Disclaimer: I am not being a prude by using certain euphemisms or keystroke replacements when writing about $ex, I’m just trying to minimize disturbing search queries from finding my blog. And speaking of disturbing…some parents are terrified about having “the talk” with their kids. Having recently gone a few rounds in this discussion with my own kids, I decided to help boost your confidence in having this IMPORTANT, VITAL conversation with your own kids! You can do it!
- Be prepared for having more than one “talk.” If you think this is a sit down, one-and-done deal, think again. You’re going to have to reiterate and clarify many things over the years, so park your squeamishness now and get ready for the long haul.
- Work on your poker face. Kids will ask questions, say words they’ve heard at school, and even make faces that will either leave you queasy, shocked, or totally amused. The key is to keep your emotions even – one blatant reaction from you could shut the whole thing down.
- Emphasize the privacy of the conversation. This is my own personal choice, but I ask that my kids not repeat our conversations with their friends. I always tell them it’s up to their friends’ parents to talk with them about intimate matters, and we don’t want to invade on that space.
- Be aware of what your schools are teaching on the subject. In many schools, parents are welcome or invited to review the curriculum for this material in health classes. If that’s not the case in your child’s school, see what you can do about inviting yourself. I once watched a 5th grade video at school before it was presented to my daughter’s class. I didn’t find the material objectionable, but it did give me the opportunity to talk with my daughter ahead of time and prepare her for what she was going to see/hear. It gave her a sense of security that nothing was going to surprise her or make her uncomfortable in front of her peers.
- ONLY TELL THEM AS MUCH AS THEY ARE READY FOR. You need to be sensitive to each child’s maturity level and use what you know about them to judge what they “need to know.” It will be different for each child as to what age you talk about what subjects, but here’s a rough idea of the timing we’ve followed:
- Birth to 8yrs old: No talk of $ex at this point, but instead brief discussions about our body, what different parts are for (to feed baby, to go potty, to keep clean), and we always use proper names for parts, never cutesy nicknames. We also do a lot of talking about keeping things private, and the depressing (yet realistic) idea of Stranger Danger.
- 8yrs old to tween years: This is where things get a little more specific for us and we branch out into more intimate matters. Again, just a little at a time, and always relative to what we believe they can handle. Usually by 11 or 12 our kids know exactly how babies are made and where they come from.
- Teen years. I only have one daughter in this category, so my experience is more limited, but I have seen one significant change in these conversations now that she’s older; we talk a lot more about the physical drives and emotional entanglements of $ex. It’s less textbook and more Dr. Phil, which is alright, because that’s where she at. Of course, there are still some conversations about anatomy and different variables (which have been the most rattling of any conversations thus far) that add to her knowledge base, but more than anything she’s interested in the whys (or why nots!) and not the hows.
- Don’t assume anything about your child’s “activity” level. For better or worse, don’t assume – just ask. That’s what I do. I’ve learned to ask in a way that isn’t accusatory or prying, and my oldest daughter has been surprisingly open about it. Which I have found is a relief to her, because sometimes things happen that she is confused or unsure about, and she needs to talk to someone. Which reminds me…
- Be clear about your expectations for your children. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will always stand strictly by your standards, but hopefully they’ll remain pretty darned close. I have always felt that as a mother, it was my obligation to make my feelings and beliefs about intimacy known, so that there was never a question in my children’s minds about it.
There’s so much more that can be said about this subject! Like how and when and where you talk to your kids (we tend to cozy up on my or their bed and keep the conversation earnest and open). Or how you might handle sons/daughters differently in this case (which I don’t totally know about yet…my oldest son is 9yo and he’s only been “ready” for very basic principles of this topic). Or how much you decide to share about your own experiences in this department (I’m still puzzling that out for myself!). If you have anything to share in the comments, I’d love to read it, as I imagine others would, too!