Questions and Answers About Sex: When Should I Have the “Talk” with My Children?
I still don’t think that I really understand why “the talk” is referred to as the “birds and the bees” talk. I think it has something to do with pollen and growing flowers, or something along those lines; but I am not really sure how that applies to my sexual education. I never had the birds and the bees talk, and I know a lot of others who never had it either. Regardless of the fact that I never had that discussion with my parents, I have a wife and four children of my own now. If I were to pin down a time that I felt that I had “the talk,” it was the day before my wedding, with my father. That does not mean that our bodies and sex were not ever talked about in our home, it just means it came in incremental, need-to-know pieces.
It’s important to have an open, communicative relationship with our children, to answer and correct misconceptions in school-age children. “The talk” can be different for different children, depending on the child’s questions and environment. It doesn’t need to and should not all happen at once. The talk only needs to include the “need-to-know” things for their age and maturity. “The talk” about sex is a talk that happens over about a 16- to 18-year period. I know – that is a long conversation – but it starts usually at about age two, and often continues until early adulthood. In the article “My Young Child Asked Me Where Babies Come From – What Do I Say?” I discussed this very issue as follows…
The question, ‘Where do babies come from?” requires parents to answer more than once, because we don’t want to drop the BOMB on our two- or three-year-olds. An appropriate answer for a two- or three-year-old child is, “from mommy’s tummy.”
That answer would never suffice for a seven- or eight-year-old child. It is important for parents to give age-appropriate answers. When a younger child first asks this question, they are not asking a question about the science or morality of how it happens; they are simply confused about the new arrivals all around them, and may also be wondering where they, personally, came from.
As your child grows up, the question will change slightly and will build upon your initial answer. Your four- to five-year-old may ask, “How does the baby get out of mom’s tummy?”
Picture books about the growth of a baby in the womb and delivery can be helpful in explaining how a baby grows and enters the world. By six to seven years of age, your child may start asking, “How does the baby get in mom’s tummy?” Again, age-appropriate books can be helpful in describing conception, including information about the sperm and egg, etc.
Parents should not depend on school or peers to teach their child, especially in a value-based way. When parents take an active, ongoing role in their children’s sex education, they are able to teach contextual, moral values and connect with their children in meaningful ways. Peer and media sex education will come, whether we like it or not. It is helpful for parents to have strong, healthy, and happy relationships with their children, which allow kids to ask questions and challenge misconceptions they learn from others about sex.