What age is right for "the talk?"

Katherine - posted on 01/17/2012 ( 23 moms have responded )




Re-posted from Strollerderby

Yesterday Jezebel had a righteous go at a British MP who has expressed horror at the BBC’s sex ed program, which she says is like a “blue movie” a.k.a. “porn”.

Jezebel’s take-down of the MPs objections is hilarious and spot on. Of course a sex ed film should include pictures of naked bodies. This one also includes computer-generated characters getting it on, in a bit about how babies are conceived.

The film is part of the curriculum for 9-year-olds, though, which caused a bit of a stir among Jezebel’s commenters, some of whom seemed surprised that you’d need to talk to a pre-pubescent child about sex.

Hot tip: yes, you do. Waiting until your kid is old enough to procreate is way too late to begin talking about human sexuality.

So when should those discussions start?

Right away. Seriously. As soon as your child is self-aware, they begin to be curious about their own body and how they came into the world. That’s the time to begin talking about it, not after a decade of silence makes it a necessarily awkward topic.

A few tips work for having these talks with kids at any age:

Respect their limits.

Don’t shove a lot of information at a kid who isn’t ready for it.

Don’t obfuscate or lie to a kid who is asking questions.

Just give clear simple answers to what they’re asking.

This should be easy, right? Just tell them what they want to know.

As any parent who’s been blindsided by a 7-year-old asking about anal sex knows, it doesn’t always seem simple in practice.

I try to give my kids straight answers to their questions, and to make those answers age appropriate. I never push past their interest level, and I keep the details and detours to a minimum. My hope is that these conversations with my young kids will be comfortable enough that they’ll keep asking and listening as they grow older.

Roughly speaking, here are the kinds of things you want to talk with kids about at various ages:

Preschool: Preschoolers are curious about their own bodies, how they’ll change as they grow up, and how they got to be here. They want to know about birth and pregnancy, and about conception as part of their birth narratives. A good book for kids this age is Robie Harris’ It’s Not The Stork.

School Age Kids: Kids this age may want a little more information, or they may just want to leave the subject alone. It varies a lot by kid. The next book in Robie Harris’ series, It’s So Amazing, aims to satisfy young readers curiosity without overwhelming them. This is a great age to cover the basics of human sexuality.

Tweens and Teens: These kids need all the information. They need to know not just how babies are made but also how to take care of their growing and changing bodies, how to make safe responsible decisions about sex and how to feel good about themselves in a world filled with damaging media messages. There are a ton of good books and resources available for this age group. Whatever you choose, make sure to keep the dialog between you and your teen open, so they can ask you the hard questions.

How have you talked to your kids about the birds and the bees?


Jane - posted on 01/22/2012




It is simple. Tell all your children that the part of their bodies covered by a bathing suit is private and not to let someone touch them there except when mom or dad bathes them or wipes them. That is really the beginnings of what they have to know.

In addition, teach your children that when someone says no, it means no and they shouldn't push. This holds true for all sorts of "no"s including those related to sexual abuse and date rape.

Lori - posted on 01/21/2012




My son is 18 and is still comfortable in asking me questions about sex. I have always answered his questions with factual answers and never let it show if I was bothered by them. In fact some of his questions have even made us laugh like when he was 12 he wanted ti know "why do guys like boobs? They r just blobs of fat." lol I wanted him to always come to me instead of getting answers from his friends and have his values n ideals to not be that of his friends either. He started asking at 9 yrs old n he has kept it up over the yrs. At school they did sex Ed in 6th grade n he would come home n talk about what they were learning n ask more about it. I think all parents should make their children feel comfortable enough to talk about sex unless they want their kids going elsewhere for the info. Over the years my son has asked what r boobs for, how do u kiss, what is masturbation, what is oral sex, and most recent how do u have sex so I know he is still a virgin..... I wasn't

comfortable talking to my mom n was not comfortable

talking to her about birth control n I was pregnant at 17. Kids should not be made to feel that sex or sexuality is dirty or bad n no matter what is taught at school, it begins at home.


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Rachel - posted on 01/27/2012




I gave "the talk" a dry run and explained all the complicated details when my first was an infant. That way I felt more comfortable and prepared (and she didn't get uncomfortable or embarrassed). As she gets older, just like everyone else, we answer age appropriate questions.

