Sex Ed

Fun fact: I didn’t know what the basic mechanics of sex were until I was a senior in high school. (That didn’t stop me from lots of making out. : ) My kids on the other hand, they know more facts and terms associated with sex than I did at 20 years old!

No doubt influenced by our own lack of knowledge as kids, we gave our oldest 3 the birds and bees discussion when they were fairly young — ages 8-9. And we’ve been pleased with how the conversations have happened. We plan to continue the pattern with our youngest 3.

I get asked pretty frequently by fellow parents how we’ve handled the sex talk with our kids (I’m sure you get asked too. It’s one of those recurring parenting topics.) In a future post, I’m happy to share how we approach the discussion and what has worked for us. But today I’d love to know:

What was your experience as a kid? Did your parents give you the talk? Mom, Dad or both? Do you remember how old you were when you figured it out?

P.S. — The belly shot is me pregnant with Baby June, taken by the talented Tracey Clark.

129 thoughts on “Sex Ed”

  1. My mom was a nurse and, so, gave me a very facts-based talk when I was 9 or so. She also gave me a book, which I promptly shared with my friends. In fifth grade, when I was 10, my school had a very thorough class. With my oldest, who is now 15, her Catholic School only approached the subject with the animal kingdom and then encouraged parents to talk to kids. She knew the “mechanics” of it all – we just gave her the responsible, emotional side of “the talk” and took she and some friends to a local womens’ hospital who had a very thorough “class” on it all. Our dialogue with her now is pretty open since some kids her age are sexually active. I have younger kids (3, 5 , 7) and will handle it the same way with them, I suppose.

  2. Mother Knows Best

    Sex ed at school was perfect for me. The topic was covered several times between ages 9 and 16. I know that a lot of parents want to have more control over this aspect of their child’s education, and each child develops at a different pace, but the emotional distance from the educator, and the mature, factual approach to the subject that the school setting requires were important factors for me. I was far too shy to bring such an intimidating subject home! Teachers are trustworthy, but you don’t have to go and sit across the dinner table from them an hour later, mortified with your new knowledge of just exactly how you came to be :)

    Mortifyingly, though, on my wedding day two years ago, my mother chose the car ride to the temple as the right time to describe, in torturous detail and just a few blocks from our destination, some minor sexual illnesses and complications that a pair of newlwed Mormon kids could possibly anticipate, and to describe the place in my suitcase where she had sneakily (lovingly??) hidden a bag of pharmacy supplies! My father was driving the car. I literally could have died right on the spot.

  3. This has been a subject I have thought about a lot lately. We have four little ones, although the oldest is 11 and not so little any more. I had a very different experience from you while growing up. My mother was VERY proactive about discussing sex to a degree that always made me very uncomfortable. On the other hand I did not want my children to be ignorant or to view sex as something to fear but rather wanted it to be something that they were comfortable with and that they saw as a healthy and beautiful part of their future marriages.
    To that effect I took the approach that I always try to be very straightforward but have also been been mindful not to over discuss and therefore end up answering a bunch of questions that they do not have. In the end I have found (with two of the four at least) that has meant a basic understanding of how babies are made pretty early (egg, sperm, womb etc – they have all had siblings after all) and then an understanding of the mechanics around 9 or so. Usually that is a pretty technical discussion – and very open to making sure it is all clear without shoving it down their throat. Now, with my 11 year old daughter who is just entering puberty I have found that we are beginning to have more discussions about the side topics – about having feelings and about how beautiful a relationship between a man and a woman can be. Although these discussions rarely actually discuss “sex” I feel it is part of the larger discussion. We will see where it goes from here as none of our children have passed this stage ;)
    I have also found, while discussing this with friends, that what all of us agree to be a HUGE component is modeling affection. This is something that all of those who I view as having good marriages can remember about their own parents (or NOT remember which causes them to make a point of it). I hope and pray that our babies will view sex as part of a whole and not as something separate from love and (I hope) marriage and I hope that as they get older they will have an ingrained understanding that that “whole” is something that their parents have and that is achievable.
    Parenting gets so much harder after sweet smelling , nursing babies! ;)

    1. So many great points in this comment, like about modeling affection – thanks!

      Incidentally, my mom also “overdiscussed.” I think she felt like it was a mom-daughter bonding thing once I asked – discussing girls’ periods, how sex works, etc., plus I was her first-born. But I have memories of feeling more awkward by her than the subject matter itself, so I will definitely have a lighter touch and a more detached vibe.

