It was a sunny day and I was driving through the country on the way to grandma’s house with my two girls, ages 7 and 2 years old. We had the radio blasting and a new song with a dope beat came on. I was jamming to the beat and singing along, “Where- did -you- get -your- sexy, -oh-yea, -so- sexy…se-
xy” when I heard my oldest daughter say, “Mom, can you not say that word.” Totally dumbstruck, I glanced in the rearview mirror to see the face of an embarrassed 7-year-old. I’m thinking what in world did I say, I didn’t even think she was listening because she was reading her book. Confused, I said, “What word?” I was pretty sure there was no foul language in the song because I make sure not to listen to music with bad language especially with the kids in the car. Plus, I don’t use curse words, and if I do, watch out because there’s a huge situation going down. I digress, anyway, she says, “You know that word, it’s a bad word”. Again, I looked around the car and wondered, “Am I being punked or something?” Still dumbfounded, I asked her, “Which word did I say, was a bad word?” My child has a look that she gives that clearly says, “Stop acting like you don’t know what I’m talking about kind of look,” but she’s smart enough not to say it out loud. So instead, she whispers forcefully, “You know that word, the S-E-X word.” My eyes widened and glazed over, I’m pretty sure, I blacked out for 25 seconds. I gasped and almost drove off the road and into the ditch. I was completely caught off guard because I never would have thought my sweet, book reading, artsy, 7-year-old little girl, would know anything about sex, nevertheless know how to spell it. I did talk to her about where babies come from at age of 5-years-old, but we didn’t really talk about the ins and outs of sex. I figured I would wait until she was a little older maybe 8 or 9-years-old to have the full sex conversation. Well, guess what, today was the day! Whether I was ready or not I had to have the conversation with her and at that moment. I wanted to know exactly what she knew about sex and see if I needed to correct and expand on any of that information.
After quickly gathering my composure, I increased the speed from a snail’s pace of 15mph back to the regular speed limit of 55mph and then we began the dreaded conversation about sex.
Many parents are unsure when it’s the right time to talk to their children about sex. If you’re like me, you thought you had a plan to do so but struggled with how to have the conversation in terms that your child can understand. Well if you have been thinking of having this conversation, I will first commend you because you are headed in the right direction. We should talk to our children at an early age about sex to ensure that they learn the correct information and to form a relationship with your child that demonstrates that they can talk to you about important issues. The best age to start talking to kids about sex is around 4-5 years old. This is usually the time they begin to ask questions like, where babies come from. Instead of being caught off guard and feeling unprepared you can learn exactly how to have the conversation in a way that makes you feel comfortable and easy for your child to understand. So, let’s get started.
1. Choose an opportune time to talk
Choose a time when you and your child are less likely to be distracted. This way both of you will be more likely to be engaged and listen to what each other has to say. It’s hard to have a conversation and hear one another when you are trying to do homework, cook dinner or getting ready to leave the house. Try to find a time when both of you can give your undivided attention, like on a weekend, or instead of reading a book together at night take that opportunity to start the conversation about sex. If your child seems to be
tired, wait to have the conversation when they have energy and less likely to be drowsy and cranky.
2. Remain honest and open-minded when talking to your child.
If you are feeling a little nervous or awkward about having this conversation, it’s ok to say this to your child because they are likely feeling the same way. Just remember if you make the awkwardness a big deal, so will your child. Try to remain confident and stick to the point. Avoid giving too much information because your child may lose interest. Understand that your child may have their own definition or facts about sex and be willing to hear them out without judgment or scorning them. Listening will help you understand their thought process and help you gauge exactly how much they already know about sex. This way when you start to give details you know what areas to focus on and what details need correcting.
