more complicated terms like testicles, vulva, anus (ok, we say “butthole” more than “anus” because nobody is going to confuse that with a food item or toy).
Using the appropriate language does several things for kids. It helps them learn that their bodies are not embarrassing. For both self-esteem and potential health issues, this is imperative. If your son knows that you are comfortable discussing his body, he will not be nervous to tell you if his penis hurts. If your daughter knows that her body is normal, she will not be concerned to ask you questions about it. Also, if your child is ever abused, having the correct language helps them explain what happened without any guesswork or doubt.
Stick With Facts.
When you child asks where babies come from, there is no need to play games or tell stories. Just tell them. Start with the simplest terms possible and allow them to ask questions to understand more as they are ready. The first step could be “Mommy grows baby inside her”. Then follow their lead. Be truthful, but don’t give them information overload. A toddler doesn’t need to learn about sperm and eggs and ovulation and fallopian tubes and implantation and and and. But, they do need to know that Daddy and Mommy work together to make a baby.
Of course, these conversations need to be tailored to your family. Gay couples and Lesbian couples will have different answers than straight couples. Couples who need fertility help will have different answers. But the principles stay the same. Start with the most basic concept and expand as they ask questions.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Pictures
Obviously, you will want to find pictures that are appropriate for children. Don’t show your kids porn to illustrate what a penis or vagina looks like. But a quick google search of “teaching kids reproductive anatomy” brings up a ton of great resources. (Also, yes I use terms like reproductive anatomy. Sorry, I like big words.)
When I was pregnant with The Baby I had no trouble grabbing some images of sperm and egg and all that to illustrate how a baby is made. The kids were a little giggly at the idea of putting a penis inside a vagina but seemed okay with the fact that it’s just something grown-ups do.
Leave Morality Out Of It.
Period. No. Human bodies are morally neutral. Existing as a human being in our natural human state is neither good nor bad. Penises are not bad, vaginas are not dirty, breasts are not sexual. Having these various pieces and parts makes up a part of who we are as people, but they do not define us entirely.
If your kid walks around naked and you want to teach him not to, make sure you don’t make it about your kid being inappropriate, but rather about being kind to others who may not be comfortable with nakedness. Or even about hygiene. Because while our bodies aren’t morally bad, bare asses on children with questionable wiping habits are best saved for tubs and toilets not upholstered couches…
Our house is not “nevernude” nor is it a naturalist colony. We fall squarely in the “be comfortably covered” territory. As a breastfeeding mom, my boobs are often out. Sometimes shirts are just more work than they are worth because they will just get puked on. And wearing the wet-pukey shirt while the baby sleeps is way grosser than just being topless. My kids are often in just panties or underwear until the Winter chill drives them into cozy pajamas.
Just as bodies are not bad, neither is sex. Sex is GREAT! If it wasn’t so great, there wouldn’t be as many people on this Earth right now. When kids start learning about sex, I think it’s important not to imply that it is something people “have” to do or that it’s bad or scary. But it is also a thing that is just between grown-ups.
Don’t lie to your kids and say only mommies and daddies have sex. Don’t lie and just say men and women have sex. Sex and sexuality is an incredibly complex and fluid personal topic and what you enjoy and believe isn’t going to be the same as everyone else. Even your own children will end up enjoying different sexual experiences than you when they get around to that.
Just Do It.
Talk, I mean. Just talk to them about it. Answer questions when they ask. Don’t put them off or distract them. If you don’t know an answer commit to learning about it so you can help them understand. If you start early and keep the communication open, two-sided, and judgment-free, you will have an open door to your child’s thoughts on sexuality when they are starting to experience it for themselves.
It can be uncomfortable to talk about sex and bodies with our children. It can be especially hard if our own parents were more closed off or judgmental about bodies or if we are not comfortable in our own skin. But having kids is our opportunity to do better. So start the talk early, and keep talking often and we will be able to have conversations with our kids instead of talking at them.