      1. We have 5, and have discussed a lot with our now 13 yr old – the deep feelings and responsibilities included with a sexual relationship are a major part of our focus. With my second, now 8, the questions are being brought up, and I also am using that as my guide. I try to address what she asks, and no more.

        I was raised by a mom who OVERSHARED – and had no limit on what I saw on TV or read in books – ie. “romance” novels are not for 12 yr olds. Because of that, I am very aware of the literature my teen reads as that can also introduce way too much of the “mechanics”.

        It is all such a balancing act – not over sheltering, not over exposing.

  4. I was entering kindergarten and my Dad, a physician, gave me a very scientific run down. I kind of wonder if he didn’t want me learning any mis-information at school or was worried about any inappropriate behavior towards me. I think I was a bit too young, but my parents were pretty open with me on this topic and I plan on mimicking that aspect of their teaching me the birds and the bees. We’re already had a few questions from our 6 year old and I’m careful to answer her questions directly, but only her particular question. For example, when she was three, she asked where baby horses come from, and I said, “their mom’s body”. She was satisfied.

  5. I have to say–thanks so much for addressing this and I’m excited to see what else you have to say. My oldest are 8 and 6 and I been asking many parents with children a bit older than mine how they have handled it. I’m thinking I’d like to discuss it before they get too much older. What we have discussed seems almost easier when they are younger since they don’t have any preconceived notions and it’s very factual without a lot of emotion attached. Anyhow, I figured with 6 children you’ve probably figured out a thing or two–thanks!

  6. They tried to but I already knew everything! I guess that means they waited too long. I remember my friends and I sharing bits of information we had discovered. I guess collectively we figured it out!

  7. My father, a pediatrician, and my mother, a nurse, were still uncomfortable with the sex talk. (I am 49 so I think it was the era). They told me that they would be happy to answer any questions I had. That’s the extent of our talk. And I was not going to ask any questions so that was it. I took a different route with my kids, starting early and they got some through the public school health classes as well, but I made sure they heard it from me, first, with our religious values alongside.

  8. I got a book and my best friend had an older brother. I probably was misinformed a quite a while (older brother stories), but the book I actually read and found helpful. Talking to our kids I’m sure will be an improvement and will be what I attempt, but I think books can help as well.

    1. My husband’s mom was quite frank on the subject and used all of the proper terms which was helpful, but what he couldn’t stand was the pop-up book she provided to further explain things. No pop-up books.

  9. there was a book about conception and reproductive health with great center fold illustrations and i was allowed to read it at age 9. the if i had questions after looking at it, and i did, my mother answered them.

  10. so interesting. i had to get to college and have a senior nursing major room mate tell me about it… such discussion at home whatsoever. we plan for our little guy to know things gradually….that girls and guys are different etc. also plan to use a little booklet that a friend has that goes over age appropriate things at the right time.
    i have many friends who are going through the same thing, so before their wedding, i give them a sex bag with another friend. everything they will need on their honeymoon, and we talk them through a few things they wouldn’t know!

  11. My mom, being my mom, told me sometime around the time I was twelve that I could “learn it on the streets” like she did. Hahahha. I swear it was in good humor, by that age I had four younger siblings and zero questions on the subject. I was never given a talk, but at some point I absorbed the information and moved on with life. The important information was familiar: Sex makes babies. Noisy babies! :) The rest– fertilization and all that nonsense was probably from some sort of Biology class/TheInternet.

