This is Olive, age 8, holding Flora June the day she arrived home.
This post is a continuation of a discussion we had last November, where we talked about when and how we first learned about sex. When I wrote that post, I promised I’d share how we’ve talked about sex with our kids, in case it might help any of you with your own discussions. So here goes…
This is how it works at our house. This book was recommended to us and we’ve used it as a guide with great success. Confession: I haven’t actually read the whole book, just the specific chapter on the actual conversation to have with your child. As the book recommends, we like to give the talk at age 8, but Olive didn’t get the talk till age 9 and she seemed to survive.
To signify that this conversation is important, we give them some advance announcements. A week or so before we plan to have the talk, we tell them we’re going to take them out to dinner — just mom, dad and the child — and tell them something really amazing. They can pick any restaurant they want.
Ben Blair and I give the talk together. We sit with the child between us and slowly flip through this book (we’ve found it to be the right fit for an 8 year old, but a little too immature for older kids). We take turns reading (we are somewhat practiced at reading things together with our children, so this helps with the comfort level) and walk them through the basic mechanics. If the child has any questions while reading, we respond right away pointing to the pictures, or assure them that it will be covered later in the book (and point it out when it occurs). Ben and I may add information if it seems to clarify or help. We love the book because it gives a clear visual and written context, is happy, and covers important details. But it’s not essential, and another book could work just as well. In fact, for Olive, we didn’t have access to the book, so we just talked her through it instead.
The hardest part for me is to keep my expression somewhere between serious and casual, when my instincts are to giggle and blush through the whole conversation. (Yes, I realize I’m ridiculous.) The tone we attempt is something like: this is an important topic, but nothing scary.
The best part is near the end of the conversation when we ask if they have any questions. The responses are invariably awesome! I remember 8 year old Maude pausing to think for a minute and asking, “So you’ve done that 5 times?!”
This particular talk is strictly about how babies are made. But we have more casual follow-up conversations a couple of times a year where related topics are brought up. We’ll throw out a question like: Anything new you’ve heard at school that you don’t understand? Usually they say no, but every so often we get a bite. Especially as they get older and read more. Sometimes it’s hard stuff like: What’s the difference between molesting and rape? Other times it’s something easier like: What does the f-word mean?
So far, it’s been great. And I hope our kids feel like they can talk to us about anything. That nothing they bring up is out of bounds or will embarrass us. Sex is one of the happiest parts of our marriage, and I hope it will be for my kids too.
Finally, and just to be clear, I’m not recommending this as the one way to talk to your kids. If you’ve had conversations with fellow parents about this topic, you already know there are tons of ways to handle this, often dependent on the child’s personality — and your own comfort level with sex. But hopefully this will help!
And now I’d love to know: Have you told your kids? Have they asked? And would you rather give the talk solo, or with your spouse?
P.S. — I mentioned this in the last post, but my parents never actually gave me the talk. I was a senior in high school before I had a basic understanding and was in college before before I really understood the mechanics. Isn’t that crazy?
84 thoughts on “Sex Ed, Part 2”
my son asked “How babies are made” around age 5. So we said: “Mom and dad fall in love” But very soon we had to include body parts and “mechanics” into explanation. So far ( and he is 7 now) we are not getting anymore baby questions
Thanks for the recomendation. I have an 8 yr old that I have been wondering if I should talk with. You always give great advice, I will definitely be checking these books out.
This is awesome! Thank you so much! My daughter is 6, and I know we’re not too far off from having that talk. We plan on doing it at 8 also. I’ve heard great things about the Eyre book, and I’m glad to have a visual one for my kids to look at as well.
I love hearing about the kids responses. My sister in law did it similarly to you- the parents, child, at a restaurant and after they were done explaining the logistics of it all their 8 year old daughter burst into tears and said ” I don’t want to hear another word about that!!!”
Oh that sweet daughter! I’m sure she’s not the first to burst into tears at the news. : )
I love that series of books by Peter Mayle. Used the “What’s Happening to me?” on puberty with my bunch decades ago. The humor of the books really helped both the kids and myself talk things through…though I must admit, my oldest son just about hit a new range of red as he went through the book. Of course, even at 37 years opd, I think he might still turn red if I pulled out the book. I am pretty sure his wife explained ‘things’ to their kids – solo.
