Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

Talking to our children about the birds and the bees can be daunting, but the more we are prepared for it, the easier it will be – for some
By Christina Castle

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I’d been preparing for this conversation since the day my children were born. I knew it was going to happen, but just didn’t know when. I had rehearsed it and perfected it. My speech was clear, concise, mature, nurturing, friendly and factual. It was my hope that my children would one day talk of this experience as an example of how to talk to your children confidently about sex. How then, did I manage to blow it so badly?
 
So there we were, Dylan (age six), Alex (age three) and I, sitting in the health shop down the road sipping juice and discussing the afternoon’s plans, when Alex noticed a poster of a naked pregnant woman.
 
“Mommy,” he asked, “why is that mommy so fat?”
 
“She’s not fat, Alex. She’s pregnant. She’s got a baby in her tummy,” I said, not even registering where the conversation was going. He thought about it for a while and asked, “Mommy, why did that mommy eat the baby?”
 
“She didn’t eat the baby, Alex,” I chuckled – as did the waitress, who had just delivered our food.
 
“Then,” asked Alex, “how did the baby get in her tummy?”
 
At which point I turned the colour of the beetroot juice I was sipping, stuttered something about how much mommy and daddy love each other, knocked a toasted sandwich on the floor, paid the bill, and left.
 
It wasn’t supposed to be like that. It was the ideal opportunity for delivering my perfected sex monologue and I had blown it. Certainly no standing ovations deserved. Just two confused boys, a mother in a flap and a waitress in hysterics.
 
So what’s the correct way to approach the subject of sex with your children? Here are a few tips…
 
Start Early
 
Fortunately there are great books (see box) on the subject that can help you over this little hurdle – or should I say through this obstacle course. There’s actually quite a lot to talk about. And there’s really no such thing as one big sex talk; it’s an ongoing process. My boys are now 10 and 13 and we’re certainly over the “how babies are made?” stage (thanks to my very calm-talking, practical husband) and well into all the juicy bits of sex and the facts of life. I figure we’ll be chatting about this until they leave home. Maybe not, but you get the gist.
 
However, as your child grows up you need to anticipate and prepare for the next stage of development. Remember it’s not just one conversation on sex; it’s many on the facts of life: how our bodies work, how they change as we grow older, and the like. It’s up to you to decide what is age appropriate and what your child is ready to hear. You’ll just need to be prepared for it and try to respond naturally to it.
 
Don’t Mince Your Words
 
Tell it like it is – simply, sensibly and naturally. When learning about body parts, include the penis and vagina as well, using their correct names. They are just as important as the “head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Eyes and ears, and mouth and nose. Head, shoulders, knees and toes.” I think somebody should come up with a new song…
 
Look For the Right Moment
 
Opportunities present themselves all the time. Be it a poster of a pregnant woman on the wall of a health-food shop or a pregnant aunty. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative if you believe your child is ready for this information. Perhaps try it like this: “Do you notice how Aunty Anna’s tummy is getting bigger? She’s going to have a baby and she’s carrying it inside her. Do you know how it got inside her?” That’s exactly how I should have handled the health shop debacle – but Alex noticed the poster before I did.
 
Answer the Question
 
Younger children are more inclined to initiate a sex conversation. When they ask the question, they are looking for an answer to that question – not a flood of detailed information on other sex-related issues. It’s a lot for a little person to digest. Children are often satisfied with just that answer – that’s all they wanted to know. They may well ask another related question, but more often than not the next question will be: “What’s for lunch?.”
 
Added Values
 
It’s important to share your values and beliefs with your child. They are looking to you for guidance. While the biological facts are one side of the story, they also need to understand the emotional aspects of a sexual relationship such as caring, responsibility and respect. Perhaps that’s a little too much for a three-year-old to figure out, but it certainly needs to be considered and included in the sex talks in the years ahead.
 
The Right Person for the Job
 
You may feel uncomfortable discussing sex with your child of the opposite sex. But don’t let it be an excuse to not talk about it. If you are a single parent, consider other mentors with whom your children may be able to discuss sex. If you are a two-parent household it may feel less awkward to have Dad talk to the boys and Mom to the girls. Discussions in which you can draw from experience are honest and appreciated. Do what feels right for your family. Just keep the communication open.
 
 
Recommended Reading
 
For children aged 4–8
 
  • A Kid’s First Book About Sex by Joani Blank (Down There Press)
  • How Babies Are Made by Andrew C. Andry and Steven Schepp (Little Brown & Company)
  • Let’s Talk About Sex by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley (Walker Books)
  • Let’s Talk About Where Babies Come From by Robie H. Harris (Walker Books)
  • Mommy Laid An Egg or Where do Babies Come From? by Babette Cole (Chronicle Books)
  • So That’s How I Was Born! by Robert Brooks and Susan Perl (Aladdin Paperbacks)
  • What’s The Big Secret?: Talking About Sex with Girls and Boys by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown (Little Brown & Co)
  • Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle (Lyle Stuart)
 
For preteens or teens
 
  • Easy Answers to Awkward Questions by Ilze van der Merwe and Nikki Bush (Metz Press)
  • Have you started yet? by Ruth Thomson with Chloë Thomson (Macmillan Publishers)
  • Living With a Willy by Nick Fisher (MacMillan Children’s Books)
  • Zits, Glitz & Body Bits by Jeanne Willis and Lydia Monks (Walker Books)

Comments

Anonymous wrote 7 years 43 weeks ago

One of the books listed above, How Babies Are Made by Andrew C. Andry and Steven Schepp (Little, Brown & Co)-- for 4-8 year olds -- is by far the very best of the lot (in my opinion).

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