    I didn’t date until I was eighteen, in college. It’s funny how I love children, but since I was surrounded growing up, the threat of having them early (my mom had me at 18) was enough to keep me away from Gentlemen Callers. I’m 22, now.

  12. I found out through MTV when I was little. Not the best way to find out! I am not going that route with my kids. My parents NEVER talked with me about it. Even when I was around 10 and courageously asked my mom to talk to me about it, she said no. I never even got any advice or words of counsel before I got married! I don’t really understand why my parents left one of the most important topics up to the media and friends to educate their daughters.

  13. My mother (a nurse) handed me a medical book which created more questions than it answered. I never really learned much from my parents. I have very open conversations with my four kids – and have since they were very young, maybe as little as 2 or 3 – about all bodily functions :) Right now I’m dealing with the older kids in Grade 9 and 11 being taught at school that the worst thing about pre-marital sex is potential pregnancy – I’ve had to correct them that the worst scenario would be potential death. Never a dull moment!

    1. This really steams my beans. I hate all this focus on pregnancy. While, of course, that can be an unintended consequence, there are much MUCH worse things that could happen. Why doesn’t MTV have a show called “16 and HIV-Positive” or “16 with Herpes”? Kids absolutely need to know this stuff, and there is no romanticizing STIs.

      1. Mother Knows Best

        ‘Steams my beans’ is my new favourite saying! I totally agree. Give kids the impression that the purpose of abstinence is to avoid pregnancy will not deter anyone who knows where to access any one of the many contraception options. Not that I’m anti contraceptives, but if kids feel pregnancy is the major reason to not sleep around, they can easily solve the problem. Contraceptives don’t ward off emotional damage or most STIs!

  14. I will NEVER forget it. I was 9, my mother was pregnant with my step brother and I wanted to know how it happened. She was making chocolate mousse for a dinner party and now I have forevermore associated sperm with chocolate mousse. I love chocolate, but not chocolate mousse!


    1. This just made me laugh out loud in my office. Good thing I work by myself!

      Also as a very young child, like probably three or four, I somehow came to associate drinking wine coolers and getting pregnant. Wine coolers were my mother’s favorite party drink back in the early to mid 80s, and that would have been when my youngest sister was conceived, so somehow the two facts linked together in my brain. Maybe she did have a wild night with wine coolers? ;)

  15. This is so coincidental–I just turned on my streaming news as usual this morning, and at this very moment I’m listening to an MPR News show on the topic of the relationship between parents, kids, and the culture of teenage sex. A professor did a study between parents and teens in Holland and the same in the US–and the results are more STIs, teen pregnancies, etc. in the US. It’s very interesting. It’s getting lots and lots of callers, mostly parents, of course. The article (probably the show later) is here:

  16. I was about 8 or 9. I asked my mom, and she answered all my questions honestly and without hesitation. She pulled out one of her medical journals so she could better explain the mechanics and terms. We didn’t really talk about the emotional side of it until later. She essentially followed my lead, answering any questions I had when I was ready to ask them. I liked that. I have boys, though, so I wonder whether or not they’ll ask me or their dad or if we’ll need to take a different approach.

  17. I was in first grade and my mother showed me the ABC Afterschool Special, “My Mom’s Having a Baby” – it answered my questions (though I did wonder why someone would try to camoflage a zit with a bandaid.) She did a followup the following year when my sister asked and she hauled out her Gray’s Anatomy text which REALLY grossed me out. (She was an elementary school PE teacher so she was used to “the talk”.)

    The best thing my parents did was sit my sister and I down and tell us about the relational part of sex, how it was designed for love and marriage, and to come to them if we had any questions and not to take the word of other kids in school.

    One thing I will do that my parents didn’t is have a really clear talk with my kids (at age 3-5) about appropriate physical boundaries and who is allowed to see them and touch them in any way (thanks to my crisis center training. that’s now at the top of the list!)