Mary, I had no idea there were more books in the Peter Mayle series. So glad you mentioned them!
I love Maude’s comment……….. so pure and matter of fact. While teaching for over 40 (!) years, the best time was when I taught Family Life and Sexual Health each year to my fifth graders. We had ground rules and used a question box. Parents gave permission and students entered a special time in the classroom where we trusted one another and students had permission during this class only to call me Aunt Colleen. With strict ground rules, we entered into mechanics and anatomy. Students took it all in and used the question box. Always disappointed when we ended the sessions, the main question students wanted an answer to (once the mechanics part was over) was “How do you know when the one you love is the one to marry?” I always told them that my husband was the only man I ever dated and we had been married for a long, long time……………….. going on 43 years now~ I always told them that they would know, but that time wuld be much later in their lives. Public schools are mandated to teach sexual health before students enter middle school.
Thank you for your excellent post. The idea that each child takes a turn with you and Ben is wonderful. The book is a good one. The concern is that few parents do what the two of you do. Perhaps your post will draw attention to how important this talk is.
You sound like a wonderful teacher, Colleen. Your students were lucky to have a safe, respectful, calm place to learn about sex.
When my mum told my brother he said: “Does it tickle?”. Makes me laugh every time.
a few months ago, my daughter started asking, (she is 6 1/2) and then kept asking more specific questions, and then asked “Do babies get in your tummy from magic?” — so I knew I had to tell her something more detailed. So I just kinda told her one morning, the mechanics aspect of it. She laughed and laughed and said “That’s so weird!” and “You did that with daddy??” and oh it was really so awkward for me! she hasn’t really mentioned it since. I’m going to look into that book!
I don’t have to explain it yet, he’s 8 months, but I think I’ll take my mom’s method, she never had THE TALK with me, she would talk about it naturally since I was able to hold a conversation around 2, I think by 5 I knew and understood pretty much everything…
That sounds so appealing, Lucy! No drama is always lovely in my book.
That’s pretty much how I know it from my childhood, I never got THE TALK – we just talked about it.
I grew up in a very liberal environment in Germany. But the only thing I would say is that around me, sex was treated super casual up to the point that I was always the suspicious one, being 14 or 15 and not interested in kissing boys or fooling around with them. I hope my daughter never feels pressured like I did, I would like to add something to the liberal attitude of my teachers and parents, and that is, that sex is somehow a sacred matter, and that you have to feel completely comfortable with yourself and your body and the person you have it with. And that being very experienced at an early age is no advantage to anybody. And that being a late starter is a good thing. If it feels right for you.
But that talk comes a little bit later. :-)
“that sex is somehow a sacred matter, and that you have to feel completely comfortable with yourself and your body and the person you have it with. And that being very experienced at an early age is no advantage to anybody. And that being a late starter is a good thing.”
I really love how you put that, Maike. And I totally agree! I hope I’m teaching this to my children.
When my daughter was around 4, she asked how the baby gets OUT of the mommy’s tummy. I told her the answer, matter-of-factly, but didn’t offer any additional information. I asked her if she had any questions, and she thought for a moment. Then, in a very worried voice, she said, ” Buy Mommy, what about your underwear?!?!”
That should be “BUT Mommy…”
I have several years still to explain this to M but we already talk about our body parts in a very frank manner. I love the idea of a special dinner. I was really lucky to have a mom and a step-mom who each explained things at different times and different ways. I grew up on a farm with my dad and step-mom. One morning, my dad took us out to the pasture because one of our cows was having a calf!! My grandfather was there assisting and we stayed way back but got to watch the whole process in all of its beauty. I think I was around eight. My mom picked me up that evening for our weekend visit and I asked her in the car “Where do baby cows come from?”. I think she was taken aback but I also think it made it easier for her to talk about it in terms of cows instead of humans. I hope I can be as open with my son as my family was with me. Hurray for dialogue!
My kids were able to see a calf being born here in France and I was so glad! What an experience. I was out of town when it happened, so Maude wrote up the experience and emailed it to me. It made me weepy! You can read Maude’s write up here:
Ah, I don’t know how I missed that post before. So sweet!
This is a great idea for me to keep in mind. I am afraid I would be like you and get all nervous and tip toe through the explanation but a book sounds really helpful.