Kena - posted on 01/22/2012




But how about talking to your daughter about sexual abuse?? Shouldnt we teach our young girls especially if they stay at there friends house that no one should touch her there?? With the way things are in this day in age can you honestly really know what to expect out of people?? Whats a good age for it???

Tanya - posted on 01/21/2012




I have always answered my son's questions honestly, so when he started asking more direct questions this year(he's 6) I answered them directly while trying to be age appropriate. I want my children to come to me first with their questions and I hope that by keeping the communication open they will feel safe to talk with me about anything.When we discuss those awkward subjects, I let him guide. Too much information at this age can be confusing for him I think. Its tricky thoI worry like all mothers that he could become intrigued and want to explore with friends. So I have made it clear that it is something two consenting adults,who are in love, do.when they are 40.LOL

Amy - posted on 01/20/2012




My son is 8, he knows the difference between boys & girls etc but he really has said he doesn't want to know more. We were talking about babies (my cousin just had one) and he said "mom you know bothers me...I have always wondered how the baby gets out. Please don't tell me I don't want to know!" His dad started to tell him (non graphic) & he buried his face in his hands & said "that's what I was afraid of" so we are respecting that he has enough info for now & truly doesn't want to talk more about these things yet (Thank God lol)

Katherine - posted on 01/20/2012




Now remember, this is a re-post from another source: Strollerderby, not my words. Just wanted some input on what others thought about this article.

Nelly - posted on 01/20/2012




we had "the talk" when they were about 6 years old. I used a book that I bought which was age appropiate to help. We have cats at home that are "breeding" so they were already aware of how baby kitties were born. Just keep it simple and not so much details, unless they ask. Now they are 8 and 10 and I am happy I gave them the basics, before they get the wrong information from other kids or someone else. We are very open to answer ALL their questions and we have talked about alcohol and drugs too. The sooner, the better.

[deleted account]

I agree, 'sex' education should begin as early as possible, when the child first asks that 'awkward' question, such as why is Mary different to John etc...of course this is usually asked in a very public and not exactly comfortable for the parents. It's okay to tell the child that you'll talk about it later when there's less distraction, but you have to keep to that commitment.

Then try to ascertain just what they're asking. More than once I've overheard a child ask their parent 'where do I come from', and then listened as the parent launched into a very detailed description of conception (modified to suit the age of the child) and then had a chuckle as the child walked away with a mumbled 'Johnny comes from England'...

I agree, NEVER make up stories to tell your child when their questions come, invariably the information you give to them will be shared amongst their friends and nothing alienates your child more than to be ridiculed for some story they relate that their parents told them...if you don't know, seize the opportunity for both of you to find out. It doesn't hurt for your child to realise you do not know everything, I mean, they come to realise that when they reach their teens anyway, it isn't until they are parents themselves that they realise just how much their parents did know.

Denikka - posted on 01/19/2012




I started with my son as we started naming body parts. We haven't gone into detail yet (he's going to be 3 in March) and most of it is rather vague, but he knows what and where his penis is and he knows that it's called a penis. We haven't taught scrotum yet, but eventually he'll know :P

He also knows that daddy is a boy like him and that that mommy and his sister are girls. He knows there's a difference between us.

The first time I really knew that he knew the difference was when I was changing his sister in front of him. She was less than 6mo old at the time, and he was just over 2yrs. We were sitting on my bed and she had her diaper off as I was reaching for the clean one. He scooted over, looked at her and started pointing, and with this shocked look on his face started exclaiming *Oh no!! B hurt! B hurt!!*

I busted a gut over that one XD then explained that she wasn't hurt, just that girls and boys and different. He had a penis and she had a vulva like mommy. He seemed to accept that answer and hasn't said anything since.