3. Talk to your child about their body parts by using the correct anatomical name.
Many people think this advice may be too much for the younger kids but it’s a very important step that should NOT be skipped. Teaching your child, the correct terms for their body parts not only helps your child to know the proper name but it also allows them to feel comfortable with their body and see that it is normal. It allows your child to be able to communicate with others and avoid confusion if something is wrong. The same way a baby is taught to recognize their hands, feet, eyes, ears and nose, the same efforts should be given when teaching about their genitals. This is also the time to mention that these parts are in fact private and that no one is allowed to touch these parts unless it’s mom, dad or doctor (with mom and/or Dad present) and only when assisting with baths and when checking them out to make sure they are healthy.
For older kids and teens this is a good time to talk about puberty, menstrual cycles, expected body changes, and pregnancy. There are many older children that are not sure how their body work and who better to educate them than you. If you aren’t quite sure do a little research and the internet and I assure you that there is plenty of information. Medscapeor American Academy of Pediatricsis a good reference to use as it gives accurate information.
4. Use a matter-a-fact tone when discussing sex.
While it may be awkward to have this conversation, make it fun and interesting. Use a matter of fact tone just like you would if you were having an everyday discussion. Consider practicing the
conversattion once or twice before talking to your child so that you can determine the tone of the discussion. Use books or pictures (non-pornographic, of course) that are age appropriate to help explain body parts and their function.
Keep the conversation age appropriate.
When talking to young kids, you don’t have to go deep into the nitty gritty of how sex happens. Giving too many details may increase your child’s confusion and they may lose interest. Keep it simple by saying something such as “sex happens when two adults who love each other very much both agree to share their bodies with one another by touching, hugging and kissing. If further details are asked you can go into more details if you feel comfortable. For older kids the more details the better. If you prefer not to go further with the details, you can simply start talking about something else or say you will talk about that later when they are old enough to understand.
6. Ask Your Child Questions
Starting a conversation by asking questions is the method I choose when talking to my children. Asking questions helps in finding out how much they really know and if the information is correct or incorrect. You may be surprised by the answers you get, so brace yourself. Some of the answers can be downright comical.
Asking questions also shows your child that you are engaged and truly interested in hearing their thoughts and opinions. This will help them to feel comfortable sharing more information with you.
Once they have shared what they know, address any incorrect information and explain why the information they have is wrong. Expand on any areas that they are unclear on or may be confused about. Make sure they understand what you have told them and the best way to do that is, you guessed it… ask questions! For example, ask “did I answer all of thquestions you had about sex” or “Is there anything else you want to know about sex?”
7. Talk about Consent
This is a topic to have with all children especially teenagers because they are more likely to be dating. For younger kids be sure to tell them that it is not ok to touch other’s especially if the other person says no. For older kids such as the teenagers, talk about sex in great detail even if you haven’t had a conversation about sex with them before, it’s never too late. Just remember you don’t have to cover A-Z all in one conversation. It can be too much and quite overwhelming.
It’s important to mention that it’s ok not have sex just because others seem to be doing it. Let them know that no one has the right to make them do anything sexually they do not want to do. The message that NO mean NO is very important to teach, not only from the perspective of protecting themselves but also when someone else tells them no. Make it known that they are expected to treat others with respect, and they should never force anyone to do anything against their will, even if the person seemed to be into it initially. Once the word “no” is spoken or actions that demonstrate the person is no longer willing, then they must stop. Addressing the issue of consent early will help kids to make better decisions if presented with a situation where consent is questionable.
Talk to your child about avoiding drugs and alcohol or anything that could impair their ability to recognize if someone is or is not giving consent. Plus being intoxicated can increase their chance of not being able to give consent.
Using the steps above will help you navigate and slay the S-E-X conversation with your child. Remember that having the “talk” is not just a one-time conversation. You should have multiple talks and have them often. The conversation should change based on the age of your child. Use everyday life events to start conversations about sex such as things seen on the news, tv shows, things that friends and family may be facing. Avoid lectures and judgment because this will increase the chance that your child may lose interest, become defensive, and feel that they cannot trust you. Always remember to ask questions and be willing to give your child the opportunity to carry the conversation.
Most importantly remember to relax and have fun forming a great relationship with your child!
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