  18. There was no talk. Ever. I learned what I learned from elementary/middle school/high school health classes and friends. I think I would have been mortified so it’s okay with me, but the problem with that is that sex was never a dialogue available to me and my parents. When you’re getting married and a virgin, it might be nice to have somebody to ask questions of, you know? I want my kids to be able to talk to me about it. I have a seven-almost-eight-year-old boy and I will definitely talk to him about it in the next year. He’s already been asking so many questions, starting with the last time I was pregnant, that it’s inevitable anyway.

    1. thats pretty funny!! i would probably never iron again! maybe i should be grateful i never got “the talk” because now i dont associate any daily actvity with it! haha

  19. This is a great topic!

    My Mom always said “If you’re old enough to ask the question you’re old enough to receive an answer.” Problem was I always asked the questions at inappropriate times, re: “What’s an orgasm,” at dinner with my grandparents. To her credit, my Mom tried to unflinchingly answer the questions with age appropriate answers. My Dad also gave me the book “Changing Bodies, Changing Lives,” when I was 12 or 13. I don’t think it’s published anymore, but it was a fountain of information.

    I think the key is age appropriateness here. I didn’t whip out a text book when my 10 ten year old son asked (after a lesson at school) what a vagina looked like. I went and got that illustration that they give you in a box of tampons.

    And yes, it’s embarrassing and uncomfortable. You just have to get over it, even admit it to them. “Look, this might be awkward but I think it’s time I talked to you about birth control, or these are my feelings on sex before marriage, or… (you fill in the blank) ” It’s worth it. With our sons we started the above talks at 13.

  20. The World Book Encyclopedia, which was in every classroom and the library had it pretty much all laid out in no uncertain terms. Eventually some of us got curious as to the specifics and had a look. Mind blown. At some point, my mom asked me if I was curious about anything and I was like naaahhhhhh. Thanks, I guess, World Book!

  21. My bestie to this day and I found her parent’s copy of Joy of Sex and would routinely check that out in 4th grade – very interesting! I believe my mom just sort of knew I knew the mechanics – I hate that work for it but cannot think of another one – but explained everything about periods/childbirth when I was in 3rd grade. It was pretty non traumatic.

  22. Oh my! Well I’m 25 and my mom tried to give me “the talk” two years ago before I got married. I just said, “mom, I already know!” I don’t know when exactly I figured it out, but I don’t really remember my parents sitting down and talking to me about the topic. Pretty sure I learned from cable and the awkward videos they make you watch in 5th and 6th grade.

  23. As far as how my parents handled talking to me about sex…it was a very tense subject at our house. It was not an easy subject in their marriage either, as I understand it. My mom talked to me about getting a period a little when I was 13 or so, but most everything I learned I picked up from books at the library, bits of conversations I overheard at school, or at sex ed. classes in public school, most of which was about terminology and diseases and “don’t get pregnant” in middle school. It seemed very confusing to me at the time and embarrassing to learn about in a room full of your (sometimes crude and mocking) peers and an adult stranger.

    When I was engaged to be married, my Mom gave me a really good book about “marital relations”, so I understood more about the mechanics and emotions of sex and sexual relationships within marriage, but it would have been so much more helpful if she had been more open to talking about it much earlier, like when I was a teen in high school, if she had been able to.

    My husband and I have just taken the talks about sex, body changes with puberty and babies gradually and naturally as our kids have aged and asked questions. Pregnancy and child birth are not hidden topics at our house…some of the children have attended each other’s births and all have watched tasteful video of babies being born–it’s quite a normal part of human life. They ask questions when they occur to them and we answer them simply. That’s worked very well for us all.

    Robie Harris’ books (like ‘It’s Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends’) have been very helpful for me when trying to decide on what to talk about , and how, to my kids–I like how innocent the approach is and family-centered–there are very age appropriate illustrations for younger ages and tasteful, too.