So you bring the book to the restaurant? Or tell them that you are going to tell them something amazing at the restaurant and then go home to read the book?
Hi Briana! Great question and sorry I wasn’t clear. For two of our kids, yes, we read the book right in the restaurant. We asked to be seated in a booth and I assure you, it was private enough, with enough background noise around us, that it was great.
With Olive, we were here in France, and our restaurant options here in our little town are much quieter, so we waited till after dinner.
But there’s no reason you have to do it at a restaurant. Home would be fine too!
My daughter now 9.5 asked what sex was when she was 7. She heard the word in a song lyric and knew we didn’t like her to use the word sexy so got curious. I used the book “It’s not the Stork” Her response “I am ADOPTING!” She also asked if we had to go to the hospital to do that.
The other thing we thought was important to say was that this is something to talk about with us and not with other kids. Parents need to talk to their own kids about it and she should not be sharing or discussing this with kids.
I love the Eyre book and have used it on two of my boys. We have the talk after the other kids have gone to bed, and always pair it with a special treat. It’s done in such a loving, open way that our kids have never felt shy about following up with questions. (And we do the same–keeping the dialogue going about what they’re hearing at school, etc.) The best part is the “club” that forms when they finally know. The boys tell their younger brothers, “You’ll find out about THAT when you’re eight.” So cute!
Yes! Our kids have a “club” too. I find it makes it easier to talk openly because they all know they have a basic knowledge base and that it’s not taboo.
After my friend had the talk with her daughter, she told her she could ask any questions she needed to and she said, “OK. Is Santa Claus real”? Two fun conversations in one day!
I also used the Eyre’s book for inspiration on how to talk to my kids about sex and I used a similar format for talking to my oldest daughter. We went to Sonic and sat in our car so we had a little more privacy to talk openly. I felt like she would be able to ask all the questions she wanted without worrying about being overheard. The conversation was a success and we’ve had several followup discussions too.
A couple months ago my 7 year old son starting asking really specific sex questions during family dinner. My older daughter leaned over to me and whispered knowingly, “Time to take him to Sonic, mom!”
My 3 (almost 4 ) year old has been talking about when she was in Mommy’s belly. She says, “I used to be in Mommy’s belly, but I ran out of room and thre were no toys, so I just decided to come out.” I have no idea where that came from, but that’s what she told us. Then she asked how she came out, and at this age, all we said was that “mommy pushed you out.” She said “from your feet?” and we just said, “well, it is close to your feet.” She was fine with that. Not ready to have that talk with her yet! :)
My parents told us when we were very little (5, 6) and they used adult words and all (not cute names for genitals!). actually they talked about it either when we asked, either when they got the sense that we were wondering (“How did the baby get in there?”). They have also used a book. My oldest brother asked first (of course). So when I was born, my oldest brother was 5 and had already asked and had already had the answer. When he came visit my mom at the hospital after her having me, he asked in a very natural and pure way:” Mommy, did it hurt when my baby sister came out of your v***** ?” Mom says the doctor and the nurses almost fainted…LOL! But she answered very calmly and it has always been a natural conversation at home. The staff later told her that they were surprised how much he knew and how natural it all was !
I love that, Sunny!
I’m pretty sure my parents gave me this book too, or maybe I just recognize it from the previous post on this topic. I like the way you approach it – my parents left the book on my pillow and let me read it in my own time, which was good for me because I learn best by reading, but it didn’t give me the opportunity to ask questions. I definitely had the impression that sex was naughty and bad, and I hope I can keep my kids from having that idea, because it still gives me trouble to this day.
My eldest son turns 8 in October so I had better think about this!
I never really had a ‘talk’ as such, my Mum was a biology teacher and was very open and relaxed about it all. We have also tried to answer questions as they come up, but thankyou for making me think about the idea of a ‘talk’. I don’t think I would take him to a restaurant though – much too worried about people overhearing!
What I love most about having talked to our daughter earlier rather than later was that it was not awkward or uncomfortable. I don’t think that she was old enough to know that it could be awkward! As a funny side note- I kept it pretty technical and it was clear that she didn’t understand that it could be for pleasure because she later asked me if it always happened in a doctors office!
