S.E.X. You heard me. It’s what got you into this parenting thing in the first place. And now, you must explain it to your kids…well, if not now, then eventually…like before they go to college. Actually, the experts say you can’t wait nearly that long. Most recommend you start talking to your kids about the birds and the bees around age 4 or 5! Now, if you’re anything like me, that sentence probably just sent a wave of nausea through your body and right now you’re taking slow, deep breaths trying to slow your heart rate. And if you’re like me you probably had visions of yourself as a modern, hip parent who’d openly talk about sex with your kids. No problem, right? Sure, until it’s time to actually walk the walk. Then we turn into complete prudes.
Note: If you’ve ever heard Charla Muller talk about her book, 365 Nights, she always whispers the word “sex” like she’s talking about something a little sneaky, a little unladylike. It’s hilarious and totally how I want to say the word as I am writing this.
Anyway, all queasiness aside, it really is important to talk to your kids about (whisper) sex. Here’s why:
1) By learning the facts from YOU, they’ll get accurate information (in contrast to the campaign of misinformation spreading through the school bus)
2) You’ll be opening up important lines of communication making YOU the go-to person for information. If they find out from someone else, they may keep the information secret from you.
3) You’ll be able to present the information in a comfortable, accurate and loving way so that kids don’t get the impression that sex is something dirty.
4) You’ll be protecting them from sexual predators. The book It’s Not the Stork! by Robie Harris does a great job of explaining to young children what is and is not appropriate when it comes to touching. It also teaches kids to have a voice – that it’s okay to say “no” or “don’t” if an adult makes them uncomfortable.
Here are some great books and resources to help get the conversation started:
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/talking_to_your_kids_about_sex
Talk with Kids
It’s Not the Stork! A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends (for 4-6 year-olds)
It’s So Amazing! A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies and Families (ages 7 and older)
It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health (ages 10 and older)
All of these books are by Robie Harris. Visit her site: http://www.robieharris.com/work.html for more information.
So as you can tell, I am a big proponent of talking to your kids about sex. I think it’s a disservice to kids to leave them on their own to sort out what they will inevitably hear on the bus and playground. Stephanie and I even devoted a chapter to this subject in The Must-Have Mom Manual – which I used to help write this blog. But have I talked to my own kids? Well, sort of. Anna and I sat down with It’s Not the Stork! Until she got embarrassed and asked me to stop reading it. I respected her comfort level and we’ll look at the book again soon. Cade and I have yet to have the conversation. He’s six. That’s right, I have yet to heed my own advice. Hey, just because I wrote a book doesn’t mean I’m perfect.
My kids have to read (or be read to) for 30 minutes every night as part of their homework – the perfect opportunity to read one of the above-mentioned books. Yep, this blog has been a pep talk to myself as much as anyone else. C’mon, Sara…you can do this.
Sara Ellington is the author of The Mommy Chronicles: Conversations Sharing the Comedy and Drama of Pregnancy and New Motherhood (Hay House, 2005) and The Must-Have Mom Manual (Ballantine/Random House, April 2009)