    I learned as a parent early on not to offer too much information when asked a question by a younger child…give the simplest answer first, and then you’ll know when they are ready to understand more. I believe it’s important to talk about these things when the child is ready, asks questions and shows an interest. For instance, our son when he was about 4 told me all about how very excited he was for the day when he could have hairy armpits just like his Dad…LOL…that was a great conversation starter about puberty.

  24. i learned about sex when i was in 2nd grade. my best friend’s mom sent a book to school and our teacher was supposed to read it with her and explain things. weird, i know. she showed it to me at recess and we read through the whole thing snickering, all the way. my parents never had ‘the talk’ with me. i guess after that book they didn’t need to :O)

  25. my parents said nothing at all about it. ever. when i started my period, my mom said ‘the pads are under the sink’ and that was it. she also told me i couldn’t wear a tampon until after i was married. even as an adult, married, and currently pregnant, there is never any sort of talk about that. my parents did show affection, but it was mostly gross to us. well, at least to me. they let the school tell us about the details, which i thought was a poor choice. once i was married, i was very open with my friends who were about to get married. i even had an old missionary friend email me and ask me questions. she was currently attending BYU, and NO ONE would give her a straight answer about the details. they all would just say ‘how wonderful’ it was or something else equally lame. i had a few other friends ask as well, but that one sticks in my mind. my standard wedding gift back when we were younger was some lubrication of some kind, handed to the groom to keep in his jacket pocket. for some reason, sex seems to be a huge taboo discussion amongst members of the LDS church. if my parents would have talked about it with me…well, really they didn’t talk about much with me, it was more about trying to control what i was doing rather than having honest discussions about anything. i have a book for my daughter, when she is ready (she is only 6), and i would like to find a book for my son. he loves to read, and regularly shares with us many things about the books he reads, so i know he would ask and talk to us about what he read. (he is 8). i’m sure there will be more questions when i have this baby. i’ll be ready for them.

  26. My parents never broached the subject, at all. This left me to figure things out for myself for the most part. I hope to have honest, open dialogue with my kids and answer their questions. I’m sure I will embarrass them completely, but isn’t that my job?

  27. My mother has given “the talk” to my sister and I at least five different times since I started high school (I’m not a third year in college). She wants us to be sure we understand the factual and emotional parts of it and stresses the importance of our virginity. We have actually been watching a t.v. show where sex was mentioned and she used the commercial times for a discussion about sex. And by discussion, I mean my sister and I avoided looking at her or each other and listened to her talk. I do appreciate it though since I understand the facts and emotions involved and know that my mother is open for any kind of conversation, and I can come to her with any questions I may ever have.

  28. My mom talked about it early but I felt like I had my forest sexual experience really young, and hope that doesn’t happen to our kids! My brother was younger then me and I was open with him and really put the importance on waiting till you’re older which he luckily did!

  29. As a child of a teen mom, I never got ANY info. I think she was too overwhelmed just being a mom and obviously, given the fact that she had me at 17? She probably did not know enough either.
    I was just recently certified to teach sexuality education throught he Our Whole Lives curriculum that was created by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. I am so excited to start teaching it in January! It’s a great curriculum.
    My son is 4 and we started with teaching the proper names of all the body parts. There’s no silly names in our house. My girlfriends think it’s hilarious but I think it’s very important.
    Great post. Can’t wait to hear the variety of responses.

    1. Tina, I’m super interested in the UUA and UCC curriculum. I might as well tell my “sex ed story” story here.

      I am Catholic and went to Catholic schools my whole life. While I think we received good basic sex ed in terms of reproductive biology, we were certainly taught abstinence. We knew what contraceptives were, but that we weren’t supposed to use them. Same message from my mother. What a confusing message, by the time you hit college, manage to remain a virgin, but then when you become sexual active, you still have years of “contraceptives are bad” messaging in you.

      But the statistics don’t lie, 70% of high schoolers have had sex, 95% of people have sex before marriage. While I want my kids to have some morals around sex, and not become sexual active too young, I want to be realistic too.