That is the same book my parents used to tell my sister and I about how things worked. My mom got a copy for us for our 1 year anniversary. Maybe because they wanted grand kids and thought the book would help us out! ha ha. She was really disappointed that she could not find it in hard cover. THEN…when their house was broken into their copy was stolen. She was devastated! My older sister found her a hard cover copy on line! How could you not want a book with a sperm in a top had and bow tie? Favorite line from the book? “Now you may be thinking: if it’s so nice, why don’t people do it all the time? There are 2 reasons. First, it is very tiring. More than playing football, or running, or skipping, or climbing trees or almost anything. good as it is, you can’t just do it all day long.” Our baby is due in 2 weeks. We have not had the talk, but my oldest is 8. We have shown all the kids some live birth videos. My 5 year old was super grossed out at the gore and covered his eyes, the 8 year old is NEVER having a baby, and the 2 year old pointed out the big poop that actually was a baby and was pretty excited about it! My son needed to see the water bath video again to cleanse his mind. “it is so much cleaner” he said. he could not believe the blood and I explained that he is full of blood so why would there not be blood when the baby comes out from inside the mommy!
oh, i just looked at the other book you read. i believe that was the book my parents used too. i recall my mom reading a book and i looked at the cover, and sat on the arm of the lazy boy and asked “what is sex?” then I stuck my leg out all sexy like and said “is it sexy legs?”
Thank you so much for sharing. I remember my parents giving me the “Where Do I Come From” book as a jumping off point for ” the talk”. I was very young though, probably 3 or 4. Not sure if that was too young or not. I surely don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t know about the mechanics of sex…. I have to ask, being a parent to 2 little ones now myself, and yet to have the talk – how does the public setting of a restaurant work out for you? In my mind, that seems so awkward. I’m guessing you’ve got a good reason, perhaps to show that it’s not an embarrassing subject?
Yes, I think that’s part of why the restaurant setting appealed to us. We want this to be something the kids aren’t embarrassed about, so demonstrating that by talking about it in public place helps. But really, even at a restaurant it was more private than you might be imagining.
So funny, I have a 2 year old and have a while yet before we get to that talk, but I have been thinking about what words to use for different parts. Even at this age, she’s so curious and somehow it just sounds weird to hear her shriek “nipples!” when she sees hers in the bathtub. :) I can’t decide between using “cutesie” words for private parts or just having to put up with her possibly saying “nipples” loud and clear in the grocery store. :)
I have a friend who was prosecutor before retiring to mommyhood. She is adamant that you should teach children the correct names for body parts. She said it is unfortunate that bad things do happen to children and they need to have the proper vocabulary.
I really admire you and think you’re wonderful. Your honesty is so refreshing. You are the most real blogger I read. Big ups to you. xo
My six-year-old asked about sex a few months ago, right before I finally got pregnant with our second child. “I know how it gets OUT, Mom, but how does it get IN?” Previously we talked about the mommy having an egg and the daddy has a seed, and they do a special snuggle/hug that makes the egg grow into a baby, but she never asked how the seed got to the egg. I gave her a pretty technical explanation and showed her some anatomical drawings. She said, “So for you and dad, it was just a one-time thing, RIGHT?” I said something vague like, “Yes, we did the special hug so we could have you!” Then when she found out we were expecting again, she said, “Wait, you did the special hug again?! WHEN? Why didn’t you tell me?!” (I should add that I also mentioned to her that some kids her age aren’t ready to hear about this stuff so if she has questions she should ask an adult like her parents, teacher, or auntie/uncle…and that it wasn’t a bad thing to talk about but usually parents want their kids to learn about it from them and not another kid.)
I must say I find it really weird that you have to have “The talk” and go to a restaurant and stuff… shouldn’t it be a little more natural? less pressure? (might be because I’m french!!). I really like your blog!
For sure there are more natural ways to approach it. For me, since I really had no idea how sex worked till I was much older (and I was always embarrassed that I didn’t understand), I wanted to make sure my kids DID understand.
I suppose if they had asked me on their own, I could have approached it earlier or with a simpler conversation. But they didn’t ask. And I wanted to tell them before they started hearing bits and pieces at school.
Thank you for sharing your approach. Every time I get a question about the mechanics of how our children were “made” or born, I feel unprepared and like I’m totally behind the eight ball. My eight-year-old son is sending me clear signals that he wants to know more, so reading this post was perfect timing. Just completed my Amazon one-click ordering!