I absolutely think that it has to be an ongoing talk from the beginning. I thinks it's really important to answer all your kids questions when they ask them. There are learning opportunities everywhere! Heck, let them go to a farm for a couple weeks and there's a good sex ed right there XD

I never got a talk, any talk, about sex or my body. I was able to get my hands on a couple of books and read what I could. I knew what was going on and what to expect from that (especially considering I started my period before the school started sex ed)

I want to keep a running dialog open with both of my children. And, hoping to be living on a farm soon, while they're both still young, and hoping to be breeding my own meat AND having a couple more babies of my own, I'm sure there should be PLENTY of chances for teaching and asking questions :)

Mabel - posted on 01/19/2012




Katherine we(hubby and I) talked about this subject last night during dinner.I have been noticing that Devin is starting to say things like daddy a boy Devin a boy and mommy a a um,so he is noticing there is a difference when it comes to our bodies now.I have also slowed down on the showers I take with him since he is starting to pick up on the differences.He is 3 and it just blows me away that he is catching these things at his age but we are keeping it natural and not really hiding our bodies from him so when he does finally ask about the whole sex thing we will just flow into that stage because he won't feel like he is doing something wrong by asking me or daddy,but that he is comfortable with his body and doesn't feel shamed and can just come to us and ask whatever he wants.

:-) There is no shame in him knowing what a penis or a vagina are.

Patty - posted on 01/19/2012




Most of what children learn about sex comes from the parents. Not school, books, or the computer. We are the most powerful sex educators in the world. How do you and your partner (spouse treat one another?) Do your children see you express affection to one another? There is so much more to sex education than just the physical. Our entire being is involved. Just as important is teaching about respect- for bodies, minds, and souls. Maybe I'm old fashioned ( I'm a grandmother with two grown sons) But just remember all education starts in the home. In healthy relationships sex will be seen as a beautiful expression of respect and love. I wish I had worried less about talk and more about modeling behavior for my children.

Melanie - posted on 01/19/2012




Did you say "2nd grade"???? OMG, are you only seven or eight in that grade?

Heather - posted on 01/19/2012




I disagree, this is far too young. I was given sex ed in school far too young (9yo) and it just made me want to have sex. I wanted to be "adult" I think this is a mistake. While I agree, children should have a theoretical knowledge of what is going on in their bodies, they do not need to see naked bodies "having" sex. This is wrong. Sorry.

Tania - posted on 01/19/2012




Like others have written, it's been an ongoing conversation from when they were little. They ask questions, I answer them, we share our opinions. While I'm open and comfortable with these talks I question the wisdom of the video mentioned above, especially for nine year olds.

Trenda - posted on 01/18/2012




My son is 7 an has a lot of questions. He watched a stupid TV show over at his dads house. So now he wants to know why boy an girls would get in the bed with no cloths on. Even ask a little girl at school to come home with him. I had no idea kids his age even wondered about sex..... but then again I grew up in a different time.

Sherri - posted on 01/18/2012




We had the body changing talks at 8 and 9. Then answered any questions that would come up from there. We had the full sex talk at 12. Although we are pretty open around here and still discuss and talk about things often even though they are 14 & 13. Hell my mom yelled out to my 14yr old that condoms where his best friend at huge family event.

Chrystal - posted on 01/18/2012




I never had the talk with my mom either it was something that she talked about as I asked questions or situations came up and that worked great I knew more real information than any of my classmates and it helped to teach me respect for sexuality and not jump into it the way some of my friends did. I plan to do the same approach with my kids I've already begun with my 19 month old when he noticed that he and his baby sister looked different after a bath time which was so cute you could tell he was puzzled lol So I explained really simply what a boy and a girl was using the correct terms. I read some where that it's easier for a predator to take advantage of a child that doesn't know the correct terms for their body so I made sure to use anatomical words.

Amanda - posted on 01/18/2012




I never had the "the talk" because the talk was always every day conversation in my household. We were taught sex ed from a early age (around age 5), it is also when I started "the talks" with my children. As long as you keep it age appropriate there is so much information for a child to learn before they become sexually active why not start them young, and drill it into their heads without them even realize you are doing it.

Tara - posted on 01/18/2012




My mom did something similar to what Jane has done with her children. She just talked to us in age-appropriate ways - I never did actually get "the talk" but I could always ask questions at any time.

I'm following that approach with my girls (they are currently 3 1/2 and 2) - they know that girls have a vulva and vagina and boys have a penis and testicles because they asked "why does daddy look different" after they barged in on him getting out the shower. I would much rather that I let them know appropriate information as they get older than think about them learning about it from other kids, etc.

Jane - posted on 01/17/2012




My daughter had friends in second grade that had started their periods so she had a lot of questions. However, I had made a practice of answering her questions all the way along in age-appropriate language so it was part of a continuing conversation.

I never did sit down officially and give either of my kids "the talk." Instead we had an ongoing conversation beginning from when they noticed that bodies were different.

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