Sex Ed, Part 2

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”

  1. My 4 year old and i have been talking about it on and off for a few months now, as her questions arise. Because she is little, she asks me questions i am sure she would be too embarassed to raise once she’s 8 or 9. She has nothing to feel embarassed about, I’m the one who trys to act cool. Like a lot of aspects of her life i want to help shape her views until she is old enough to form her own opinions. So far it feels we’re on the right track. Take it as it comes.

  2. My parents had a copy of that book all ready and waiting for me when I got old enough. . .unfortunately I found it as an (advanced reader) 6 year old (in the mid-90’s) when playing hide and seek and read the whole thing before anyone found me! Cleared up that problem for them though!

  3. Hi Gabrielle,
    Thanks for the tips! My kids started getting very curious at around age 7, and although I did not have the same ritual as going to a restaurant and having a more serious conversation (ours was in the shower very matter of factly), but I did use a book that my mom used when I got curious about it ( I tried not to make a big deal out of it, and talk about it as if it was very natural and nothing to be worried about.
    But changing subjects, I thought it was quite a coincidence, but Peter Mayle also wrote another book that is very much like your experience in France: “A Year in Provence”, which my husband read before we took a cycling vacation there. Pretty interesting, huh?
    Thanks as always for always bringing up such interesting things in you blog!

  4. I didn’t plan on having any talk about where baby came from until I had a child who was at least 3 or 4, but when little brother decided to make a swift entrance and was born at home, my eldest daughter (day before her 2nd birthday) learned anyway. It wasn’t until a few months later when she wanted to pretend to “take mommy to the hospital in a big car” that I realized we needed to talk about the event that had occurred. We have had many conversations about “Mommy was crying and crying and talking really loud, and then the baby came and he was crying and crying.” It is burned in her memory where babies come from (birthing)…hopefully, I have at least a couple more years before we talk about the actual mechanics of sex.

  5. I’ve really liked using the book, Growing Up, by Brad Wilcox. It helps a lot with all sorts of questions, but is geared toward kids just about to hit puberty. It’s thorough and helps kids understand the changes in their bodies in addition to sex. It’s got a great conversational tone for that age group. The Eyres are fantastic and I love that their book is well suited for younger kids. It seems like a great way to begin this process of sex education.

  6. I love that you guys do it together. My mom took me aside and had “the talk” with just me but I think it’s important for your child to feel comfortable talking to mom OR dad. I’ll have to check that book out. Thanks for the tips!

  7. from the beginning of the post i has a hunch you would mention the book “where did i come from”! i was introduced to this topic with that same book, and my husband and i recently bought it for his nephew for his 10th birthday cause he had started asking his mom about where babies come from and she didn’t feel comfortable talking about it. the moment he opened the present he went to his room, closed the door and read the whole thing through. i cannot recomment that book enough! i also like that it explains how a baby grows in the womb, what it’s like to give birth (this would be interesting for a big-sibling-to-be) and why we have belly buttons :)

  8. I remember thinking the same thing as Maude. I ran through families I knew in my head to think about how many times the parents had “done it.” I was shocked to think that the parents of a family of 8 children I knew had done it 8 times!

  9. Thank you so much for the book recommendations! I learned about sex from kids in my 3rd grade class. I would have preferred to hear about it from my parents. Once my parents realized that I learned about sex at school, they were shocked to be having that conversation with me in the 3rd grade. They thought they wouldn’t have to discuss it until jr high. I don’t want to start the conversation with my child too early, but I want to make sure the information comes from me rather than from kids at school.

  10. My 6 yr old had been asking pointed questions,”but HOW do you get the baby in there?”after consulting with other parents I decided I could tell her directly,plainly without the emotional volume turned way up ,on my end.So I started with the mommy has the egg & daddy has the seed. And She chimed in with and you get real close belly to belly ?.I said yes.She said “just like sea horses?”I said absolutely! And she said that’s nice I thought so! And satisfied walked off.
    My friend sent me this link and I have ordered the book I have a feeling more conversations will follow.
    I do like the seahorses idea though.

  11. Hello. I had to come back here, to this post. Last night was part two in a mini-series of conversations with my eldest about bodies and babies. It was a post of yours that first planted the seed for me that this day would come.

    I found myself so incredibly awed by the beauty of this tender transition. Such an honor to be beside children as they go through the stages of fear, wonder, and celebration as they travel from little to, well, not so little, readier to be big.

    It may not make sense, but just know that your openness and your light made a difference. Thank you.

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