I will never forget the time I was on a family vacation and my 5 year old daughter saw a pregnant woman and asked, “How did the baby get into her belly?” I gave a very clinical answer that went something like, “The Daddy gives the Mommy something called sperm, and then the eggs that are inside of Mommy’s stomach join with the sperm and form the baby that starts to grow.” I thought I was done and then she asked, “Well how does the Daddy give the sperm to the Mommy? (and gestured to put something in her mouth) Does she eat it?” I was not ready to have any type of sex talk at that moment and especially with a 5 year old. I said not exactly and then I was saved by the bell when the rest of the family came back and she forgot about it and she never asked again. I was off the hook for the time being.
A few years later, it seems like there is an unrelenting fascination with sex and it is everywhere I go. With every media outlet I come across, sex is the topic, and not a good, healthy education about sex either. On prime time television, it is rough, angry, I am going to rip you apart and you will love it sex. On the radio, it is polyamorous, bring all your friends and them because I am the freak of the week and I have an asshole that tastes like cupcakes sex. On the news it is all gang rapes and horrendous sexual violations. Hell, I can’t even watch an episode of Family Feud with my daughters without the word sex or some vague eyebrow raising reference of a sex act mentioned. There is no escaping it and I don’t see it changing anytime soon, and now I think it is time to start the talk but how to you broach the topic? At what point in your child’s life do you think is the right time? What signs should you look for? Do you wait for them to ask questions? Sex talk and references are everywhere. Do you try to avoid certain things to protect them or use that unwanted exposure as a teaching tool? Tell us what you think. Here are some words of wisdom from our BEBs:
- “We had sex ed in 5th grade in MD. I recall the teacher (Ms. Adewale…yes, I still remember!) asking us to write our questions down anonymously and placing them in a jar so we wouldn’t be afraid to ask ANYTHING.” ~ Allison Y.
- “I have no children, but I would probably discuss it at 11 or 12. It seems that children are far more sexually knowledgeable and advanced these days with media, internet so the conversation needs to happen a lot sooner, I think.” ~ Monica M.
- “Well if I have to throw an age out there, I think 10 is good age. Unfortunately my kids were exposed at young ages by inappropriate information from other children so I had no choice but to explain things to them correctly. But most of our conversations on the matter stem from issues that arise in the media or occurrences in their everyday lives. Having classmates with same-sex parents, gay rights issues, advertisements, etc. leads them to ask questions so then I have to educate them on the whole gamut…heterosexual sex, homosexual sex, all kinds of reproduction, you name it. I am more explicit with the older child as I try to give out the information in an age appropriate fashion. Most importantly, I’m as candid as I can be and try to keep the lines of communication open so they aren’t afraid to ask questions. Also my dad made me watch The Miracle of Life at age 10 (5th grade) and think I remember getting sex ed in school around 5th/6th grade.” ~ Kia M.
- “Ky, this is great because I am faced with this now with my 9 year old daughter. She keeps talking about this one boy and I’m like, “I’m not ready!” I have only discussed the inappropriate touching with her and not sex per se but she is aware because of media and she caught Daddy and I once (oh the horror!) I need age appropriate language to use with her.” ~ Ayeisha M.
- “In my opinion, there really is no “right age.” As you noted, you can’t escape the exposure; don’t try. Whatever age a child begins to notice, ask questions and demonstrate any awareness is the “right stage” to discuss it. And the discussion that follows should of course be “age appropriate.” I remember when my son was 5 or 6. I was picking him up from school after a school trip. As we went on telling me about his day, he told me about a boy on the bus who kept air humping behind girl’s butts. He thought it was HILARIOUS! So, I just asked him, “Do you know what that action means?” He said, “Yes!” and busted out laughing. I just smiled and said, “Tell me what it means.” “It means he is ‘doing it’ to her butt,” he laughs. I chuckled and said, “I can see how you find that funny, but what if someone was doing that to me, how would you feel?” He didn’t think THAT was funny. I used it as an opportunity to discuss the proper ways of treating women.” ~ Davida M.
- “I’m having that talk early. These kids are advanced now.” ~ Roxanne C.
- “I completely agree with all that was stated above. There are a few factors to consider; the meat and potatoes conversation should be had no later than 3-5 years BEFORE you think your child would ever consider having sex. (They usually start before you thought they would.) For my children, we had the discussion at 10ish. I think environment plays a big role — we have not had the “official” talk with my 11 year old son. We’ll deal with it this summer, after we get him to remember to put his underwear in the hamper. When they were early elementary age — I gave them simple, short and sweet answers to their questions. I didn’t want to get ahead of them and I certainly didn’t want them to be “those” kids who gave out demonstrations on the proper way to put on a condom. Creating an environment of open, honest discussion is paramount to communicating with your children. A “no judgement” zone is a must. When I finally presented the information, it was in a comprehensive manner which included family values, risks, STI/STDs, considerations, and we spent a lot of time talking about “the right time.” One should never feel pressured and just for an extra dose of caution, “look at each potential partner as if this person might end up the mother/father of your child. How will you feel about having to co-parent with this person?” I stressed quality over quantity. Hope this helps!” ~ Anonymous
Ky is the BEB Photographer and author of the Happy Friday Series.