Many parents can feel overwhelmed when it comes to talking about sex with their kids. Some may ask, “WHEN do I take the plunge and talk about the birds and the bee’s with my kids?” That is a great question. Now more then ever. The amazing life giving topic is exploited in many places and it’s easy for many to see or read things that may be untrue, wrong, or simply not how you want your kids to learn about intimacy. What age do you think you should start talking about sex with your kids?
For me, when I was a little lady I was a timid but curious girl. I can remember getting the ‘talk’ when I was about nine or ten. The 15 minute talk that I had to suffer through seemed even more awkward for my sweet mom. I still remember the sting of a feeling it gave me. I was shocked with the news of how babies were made. I couldn’t even make eye contact with my mom as she shared the process. I still remember my shy awkward feelings. Despite how rattled I felt with the news, I am pretty sure this talk just ignited about 100 more questions. I already had the boy craze glaze over my eyes at this age. Only my top secret journal knew of my obsession for boys. But this new knowledge just made everything different. How in the world could I ever sit next to Jason, Cameron, or Derek again and be normal about it? Even worse, to think that’s what EVERY PARENT on the planet has done to receive a child, wow, I about passed out! It just did me in.
It took me a long time to face the facts of life. And even worse I had so many questions, but I didn’t know how to ask my hard questions. Computers weren’t widely used yet. The internet wasn’t in our home and it hadn’t evolved yet into the all-question-answering machine it is now. Instead, being the super smart adolescent I was, I used my resources. I made my younger brother ask all my dirty little questions (not really dirty, just specific). He even remembers how I would beg him, even bribe him, to ask questions for me to mom and dad about sex. I had so many questions and wanted to know all the answers. I think my dad caught wind of what was going on, of making my younger brother the middle man. To set the stage a little, I grew up in a good home. My parents were conservative, good God-fearing people, who worked hard every day. Also, we lived on a little farm, chickens, horses, goats, occasional cows and pigs. He approached me one day and shared with me, “If you have so many questions, just watch the animals”. Okay, I thought, then that’s exactly what I will do, watch the animals. Well, as time went on I very sneakily watched the animals, I didn’t want to get caught with all my confused faces or even terror-filled faces. I’m here to share it just added more questions!
Reflection: What are your children more like, the curious critter, wanting to know everything OR are they content with what they already know?
As a parent, I’ve put a lot of thought into this topic. I even spent time in graduate school researching it.
Let’s look at the ‘when question’ by looking at some research.
A 30 second research look:
Byers (2011) reports on the importance of not only the ‘talk’ but also an ongoing and continuous conversation about sexuality with your child. The beginnings of this ongoing conversation should start at a relatively young age.
Newby, Bayley and Wallace (2009) report that the ideal age to talk about relationships and sex with your child is between 5-11.
Waiting until children are 9 or 10 can make the conversation much more awkward or they feel like they know all the answers (Wilson et al. 2010). One parent reports that “With my son, I’ll start to say something, and then he’ll turn red, red … and he’ll just change the subject and walk off” (pg. 60) Another parent reports, “When I talk to them, I know they’re saying, ‘What’s this old man talking about? He don’t know what he talkin’ about.’ … I’m in another lifetime to them.” (pg. 60)
What I tell people is the average age to begin talking about sex with their kids is around ages 5-11, I get so many open mouths. That young? they always comment, and YES is my response, that young. Notice, I said begin. One talk is so not okay. Even from my personal adolescent experience one talk is not a healthy practice. Having an ongoing conversation about sexual intercourse with your children is key. Waiting to talk about sex typically will only make the conversation more awkward or perhaps your adolescent might be too shy to ask their questions. Or maybe their friends or internet answered all their questions. Not trying to speak for us all, but I sure remember how awkward adolescence can be, especially talking about birds and bees. Starting the talk early with your children can help avoid uncomfortable feelings. It can also help you, deal with some of your uncomfortable feelings before your child asks more specific questions. You don’t have to tell them everything at the age of five, but set the stage of good communications about sex. You can do that by saying “I want you to know if you have any questions about why boys and girls are different or how babies are made, you feel free to ask me anytime”.
For me and my husband we are very open with our children about sexual topics. He knows how over zealous I am of this topic and knows all of the juicy wonderful questions are my favorite to answer, but we are both on the same page. Start talking about sex when they are young so you can help them navigate through our over saturated access and ideas about intimacy. We have a very curious daughter who knows all the solid facts about sex, she’s five. Our son knew the facts at five as well, he’s content, but we do have follow up conversations regularly, he’s eight. We have a three year old boy who knows his own anatomy and knows that mommy’s humps are called breasts. We have a one year old boy who knows how to give hugs and kisses and that is the best place to start when teaching your kids about love. Sharing loving parent affection, kind words and acts, and your example of your own marriage.