Yup, that's right, I said the "S" word (OK, actually in our house the "s" word is "stupid" so if you hear a child tearing up the stairs screaming that someone said the "s" word you know it isn't usually more serious than that).
But that's not the topic for today. Today I want to talk about sex. Or, rather, I want to talk about talking to our kids about sex.
After my post the other day about Gavin asking sex questions I've had a couple comments about how open we are with our kids about this topic. That is very true. From the time our children were small we have been pretty blunt (although not graphic) about sex. Here's the thing, kids are going to have questions. They are going to wonder about things. I would MUCH rather they get answers from me than from someone else.
Here's what I think (and Josh and I strongly agree on this one). If you treat the topic of sex like a secret, like something to keep locked away and never discussed until matrimony, you only increase the mystery surrounding it and in turn increase a child's curiosity about the subject. Embarrassed or not, most kids will seek for answers and if they feel like they're not allowed to ask questions of you where will they go? Do you really want them getting their insight about sexuality from their buddies? What will they hear? Do YOU want to create their realities about sex or do you want to leave that responsibility to someone else?
So, with that bright little intro, here are our family views when it comes to talking to children about sex.
1. Don't Panic: Likely the first time this subject comes up there will be a mini, gasping heart attack that goes on inside you. Don't let that insecurity win. If you get all anxious and then over react, your kids will see that. However, if you stay calm and treat the question like a perfectly normal query (which, in reality, it is) then your kids won't see you nearly hyperventilating and will likely feel comfortable coming to you again. Remember that sex is wonderful and beautiful, try not to make it seem scary and forever forbidden and disgusting (if you can help it, after all they're kids). Feel free to panic on the inside, just don't let it show too much.
2. Don't put them off: If your kids are curious and interested, take the time RIGHT NOW to give them answers. Try not to put them off with "we'll talk about it later's" because they may not be interested later. If they are asking questions then they are presenting you with a gigantic opportunity to shape their visions on this topic. Don't lose that chance.
Now, there may be times when it is not appropriate to discus the subject right at the moment (sitting in sacrament meeting, standing in a grocery aisle...both places our kids have actually broached this subject with me), and then you might need to say "I would be happy to talk to you about that, but can we do it in the car or when we get home?" Just don't forget to come back and ask if they still want that question answered. If they've lost interest, OK, you're off the hook for the moment, but if not, be ready to share your insights.
3. Start when they're little: For us, it started when the kids were quite young. Because we had six children in just under 10 years our little ones were exposed to pregnancy very early on and they wondered about it. We were faced with our first "where do babies come from" inquiry when Bryce was not quite three and then we had a decision to make. Do we go with the lovely but misguided stork story, or do we go for reality. We chose reality.
We've always been proponents of candid answers with our children, so we gave a quick answer about a mommy and daddy, a penis and a vagina and a baby. The whole thing took maybe a minute at most. That was plenty for the three year old. We repeated the process with Aubrey a year or so later (which quickly resulted in young Aubrey saying something along the lines of, "Daddies have a penis, show them Dad!" to my parents...that was fun).
The point is, make it an open topic from the time your kids are tiny. Don't make the subject of sex taboo. This also takes LOTS of the pressure off of you because having had dozens of small discussions over the course of years, you aren't faced with a sudden "lets learn it all tonight" discussion when the unenlightened child gets older.
However, if your kids are already not so little anymore, don't despair, start NOW! It may be uncomfortable...but that's normal. Talking about sex with kids isn't supposed to be comfortable. Don't let that stop you.
4. Don't go overboard: Kids don't need all the gory details. If they have questions, answer them simply and openly...and calmly (even if you are panicking inside which still happens to me almost every time). Let the child be the guide of the conversation. If he needs more information, he'll ask for it. Keep the info age appropriate and uncomplicated (if you can). If she starts to lose interest in what you're saying, let it go, but be ready in case she comes back to it later.
is the one we have. It is great. It is a pictorial encyclopedia of body parts from the skeletal system to the muscular systems to the reproductive system. Children are better able to understand things when they can see what you are talking about. This is great for "Mom, what's a uterus?" or "Mom, what are sperm" type questions. It's been a huge help over the years. I'm sure there are dozens of these books out there. We like pictures that are realistic without being explicit. You have to decide what works for you and then go with it.
6. Don't give up: Last, but not least, be ready for failure. There will be times when your conversations will crash and burn -- when your kids will look at you like you are nuts. It is just the truth. But, when that happens, pick yourself up and get ready for the next time. There WILL be a next time. You can do it.
Anyway, enough. There are so many chances to do this perfectly or to mess it up (and we all do some of both), but in reality the only failure is if you do nothing at all. Sex is an incredible part of life, but it is a scary topic to most parents (including me). Don't let that fear cripple your teaching on an intensely important and very intimate part of life. Find what works for you, and go with it. Just don't let yourself shove it under the rug because someone else will fill in the spaces you leave.
Plus, you end up with the most exciting, and hilarious, stories to tell. Don't miss out.