      Having had conversations with many of my Catholic friends, it seems our experiences were similar. Recently I had an idea that we need to teach realistic sex ed, at the same time we can frame it from a loving Christian standpoint. I watched Let’s Talk About Sex (a documentary available for streaming on Netflix) that also discussed how American’s taboo mentality around sex actually contributes to our high teen birth rate and STI infection rate. I remember them talking about a UU sex ed curriculum and it sounds pretty on target for what I actually want to teach my kids.

      1. Hi!
        I think you can look up the curriculum. It’s called Our Whole Lives and was co-created by the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association. The curriculum begins with age 4 and even includes and adult component…which I think is awesome….because I think it’s great to talk about our relationships with members of our same faith.
        I hope you like the curriculum!

  30. I was very lucky to have parents who were very open and honest about sex. We didn’t talk about it at length but each of them brought it up separately with me over the years. I especially appreciated my dad’s willingness to talk about the emotional side of sex. They basically taught me to be responsible and take it seriously (my mom emphasized how easy it was for her to get pregnant so I should definitely be prepared for that which ended up being true for me too) and that it can be a beautiful, wonderful part of a healthy relationship. To this day (my parents are 70), they still have a loving marriage and are open about how much they care for each other. With all that said, I think I first learned about sex in the second grade when one of my friends started telling me about it on the playground (I was 6). I don’t think it had occurred to my parents to talk about it with me yet at that age but my friend filled me in and I was quite shocked! :)

  31. Ha, I remember my mother trying to teach me about my body (she’d even drawn a little picture of ovaries and a uterus) and me telling her that she must be wrong because it all sounded crazy. Menstruation did not make sense to me until it NEEDED to.

  32. I remember my mom sitting me down for “the talk” when I was 9 or 10 but I really had no idea what she was talking about. I think I learned most the basics in Jr. high sex ed classes. Then, before I got married (at 22, & LDS) I read a book; don’t remember the name of it but my future sis-in-law had recommended it; it was written by a Christian couple and it was very helpful.

    Our oldest is 11 and my husband gave him “the talk” when he was 10. None of my kids (11, 9, 7, 7) have been particularly inquisitive with this, so we have had to be the ones to broach the subject… but I would rather have them hear it from us than inaccurate information at school, etc.

    1. Oh and also, we have a dog (female) who has had a couple of heat cycles; explaining to the kids why our dog is bleeding has really helped open the doors for conversations about reproduction — it’s great to be able to introduce the subject with “nature” & animals first :)

  33. My mom gave me The Talk. She did the best she could, especially since I was mortified about the whole concept and not the least bit curious. (I think she wanted to make sure she said what SHE wanted to say before we reached that unit in 5th grade Health class!).

    She informed me about all the changes I was going to have (and how, albeit sort of gross, they were nothing to be scared of!), and then we watched the beginning of ‘Look Who’s Talking.’ and Then she took me out for ice cream, because I think we both earned/needed it :)

  34. My mom talked to me when I was 8 and gave me a book to read. She also talked to my older brother. He showed the book to all our younger brothers, so we had a family home evening with the whole family to talk about marriage and the special relationship of a husband and wife.

    Looking back, my mom was really good about trying to bring the subject up and trying to make to make it comfortable, but being the only daughter, I was super shy talking about it.

    The Penn State abuse feels like such a tragedy to me. If only the parents had been more aware. Here is a link to some helpful info on how to help kids avoid abuse. The next couple posts on the same site have good videos for parents to watch with their kids:

  35. I learned about the birds and the bees in the sixth grade. There was a special sex education unit that was taught to us that year (boys and girls were separated).

