I found out about sex in the completely wrong way and at a very early age. In my parents defense, they had absolutely no idea until years later when I told them but I got information from a set of siblings at my after-school baby-sitter when I was barely six years old. I won’t get into graphic detail but suffice it to say, I knew too much too early and had positively no idea what to do with this information. I remember feeling scared and ashamed that I even knew these things and was afraid to talk to my parents about it. As I have gotten older and had kids of my own, I have made it one of my parenting missions to be sure my children have not only a healthy attitude about sex and their bodies, but a healthy knowledge of it in an age-appropriate manner. I am of the opinion that it is never too early for the sex talk with your kids.
I am not the only one who feels this way- I did some research and came across guidelines for discussing sex with kids as young as 18 months old on the website healthychildren.org, which is from the American Academy of Pediatrics. This site has a lot of info but I found particularly useful these helpful tips for answering some of the questions kids might have:
- Don’t laugh or giggle, even if the question is cute. Your child shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for her curiosity.
- Try not to appear overly embarrassed or serious about the matter.
- Be brief. Don’t go into a long explanation. Answer in simple terms. Your 4-year old doesn’t need to know the details of intercourse.
- Be honest. Use proper names for all body parts.
- See if your child wants or needs to know more. Follow up your answers with, “Does that answer your question?”
- Listen to your child’s responses and reactions.
- Be prepared to repeat yourself.
When I say it is never too early for talking about sex with your child I obviously mean that this information needs to be shared in a manner that is age appropriate. Of course I do not advocate explaining the mechanics of P in the V sex to a 5-year old but if a child that age asks certain questions, I don’t think it is at all out of the realm of reasonable to give them an age-appropriate explanation. For example, my daughter, who is almost seven, came home from school a few months ago telling me that a little girl from her after-school daycare group told her that “to have a baby, the man’s penis has to touch the lady’s vagina”. I was definitely stunned to hear this coming from my child but looking back, I am proud of my reaction. I remained very calm and told her that her friend was right and we talked about how that is a very private thing to do and only between two people who agree that it is the right thing to do and who are grown-ups.
Bottom line, I don’t want them to feel shame and fear like I did as a child with my secret knowledge of sex and no idea how to file that information in my brain. I want to get to my kids early enough that their first ideas about sex are explained in a loving manner and in a way that they can easily process. It makes me feel ill to think of them huddled on the playground with their friends trying to put the pieces together and probably coming up with some very wrong conclusions. I also think it is crucial to be upfront about sex so my kids will hopefully trust me enough one day to be honest with me about their sex lives and request help obtaining birth control or a gynecologist visit if necessary. I honestly cannot think of a single negative aspect to having this open line of communication with my children and I hope you all feel that way too.
(Image: Viktor Gladkov/Shutterstock)