Even if they don't, they may be really curious. Sex is a sensitive topic, and the thought of discussing it with your child(ren) may terrify you. How do you go about it?
When and why to discuss sex
Sex is a decidedly adult topic. If your children are toddlers, preschoolers or early elementary kids you may think you have plenty of time to come up with the right approach. Yet, there are many good reasons to create an environment in which you can discuss babies, the body and even intercourse. They include:
- As parents, we have the right and the duty to share our own personal values with our children. Not discussing topics surrounding sex, marriage and partnership, and the emotional side of those things will probably mean your child picks bits and pieces up from elsewhere. Peers and the media are not the best teachers here you are. Make sure you get in first.
- Children who know all about their anatomy, including the correct names for all their body parts, have a reduced chances of being sexually abused. Learning about their anatomy should of course be combined with chats about rights. Nobody should touch your child's body unless it is to help with wiping or for medical purposes. Nobody should ask your child to touch their body. The list goes on. The point is clear.
- Puberty can hit early; as soon as eight years of age. The changes that happen during puberty are going to be quite frightening to your child, unless they knew that this was normal and coming.
- Sex can easily turn into a taboo topic unless you discuss it openly. Interestingly, children who know about sex are less likely to engage in it prematurely.
Most experts agree that it is best to start discussing sexual issues at a very early age, when they are still very normal to a child. Reacting to questions like "how are babies made" or "what are tampons" is probably least intimidating to all parties. When those questions do come, you don't have to give all the little details. You can explain the conception process "sperm meets egg" without launching into a graphical discussion. "Moms and dads hug each other" may well be satisfactory to younger kids. Older ones will ask more. Anatomy drawings out of biology books can be a great starting point. There are also great children's books about conception and pregnancy. You know your child best; you know what they are ready to learn, and whether you need to wait for them to ask or if it would be better to bring the topic up yourself.
How to have "the talk"
"The talk" is about much more than sexual intercourse. It is about the differences between the sexes, about puberty, menstruation and wet dreams, about bodily autonomy and about emotions. Parents of children of all ages have the opportunity to satisfy their kids' curiosity about these topics every day. Parents of younger children can start by teaching them the correct names for all their body parts. You can use drawings to teach kids about the anus, vagina, penis, scrotum, and vulva for instance. Simultaneously, you can point the differences between male and female anatomy out and explain that dad contributes sperm to a baby and mom contributes the egg.
Puberty is another important topic. Children should ideally learn about what happens to both boys and girls during puberty. You can tackle menstruation, breast growth, pubic hair, facial hair for boys and a deepening voice. Then, you can move on to being interested in the opposite sex.
This is a wonderful opportunity to share your values about partnership or marriage, and to make sure your kids know they can talk to you about their feelings. Younger kids may not want to know about these things yet, or you may decide they are not ready yet. If you are pregnant at the moment, pregnancy and childbirth may be good topics to discuss instead. You can explain that babies grow inside the uterus and that they come out through the vagina or by c-section.
Of course, preparing an older child for their new sibling is just as important. You may like to read about how to prevent older kids from being jealous after the new baby arrives. What are your personal views on the topic of discussing sex, sexuality and sexual development with your children? How did you tackle this? We'd love to hear from you!