And on another note, I love that you share with us – absent giggles or blushing – that sex is one of the happiest parts of your marriage and you hope it will be for your kids too. Thanks for being so genuine.
My sister, who I really admire, has always talked about sex in everyday life with her kids. Its not taboo in her house. Her kids ask her openly when they have questions and its a normal conversation just like any other. Her middle daughter is turning 10 next month and together we have planned a “womanhood party” for her. We are going to decorate and have tea and cupcakes and make it really fun. We are going to explain menstruation to her, and she is going to invite her cousin and maybe one of her friends. My sister wanted her to have all the facts before she got her first period so she wouldn’t be scared or embarrassed. We are going to talk about body mechanics and I asked her last week if she knew what sex was and I she kinda did. She has the basic idea, but I think it would be awesome to do another party to explain some of the details of sex too. We will see how this one goes.
My daughter is four and we just had a second child, a boy. She asked about the baby growing inside me and how it gets out. I left it at going to the hospital for doctors to help mommy get the baby out. Now that I she and baby brother share a bath tub, she is very curious about his private parts looking different than hers. She told me that his parts will change to look like her parts later and I felt it was important to correct her, but suddenly found myself at a loss for words. I suggested we go to the library and look for a book. I figure we will go over the anatomy and see where she wants to take it. A friend with training in child sex abuse prevention warned me to talk to my kids early about how “their private parts were their own special parts and not for other people” as early as 2-3. The next step she suggested was proper names for parts. According to my friend one thing sex offenders look for is kids who don’t know as much or who are already uncomfortable talking about the subject with parents. Tough stuff to think about, but knowledge is powerful.
My 8 year old is the oldest and he has started some behaviors that make me think it’s time (looking at my chest or other women’s chests in public–yikes!). But I don’t wanna! Thanks for the advice.
I love Maude’s comment!! I don’t have kids yet, but I’m sure this would be helpful in the future!!
Perfect timing! My almost 6 year old just asked me what sexy means the other day. Eep! I’m not ready yet! Guess it’s time to check those links. : )
(For the record I told him it was when you dress/walk/talk in a way to try to make another person want to be your boyfriend/girlfriend. To which he said “Oh, I do that with Girl all the time.” “Really buddy? You want her to be your girlfriend?” “Um, noooo. But she’s my best girl friend.” Well okay then. And then I promptly added it’s okay to try to act sexy when you’re a grown up, but that it’s not someting 5 year olds do. You should be friends with everyone and have fun, but boyfriends and girlfriends are for when you grow up.)
I like your answer.
this is great. my daughter is only 2, so we have time. she is already pretty curious, but for now she accepts that babies “pop out” of their mommas’ bellies, without asking how they get in. and I have gone with the word “privates” because it’s not cutesie, and it makes the most important point. they’re private. Our conversations have been about not taking our clothes off in public. we don’t show our privates to anyone except mom and dad. she asked, don’t they like my privates? that was hard to explain.
A friend of mine recommended a series that we used with our children called “God’s Design for Sex”. One of many things we liked most about it was that it was a four part series- one book for ages 3-5, one for 5-8, one for 8-11 and one for 11-14. Each one builds on the last. Same concept in that both parents read together and provide plenty of time for questions etc. I’m so grateful for girlfriends who share their experiences and resources!
Yup, we’ve had that talk. (We have eight children, ages 19 down to 4.) All my kids aged 6 and older have had a version of it. The older ones’ version has been much more detailed, and the youngest ones’ just basic. We decided to talk to our children about sex as they head to school because we’ve heard some terrible stories of other kids in school causing big problems and we wanted our kids to have a healthy, knowledgeable perspective of sexuality both for their protection and peace of mind. We didn’t use any books, just talk. We were matter-of-fact about it, and it all went really well. At certain intervals throughout their lives, we will talk again and again so that as ages and situations change, more knowledge can be added. We also really want our children to always feel comfortable asking us ANY question they have. We want them to know we’ll be okay with whatever comes up, won’t “freak out” or be embarrassed.
