Why the Sex Talk Should Happen by Kindergarten

Have the sex talk by Kindergarten? That’s what she said! Okay, couldn’t resist… after all when it comes to talking about IT, I’m admittedly immature and apparently late… wait, not THAT kind of late… oh gosh, my palms are sweaty… All joking aside, Breezy Mama turned to Amy Lang, MA and author of Birds + Bees + YOUR Kids on how to start the talk to teach your kids about sex, when to start it (yep, by age 5), how to handle “where did I come from” questions from kids 4 and under and so much more to get you motivated to do it… oh bad pun again!?

What age generally should teaching your kids about sex happen?

It’s ideal to start the conversation in Kindergarten – they are “blank slates” – they don’t have any preconceived notions about sex; they are hanging out with kids who have all kinds of info – it’s best they get accurate info from you; and they are protected from sexual abuse – predators look for kids who don’t have open communication with their parents. They want kids to be clueless and in the dark about sexual matters.

It also establishes you as the sex expert in their lives. And it’s much easier to talk to a 5 year old than it is to a 15 year old.

But I don’t really care when you start the conversations – it’s easier to start earlier – I just want you to embrace the fact that this is your responsibility and no one else’s.

What are some cues that it might be time to have the talk regardless of their age?

Any questions they might have about babies, bodies, pregnancy, etc. – which is the obvious answer. However, it’s not up to them to ask us, it’s our responsibility to educate them. If your kid is 9, it’s past time to start the conversations. Parents don’t like to hear this because they think it’s too young. But the fact of the matter is, in today’s world, they will hear about it or or see Internet porn before most parents talk to their kids.

We need to step up and start the conversations, rather than wait for them to ask us. It’s not their responsibility, it’s ours.

Do you want your kid to see porn before you talk to them about sex? Probably not. The average age a kid sees Internet porn is 10. Some sooner, some later. It’s healthier for them to learn from you, right?

I’ve been in situations where one of my kids will unwittingly ask questions related to sex, and I never know how much detail to go into. For example, “How was I made?” Is the best approach to talk around that (i.e. respond with “through love”) or be more direct?

If a child is 4 or so, it’s fine to hedge a little, and talk around it. Beyond that, it’s better to be more direct. Kids have great BS detectors and it only gets better as they get older. Be honest, open and brave. No one has ever died learning that most of the time the penis goes into the vagina and that’s how a baby is made.

It is totally fine to put them off for a day or two while you gather your thoughts, but you need to get back to them. You can say “Great question – what do you think that is?” or “I need to think about how to answer that and I’ll get back to you by bedtime tomorrow.” Be specific and then do what you say you will. This is a relationship built on trust and not following through tells your kids you aren’t trustworthy.

And then there are the questions like, why does she have a vagina and he has a penis – how do you answer those questions for the younger kids?

You can simply say “It’s interesting, isn’t it? It’s part of nature’s or God’s plan for boys and girls and women and men to have different bodies. It has to do with making babies.”

Which may lead to some other questions, but there are worse things!

You can also say – “They’re just different and that’s the way it is. Hey! Look at the shiny thing!” I love distraction!

How should a parent answer if a child asks when was the first time they had sex?

They should say what feels right to them. Tell them how old they were and why you made the choice. Ask them when they think someone should have sex for the first time. Talk about lesson’s learned “When I look back, what I hope for you is…”

This is really a personal decision for everyone. I don’t recommend lying, however, but something that is based in the truth works.

I feel like I’ve been watching the most innocent of shows, but then a couple start to make-out. What is the best way to respond to a child who is curious about what those people on TV are doing?

You can explain that they are having romantic, loving feelings for each other and it feels good to kiss someone like that – when you are older. You can talk about how this is something parents do and people do because it feels good to be so close to someone, like you and your partner.

Then tell them that this kind of stuff is definitely NOT for kids – it’s part of being older and having romantic relationships.

My friend’s daughter calls this “sexy love” which I think is great!

What is the best approach for starting the discussion about sex?

Get a book! It’s the easiest way to get started. With kids ages 4 – 7 just toss one in with the nightly reading and don’t make a big deal out of it. With older kids 8 + say something like “Hey! You ever hear the word ‘sex’? Do you know what it means? Well, you are old enough now to know and I got this great book all about how babies are made, different kinds of families, pregnancy, birth and all that. Do you want to look at it together or on your own.”