    For our 6 children (ranging from 19 years down to 3 years), we have found that 10 – 12 years old is that “magic” age range, when they really want to know what is what. We try to “do book” with each on our our kids during the teen / pre-teen years. What this looks like is taking a night or two out of the week (sometimes every other week) and reading through a book with them that addresses hygiene, puberty, sex, self esteem, dating, goal setting, organizing, leadership, etc. Some of our favorite books on the subject of puberty / sex have been: The Care and Keeping of You (American Girl), and Preparing for Adolescence (Dobson), Preparing Your Daughter / Son for Every Women’s / Man’s Battle.

    We really enjoy these special times with our older kids. It is nice to have a book to assist in explaining some of the more difficult to talk about subjects. The book always seems to provide a launching ground for more deep conversations.

  36. I love how you are so frank! Honestly, I would expect a religious person to be a lot more uptight and tight-lipped – and I love that you are not!

  37. I remember my mom sitting me down for a “talk,” (maybe around 8 or 9?) but I don’t remember any of the details, just that I couldn’t wait for it to be over. When I was about the same age we had a class at school about periods and tampons, and I remember being terrified and grossed out by all that. I didn’t even get my period until almost 14 so I just lived in fear for the next six years. I don’t think my parents ever broached the subject of sex though – puberty and how bodies change, sure, but definitely not The Deed, except maybe to ask if we had any questions, to which I’m sure we said NO. I remember first learning about the mechanics of it in biology class at age 17, like you, which seems SO late to me as an adult! I will definitely be more forthcoming with my own kids!

  38. So, I think kids start hearing rumblings about sex much earlier than some people might think. I didn’t have any older siblings and didn’t watch any adult-geared TV as a kid, but I still starting hearing about sex on the playground in first grade, from kids with older siblings. I was a good reader by that point, and I lived in a house where our parents always said, “let’s look it up in the encyclopedia!” if we had questions about history/another country/etc. So I just went home, read the encyclopedia entry on sex (which covered lots of other stuff about chromosomes and puberty before I got to the section on sexual intercourse). I read it a few times to make sure I really got it, and said nothing to my parents. (Too embarrassing to discuss, and I preferred to think they were exempt, despite my presence.) When I was 13 (NOTE: WAY TOO LATE!), my mom asked if I had any questions about sex. I rolled my eyes and said, “I read all about it in the encyclopedia when I was six.” Not a great learning process, but I suppose my source was better (in that it was very factual and scientific) than many others would have been!

  39. I would LOVE to hear how you’ve approached the situation in discussing the topic of sex with your kids…please do post it!

  40. I remember two things vividly- First, in third grade, laughing hysterically whenever someone would say “Go do IT” etc, with this common knowledge that IT was something forbidden to talk about but funny nonetheless.

    Second, My mom had a “surprise” baby when I was 8- I remember opening a letter from my Aunt Sally around the time she got pregnant, and finding a condom, and trying to figure out why my parents thought it was so hilarious (They’d been trying since me to have another, and my Aunt had 6 in the same amount of time. So it was funny). Anyways, my mom gave me the talk around that time because it was on our minds. Not to mention the frequent viewing of animal shows and the wild cats in the neighborhood showing us exactly how the animal kingdom reproduces.

    But I wish I could have gotten more talk about what all the slang words I heard in school were referring to. And when I was in high school and middle school, what the signs were that I or the guy was aroused. I said “What’s in your pocket?” with a boy, totally clueless that could happen when we’d kiss.

  41. I think a neutral discussion of various aspects is incredibly important. Yes, there’s the biology. But there are also social aspects. There are larger societal aspects and religious aspects. And of course there are personal aspects. Sex can be good, bad, beautiful, awful, biological, connected, disconnected, exciting, boring, negative, positive, sinful, the essence of being human, you name it.

    It’s not our proper role as parents to overly steer our children in one direction or another. There is no right or wrong, and to imply that there is, is doing a disservice to our kids.

    Allowing a person to understand all these aspects is vital.

