Let's talk about sex. Or, rather, let's talk about how you talk to your kid about sex. We asked a few moms how/when they broached the topic of sex with their kids. And, here are some of the answers we received:
"My husband talked to our son (our first born child) about sex when he was 12. We had decided my husband should talk to him before he received the sex ed class at school that year. After the talk, my husband said our son was already full of a mix of facts, lies, mix-ups and confusion. In reality, we probably should have created a more open environment which would have allowed for him to ask questions, rather than sitting down and giving him a "talk," but we did what we thought was right at the time. With our daughter, however, I made sure to start setting the stage for being open, honest and approachable when she was 10 years old."
–Amy, mother of a (now) 16-year-old boy and a (now) 13-year-old girl.
"I received an email from my son's school recently letting me know that in two weeks they would start a course on sex (he's 11 years old). While I thought it was a little early for the school to get involved in such a talk with the students, I was also a little grateful. Being a single mom with a son makes talks like this a little tough. And, though we had started conversations about liking girls, how to treat them and what's going on with his body, it was still hard for both of us – and more than a little uncomfortable for my son. I'm hoping the sex talk in school will help open it up to further conversation at home. If anything, at least I'll be able to talk to him more now that he'll everyone his age is being taught the same thing."
–Jamie, mom of an 11-year-old boy
Talking to your kids about sex can be tough, but the best approach is to set the stage for a conversation early, much like Amy (above) did with her daughter. We asked Jo to weigh in with her expert opinion. Here's what she says:
I recently helped a family recognize the important facts they will have to remember when talking to their 10 and 11 yr old about sex education. The parents had two older daughters who had children of their own (one of the daughters was 20 years old and had a 2 year old and the other daughter was 18 and pregnant). I asked the daughters to join us for a roundtable discussion with their parents about how the parents could have approached talking to the girls about sex differently. And what their parents could start to do now to lay the groundwork for the younger siblings. The daughters said their parents needed to be more approachable and judge less. That fact alone would have allowed them to come to their parents (even when they had made the wrong decision) and be open and honest with them. Even if the parents had pleased by what they heard, they still would be there to help their daughters' problem solve.
My feeling is that it's more than a one-time conversation, it's ongoing and it starts early. Children need to learn 2-3 yrs in advance how to trust their parents, know that their parents are open and that they are able to go to them and talk, even if they haven't made the best decision.
When it does come time to get into the details, scope out the fact. Whether you talk to other parents, older teens, look on the web, or go to the library, have solid facts. Relatable stories are key too. Like a dad talking to his kid, "I remember my hormones were crazy at your age and I started noticing every girl." Hardcore facts with relatable stories are priceless. Relatable issues, sprinkle of humor, getting resources with facts, asking older children (if you have them) what they would have wanted you to say. I also feel it's important to have a very nonchalant attitude. Keep it light. Language is really key as well. Sometimes kids will laugh if you use medically correct terms, especially if you don't use them normally, so you want to use the words you use normally with them. Be less textbook and more grounded. Have them write all of the words that get used for body parts (have the parents start this first). Don't open it with "tell me what you know." Start it off yourself. This is more of an ice-breaker. The reality is your kids probably do know a lot already, but it's coated with non-truths as well, and you need to help them unravel the truths from the fiction. Not only are you teaching sex education, you're teaching kids how to be responsible about their bodies, about sex and about their emotions.
I don't think abstinence alone is the right thing to teach kids. They need to have the knowledge about safe sex. Because whether we like it or not, they will eventually be having sex, and it should be safe and responsible. Sex education is being taught younger in schools. The average age sex and the changing body is being taught is at age 10 or 11. I think this is the appropriate age. Also it has been proven that children are beginning to undergo puberty at a younger age. Children not only need to understand what's going on with their bodies, but also how to use and control everything they feel, especially if it's feelings about another human being. And, children are having sex younger than ever before. It's essential to talk to your children about responsible sex, the creation of life, the hormones, the essence of love and the beautiful, nurturing side of intimacy and relationships. These talks should also be about trust. Not just trust between partners, but between parents and their children when they have these conversations.
This is my advice on how to talk about how to talk to your children about sex, hormones, relationships and, how to have an open, nurturing relationship with your child that will see them well through adulthood. I'm not here to judge people or their beliefs or views on whether it's right to have sex before or after marriage. Whatever you belief, it is important you arm your children with information. This will help them make better decisions – even if they're not the decisions you want them to make – and help foster honest and open relationships between them and their partner and between parent and their child.