How and when to have the sex talk with your kids is a very personal parenting decision– one I wouldn’t dream of trying to tell you how to make for your family.
What I will say from my own experience is that two things really help:
- Answering questions directly, using proper terminology, without going into any more detail than is necessary.
- High quality books that you can read and look at with your kids during the discussion- for that, I highly recommend these titles from author Robie H. Harris.
Here’s our parenting contributor Jessica with her recent experience explaining the birds and bees…
There we were, standing in the bathroom as I braided her hair – she had requested an intricate fishtail into a ponytail number and those things take me a while. We were talking about gymnastics, or soccer practice, or school when she looked at me in the mirror, brow furrowed.
“You know how I was born with, like, a million eggs? And the boys have those little swimming things?” She was asking slowly, puzzling it out as she spoke. “I know they have to get together to make the baby. But where?”
So far, I’ve answered every baby-making question directly – my kiddos have been schooled in proper terminology from the start. During my fourth pregnancy, I’d managed to explain everything without getting explicit about what goes where just by sticking to the facts.
And that’s despite describing exactly how their new baby sister would be getting out (much to their fascinated horror).
But because no one asked exactly how she had managed to get in there, and because they were satisfied with info about fertilized eggs and implantation and stuff like that, we never went into those details.
Until now, apparently.
I launched into a description of ovaries and fallopian tubes and the uterus, and my seven year old nodded along because some of this she’d heard before. But this time, she was after specific information.
“But how do the sperm get inside? How did they get inside you?”
I’ll admit it, I was floundering here, brain firing, trying to appear intently focused on this fishtail.
“Well, how do you think it happens?” I finally asked her, probably way too casually.
She looked at me in the mirror again and gestured downward, lips pursed, eyes widened, one shoulder tipping upward.
“The same way the baby gets out?”
In all the times I’d mentally rehearsed this exact conversation – and truth be told, it’s something I always figured would happen with my oldest first! – it never occurred to me that my kiddo would already have it figured out.
But she had. And I told her so.
“You clever girl! How did you know that? Did someone tell you about it?”
She laughed and shook her head.
“Well, how else would it get in there? It wouldn’t go through your mouth!”
“No,” I told her. “Never.”
She needed a few points clarified, and I stuck to my normal MO when I explained things like erections and ejaculation, which is pretty hard to do when your audience is looking increasingly horrified. I told her the whole shebang was known as sexual intercourse, or sex, and that it was how a man and woman made babies.
Then I went totally retro, explaining that it was something grown ups do when they’re very much in love. And then I got a hold of myself and stopped talking, because I was going completely south of my usual “just the facts, ma’am” standard for this stuff.
But all in all, it was so much easier than I had feared.
Actually, as I tied off the braid and gathered the rest of her hair into a ponytail, I marveled at this little exchange. She was already breezing past it all, chalking it up to another mystery answered and moving on to more important things.
Namely, could she please have some of my lip stain?
I gave my husband a heads up that our seven year old is hip to all that baby-making details and no, the nine year old is still clueless (I think!). We’re on on the fence about springing this kind of info on our son, but as a fourth grader, he’ll have his first SHARE class this year. I’m not sure if he’s better off walking in cold or not.
So I guess we’ve cleared one hurdle only to face another. But that’s parenting by any other description, you know?
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