  42. Like the commenter Terina, my mom told me that only women who had babies could use tampons? So I promptly had my friend walk me through it at cheer camp in 8th grade. The girls across the street gave me the sex details when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. Here is what I “heard” your dad peed on your moms stomach and made a baby. When I asked my mom about it she drove me to the pediatrician’s office!! He handed me a book about chickens, eggs, and something about pollinating of flowers?? Wha? I was more confused than EVER!! I decided to be very open with my own two boys. We have always used proper names for body parts. I have answered some very crazy questions with a straight face. Now that they are teenagers the dialog is an ongoing process. Books can be helpful, but I think and honest, straightforward approach is best.

  43. When I was about six years old and learning to read, I went with my mom to the doctor’s office. I felt like such a cool, big kid, waiting for her in the waiting room, reading the magazines. One of the magazine articles (it was a parenting magazine :) was about how to explain the birds and the bees to your children. Since the article spelled out the mechanics of sex in such clear, simple terms, I understood exactly. When my mom came back to the waiting room, I was hysterical. I held up the magazine and, with tears streaming down my face, demanded, “Is this true?” I guess it was a big shock for my sheltered six-year-old mind. My mom was mortified… I am sure she and my dad planned to discuss sex with me when I was a little older :) Now it’s become a huge joke in my family, and I was not permanently damaged by the experience, though I refused to leave my Barbie and Ken dolls alone together after that.

  44. Two words: Judy Blume. I read “Forever” in 5th grade, had NO idea what it was about, it was just the next on the list of my then-favorite author. I never had “the talk” with my mother or dad…but I read a whole lot!

  45. My mom gave me a book when I was a pre-teen. I figured things out about the same time. She always said we could come to her to talk about “it”, but my brother and I both knew that wasn’t true! My husband and I have had conversations through the years with our kids about sex. We have some related books for them to read, that we’ve also read together (It’s Not the Stork, It’s So Amazing). We went such discussions to flow naturally and hopefully, not be too awkward, and I hope that’s how it has been so far! My 11 y/o and I recently had a more in depth discussion b/c I wanted to tell him about some things he might hear that weren’t true and talk more about sexual pressure, slang, etc. That one was a bit awkward, but we got through it. I hope my kids know I mean it when I say they can come to me (or Daddy, or grandparents) with their feelings, thoughts, questions about sex.

  46. I think I got the sex ed talk when I was about 9. I remember it was right after a “Full House” episode. My mom walked in the room right when someone was talking about “sleeping with someone” and immediately told me to turn the tv off. I was baffled by her response and stated “but why, they are just going to bed.” then I got the talk…i remember being horrified and I told my mom I would rather eat slugs then ever have sex!

    Excited to hear your tips on how to explain things to your kids :)

  47. I found out bit by bit. Them most formal discussion was with my older sister sitting on the kitchen floor eating chicken nuggets at midnight. We were a big family and my parents we’re good about letting us know things without sitting us down and embarrasing us. There is a time and a place.

  48. I’m a little ashamed about this, but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t thinking about sex as a kid, and I think it really freaked my parents out. I was smooching in tunnels on the pre-school playground, making fake bras and panties out of toilet paper, skipping to “sex” in any kind of dictionary, working my way around parental controls on our computer, and always getting a very serious reprimand (note: not discussion) after each incidence.

    I never had any open communication with my parents about sex that I can remember (although I’m not ruling out that it could have happened and I intentionally supressed it. I have 5 other siblings and I know a few of them got “the talk” from my Dad). I learned really early that my sexual feelings were something that I could not discuss with anyone in my family, raging though they were, and as friendly and fun as our family is. We just couldn’t get around it in a way that felt satisfactory, so from my perspective, we just ignored it or made fun of it. But it was ok, because I was more than willing to figure it all out, ALL of it, on my own. :)

    Somehow I managed to remain abstinent until I was married, and now that I’m older, I’m glad that’s how it happened for me. But I’m stressing out about how to teach my kids about sex. I feel like it’s a fine line, and I’m not sure how to walk it. I’m glad to read everyone’s stories and suggestions!

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