So my kids asked some big questions recently. It came as the culmination of a few different chats about chickens and eggs. I don’t think our kids are necessarily any more curious than other kids. But we have a very open relationship with our kiddos because we talk about so many things as a family. Sidney and I are quick to answer their questions when they have them and make sure they are getting accurate information.
We have had many talks with the kids – for us, “the sex talk” won’t be a one-time deal, I’m sure. But recently we had the most – what’s the word? – informative conversation we’ve ever had. The one where all their previous questions about babies and mommies and daddies and eggs and everything came together. It went something like this:
“Mom, I have a question. Why do chicken eggs need a rooster for them to hatch, if they are laid by the hen?”
“Because an egg has to be fertilized to make a baby chicken. Babies take a mom and a dad.”
“How does that work?”
“Like plants. Remember the show we watched about plants being fertilized? It’s a similar process for animals, too, except it’s called mating.”
Evan chimed in at this point. “Like Papa’s bull mates with the cows so they can have babies?”
“Yes. Just like that.”
“But they don’t have pollen?”
“No. They have special cells called sperm instead of cells called pollen. When the sperm meets the egg inside the mommy it becomes fertilized and can turn into a baby.”
*pauses as they finish setting the breakfast table.*
Brianna asked, “And that works for humans, too? That’s why a baby needs a mommy and a daddy? To fertilize the egg with the sperm like mating cows need a bull and a mommy cow.”
“Right! That’s exactly right about the physical act of mating being similar – we are both mammals. But there is a difference between humans and cows.
Cows are controlled by their hormones and do not decide who to mate with and they aren’t given a choice. Papa decides which bull the cows get to hang out with, and one bull is the father of many baby calves.
With humans, we have the ability to make WISE decisions and don’t have to be just controlled by our hormones. God gives us the ability to choose our mates carefully so we can give our babies a good family – a good mother or a good father. That’s one of the reasons why it is best to wait until marriage before making babies because that is the most committed relationship. We’re ready for breakfast – let’s pray for God to bring the right people to you, ok?”
So we prayed and included a prayer about their future. Then we were distracted by the food for a bit. Sidney asked if the kids had any other questions and the only question was if all mammals give birth to live young, then are baby zebras wet and slimy like baby goats? We offered to try to find a video of baby zebras after breakfast, and that was that!
Why “The Sex Talk” Can’t be Just ONE Talk
One thing I think a lot of parents don’t realize when they say things like “I need to have the sex talk with my kids” is that the sex talk isn’t A sex talk. It’s multiple conversations over multiple years. It’s not a one time deal.
Let’s be honest here, shall we? It’s a lot of details and information to share with a kid all in one shot, so if you wait until they are old enough to grasp everything you’re saying, I feel you have waited too long. FAR too long.
It’s such a tough topic! It’s hard to know how much is too much with kids. I still have to remind myself not to get flustered when my kids ask honest questions. Here are some thoughts and tips when thinking about how to talk to your kids about sex:
1. “The” Sex Talk Should Happen All the Time
I was in an online group of parents and one of the moms posted a panicked sounding message that her ten year old had asked some questions and she was upset and didn’t know what to say. “I put him off for now but I know the topic is going to come up again.”
I felt bad for that child. In my home, we have a philosophy in our parenting that if our children are asking an honest question, they deserve an age-appropriate answer. I really like what fellow EF blogger Amanda says about making the talk ongoing. My friend Amanda says, “There are some things that made ‘The Talk’ slightly easier for us, because we had a history of general openness. “
I agree with this whole-heartedly. Her hint that there’s a history of general openness makes me think that they weren’t waiting until middle school ages to have conversations. I hear some parents say, of their 8 or 9 year olds, “Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about that for awhile.” but I think that is a mistake. Here’s why:
2. Your Kids Are Wondering About Sex Before You Think They Are
In 2009 Symantec released search results from their Norton Online Family monitoring software. Because of the nature of the user profiles they were able to show age-demographic results in their search terms. The results are STARTLING. “Porn” is a top ten search term for 7 and under. Top 5 for 8-12 year olds. Moms – if you think you have until middle school to have this discussion you are sorely mistaken.
Led by our children’s observations and natural questions, we recently had the first of many “sex talks” around the breakfast table because of questions from my 4 year old. We had recently hatched some chicken eggs and after the science study of that experiment we had many questions.
Hey we are a country family, what can I say? But really, animals can be an excellent introduction and give children a mental connection for easier understanding. Or flowers if that’s less intimidating for you.
But if you are waiting to introduce them to the concepts of sex and puberty and relationships all at the same time you are going to overwhelm them. Or probably waited way too long. They’ve already wondered and tried to fill in the blanks themselves – or worse…asked another child (or Googled it – YIKES!)
3. Don’t Just Give Them Facts – Give Them Context
We went on with the conversation because I felt it was important to begin to give context to the conversation. We shared our family’s faith and helped the kids understand that the physical act has emotional meaning and is something for committed relationships. We talked about the fact that animals are driven by hormones but humans can make wise choices for themselves. We also talked about the potential outcomes of creating a new family, and that it was something that should wait until you’re ready for that level of responsibility.
Being able to put the questions and new information into a framework they already understood – our family – made it so the information wasn’t as odd, frightening, or overwhelming to them. It helped them understand that there was more than the physical aspect when it comes to these adult things.
4. Don’t Fill In What They Didn’t Ask
We didn’t go into graphic details about the act of sex. That just isn’t age appropriate for some of my littles at this point. We focused on the importance of respect, being wise about the choices we have, etc.
Later on when we DO go more in-depth with their education, they will have a good foundation of knowledge to build on. Just like with the point above, you can fill in the context with what their already familiar with in terms of family culture to make it easier to understand at younger ages.
Gradual conversations began when they were very young, of course, with privacy awareness (we call it “protecting our modesty”), body part names, even hygiene discussion and cleanliness and such. Each thing was taught as they seemed ready to learn and we didn’t have to diagram or describe more than they were asking about. By the time breakfast was over they had probably forgotten about the conversation completely. Except the awareness that they can ask any question and I’ll give an answer.
5. Teach Practical Applications – Including Online Safety
Have you ever told your child not to search for those things on the internet? That if they have questions about private matters they are to come and ask you instead of searching online? Most parents haven’t.
In today’s world kids know that Google is the way to find information. If they have a question, they can go online and find an answer. The problem, of course, with topics of a sexual nature is that the information they find can be hard-core, graphic, and skewed beyond what you want them exposed to.
Teach them how to use the computer well. Teach them to search specific terms and phrases instead of single words that can lead them to unsavory results. Teach them to go to specific trusted educational websites and create bookmark folders for them.
If you are not proactively teaching your child about these types of things, someone else is. Or they are trying to figure it out for themselves. When the top search terms for kids 8-12 include porn and sex, you cannot afford to wait until junior high to bring it up.
Teach them to use their computers and smart phones with wisdom and fun!
How have you handled this topic with your kids?