If they are 10 + apologize for not starting the conversations sooner and then get on it.

What if a child does not want to have this discussion?

These are conversations that parents need to have consistently throughout childhood and adolescence. Parents can acknowledge that this is uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s important, so they will be talking to them about this stuff. Then keep what you have to say short and scripted.

Scripting, or planning what you are going to say before you say it, is really helpful. My book, Birds + Bees + YOUR Kids helps with this.

What if a parent is not comfortable having it?

I don’t think anyone is truly totally comfortable talking about this – I’m not! It totally makes me squirm when I talk to my 10 year old son. The more you do it, the easier it is, so get started in small ways and trust that it’s the right thing to do for your kid.

If you really can’t do it, then enlist another trustworthy adult to take it over. Make sure their values are aligned with yours. Give your kids lots of books and info so they can get what they need easily.

How much detail should parents go into… just the basics or cover STDs, birth control, etc.?

It depends on the age of the child – and this is a building process. Start with baby making (how it gets in there, how it gets out), changes of the body through pregnancy, sex for pleasure (this needs to be addressed at almost the same time as the baby making conversation), healthy relationships, birth control, STI’s [Sexually Transmitted Infection – the modern way of saying STD], puberty, different sexual practices, dating, sexual decision making, etc.

This is a series of short and sweet conversation – not one big, long drawn out talk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that kids should have a basic understanding of EVERYTHING by puberty. I’m nicer, since puberty can start as young as 8, and say by Middle School. If you get started early, by the time you get to the tough stuff, like oral and anal sex, it’ll just be one more drop in the bucket.

Any other advice you’d like to share?

1 in 4 teens has an STI. Clearly, they are having sex without protection. We also have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the developed world. There’s a reason our teens sexual health is such a mess, and it has a whole lot to do with misguided ideas about what “works” to get teens to wait to have sex.

Tell your kids you expect them to wait until they are out of high school/married/in a loving committed relationship before they become sexually active. Make sure they know how to get and use birth control and condoms if they decide to have sex.

Understand that teenagers don’t confuse these two messages with being give permission to have sex – over and over again, they say the want and need this info.

The key is to clarify your values about sexuality, discuss them with your kids, encourage them to wait and make sure they know how to protect themselves.

Don’t think “Not MY kid!” Think “Maybe my kid” and be there every step of the way, from early childhood through the teen years. They will make better choices – maybe not the ones we hoped for – but choices they will look back on and feel good about. Unlike most of us.

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About Amy Lang, MA
A three time Mom’s Choice Award® winner for her book, journal and DVD, Amy Lang teaches how to have the modern mama’s sex talk in the Seattle area and nationally. She offers lectures and consultations for parents, teachers and childcare providers. Visit BirdsAndBeesAndKids.com for video tips, book suggestions, to view her DVD and sign up for her newsletter.

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Comments

  1. Oh, the idea of such a discussion beginning so early is mildly devastating but I guess you are right. I want my child to come to me without fear and the best way is not shy away but answer their questions while protecting their innocence!

    My sister was molested at a young age and had my parents been more open when talking to her we might have found out sooner. Rather she endured years of silent struggle and pain.

  2. Michelle says

    Excellent article and a great reminder. When my kids started asking questions and wanted more details than I could figure out how to best give I did get a great book from the library that outlines it all in easy to understand but accurate terms. They seemed to enjoy the book mostly and were somewhat appropriately freaked out in the right sections. 🙂 There were definitely some ewwwwwwwwww’s. Just wish they could keep that attitude to some degree until they were in college. Thanks for the article.

  3. Jennifer says

    What? We can’t just lock them up with a chastity belt? LOL!!!
    Thank you so much for this. I have a 4 year old and 21 month old, both girls, and the thought of them behaving the way I did gives me shivers down my spine. I didn’t get “the talk” at all, rather, a book thrown at me when I was 13 and was then told to ask questions if I had any.
    Your Q & A here has already given me so many good ideas to start this process now.
    BLESS YOU!!!

  4. Samantha, that is terrible that happened to your sister. Excellent point about communication.
    Michelle -lol.
    Jennifer, you made me laugh, too, about the chastity belt! Glad you got good ideas to get started — I did, too!

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