I had Where Did I Come From when I was a small child, maybe 5 or 6 (in the early 70s). I don’t remember not knowing the basics of where babies came from. I still have the same, original copy from my childhood and plan to give it to my children when the time comes. I think it’s a wonderful book.
My 4 year old daughter is surrounded by children in her preschool classroom who have younger brothers and sisters, so she already knows that a baby grows in his/her mommy’s tummy and then comes out when it’s ready, thanks to preschool. (We haven’t had The Talk with her yet).
I will say that at this age she is OBSESSED with the idea of mommy and baby though. She repeatedly asks to watch two YouTube videos (both German–we are a bilingual household) that feature baby-making. One is from the Kleine Maulwurf cartoon in which two rabbits fall in love and proceed to have babies and the other is called “Wohin Will Willi?”. The illustrations are accurate and the explanation is sufficient for her age right now, I think. Not sure how helpful that is for non-German-speaking households though….?
There’s a book of that same title (Wohin Will Willi?) in English – “Where Willy Went.” I wonder if the video is the same material as the book?
Our sex talk with our son, 8 at the time, came about in such a funny way. Let me set the scene: Max is at the table working on a word search, Sophie (6) is dancing around the entire house, and the Sound of Music Soundtrack is on fairly loudly. I told my husband that my best friend was pregnant, after they had decided to ‘try’ and see what happened. Max pipes up from the table (I’d totally forgotten he was there!) and said “How do you try?” I tried to go the egg/sperm route, which he knew about, but he asked, “How do the egg and sperm get together?” Keep in mind, Sophie is STILL dancing around the kitchen and family room (where we were), the music is blasting, and I turned to my husband and said, “Well, this is happening!” It was hilarious – completely not how I thought it would happen. We were very honest with him and it was super casual. At the end I asked him if he had any questions and he says, “So, you mean you have to PULL YOUR PANTS DOWN?” and cracks up. But… about 5 min later he says, “Um, Dad? Does it feel good?” Our jaws just dropped. We had no idea how that thought came into his head. He’s a pretty mature guy so it was a non issue, but the entire way it came about is a story we’ll save for his wedding ;-).
What a smart kid! I’ve never heard of anyone asking how it feels. Such a great story!
My oldest daughter started to hear bits and pieces at school and came home with questions like “Mom, what does f… mean?” So to the answer of the first few questions, I didn’t add the full “TALK”, because I wasn’t sure if she was ready for it. But one day, she was about 7.5 years old, she came home with a children book about that topic from the school library. So I started the “TALK”. I began reading the book, but I didn’t really like the words, so I commented every sentence with my own words and after 2 pages, I continued talking about it without the book, or just with the pictures. It was funny and yes, we had a good laugh together when I explained the mecanics with my hands…
My middle daughter is 6 now and I’m not thinking about a TALK unless she’s coming up to me and asks me. It is important for me that my daughter is choosing the moment when she is ready. But if I realize that she won’t talk about it with me, but starts to hear bits and pieces at school, I have to make an effort.
I can understand that you do it the other way, because of your own experience. But in the end, there is no right or wrong, unless you are authentic and honest.
Thanks for sharing your experience!
Oh what a big and important topic to chat about here….my little guy Wolfie is just 8, and so far no “talk” (i’m hoping to hold out another year or so!!!) but I know that he might have other plans and questions will come up. I know I’ll probably be embarrassed myself (and while I of course want him to be fully informed and educated, he still seems so little! I know that’s crazy of me, but still…) At this point the big buzz on the playground are swear words….and also questions on WHY is the S-word bad to say? What’s the F-word? (amazingly not asking for definitions of them, thankfully!!) Also there is lots of “acceptable” swearing in society these days (“That’s so bad ass!” “aw damn, that is a sweet looking car!”) and it’s hard to explain why one version is not right and why the other is “only ok for an adult to say”. Sigh.
I DID find this very interesting vintage sex ed book recently that is entirely illustrated with paper cut outs. It’s oddly beautiful! And seems very appropriate for kiddos.
Thanks again for sharing this with everyone Gabby! I love reading about your experiences!
The swear words topic is tricky at our house too. Especially with music! We’re not great about censoring our songs or getting “clean” versions.
The vintage book sounds super interesting.
After explaining the facts to one of my children, their response was “that’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard!” I guess it was a little TMI!
I felt the same way when I was in 6th grade and heard about oral sex from a friend. I thought there is NO WAY that is a real thing. : )
What a great discussion going on here! I’m loving reading everyone’s varied experiences and hilarious quotes from their kids :)
Unfortunately, I never received a sex talk from my parents- probably due to their being conservative Catholics + my mother’s discomfort with talking about such things- and I think I mostly learned about sex from teen magazines, believe it or not (!!). I have two older sisters, but again, we just didn’t have that kind of closeness in my family when we were younger, so we were all sort of in our own worlds with all these questions- and thinking it was wrong to ask them- something I definitely do not want to repeat if I have my own children.
Basically, when it came to sex, my mother would say (upon seeing a couple in bed together on TV, for example): “We don’t do that unless we’re married” and that was it. I felt so embarrassed in seventh grade Health class when another classmate couldn’t believe I didn’t know what oral sex was!
I love your method, Gabrielle, and think it’s fantastic that your kids have the information straight from their parents, and that the discussion continues and expands as they get older. Thanks for posting about this necessary topic :)
My daughter is three (almost four), and we have another little girl on the way so we’ve been talking a lot about where babies come from. No talk about the mechanics of sex yet. I hadn’t thought about doing it at a certain age. I like the idea of doing before she goes to school or soon after, but for sure I will answer any questions she has in the meantime. Have you seen the youtube video of Julia Sweeney explaining her sex talk with her daughter. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever watched! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry-LwxR746s
My two older kids (now 7 and 5) both asked when they were 4 years old. They started out asking questions, which got more and more specific until the whole truth came out (I would never lie to them when they are sincerely looking for answers. I want them to trust me as a reliable source of information. And I wanted to keep it natural, honest, uncomplicated.). My daughter’s reaction to ‘how the man puts the seed into the woman’ was to burst into hysterical laughter and say “that’s so SILLY! Why would you want to put 2 bums together!!!!” (I believe in America you would say 2 butts, not 2 bums – but we’re in Australia!). My son’s reaction was to burst into tears and say “I’m NEVER doing that!!!! I’m NEVER getting married!!! Isn’t there any other way you can have a baby????!”
My youngest is 2, so only time will tell if she gets curious at the same age as the other two!
This post is perfect timing for me. My son has been asking about body parts (he’s 7) and just the other day he said, “why are private parts private?”. It’s time.
It’s also comforting to know I’m not the only one who never got a word about sex from my parents, and sex Ed at school was non-existent too. I’m determined to make it a better experience for my kids, but really didn’t know where to start. So thank you for sharing what you’ve done, and for these resources! Definitely going to check them out.
My son is 6 and my daughter is 3. We watched a giraffe being born on a PBS nature program. I commented on how the baby giraffe drops from a height of 6 feet – as high as their dad is tall. My son asked, “Mom, what hole did I come out of?” I had to keep from laughing and I just told him the short answer, and he was satisfied. Meanwhile my daughter also knows the real names for her body parts, and always asks questions loudly when we are in public (especially bathrooms!). I just remind her that this isn’t conversation for when we are out and about, and I’m thankful her childish lisp keeps her words from being perfectly clear. I think we’re going to just answer their questions as they come along, but I do want to get the book & I appreciate having an age guideline – my own mother told my brother & I about sex when we were 8 & 6 because there was a lot of stuff in the news about a particular victimized child and she figured we were better off knowing too much than too little. I think that was one of her top parenting decisions.
Thank you so much for writing this post.
Like you, I never really got any information from my parents. Once, during junior high, my mom took me aside and said, “watch out for boys, they only want one thing.” I had a vague idea that she meant sex but didn’t really get it. I think I finally learned about the mechanics from Cosmo magazine – awful.
I noticed that many of your commenters said they just talk about it naturally with their children, from a young age. I have a young daughter and love the idea of this approach but honestly can’t even wrap my head around out how that would work… What do you say? When? What’s an example of a natural opening in the conversation for that?? Do you give the information slowly over time or just wait for an opportunity then spill it?
I want to do better for my daughter than my parents did for me in this regard and can’t think of a better way to prepare and discuss options with my husband than reading a variety of ways other parents have approached this issue…
Any chance you can find some guest posters to share the various ways they’ve talked with their kids about sex? Help a mama out Design Mom!