“Mommy, where do babies come from?”
Talking to your child about sex is never easy. It takes courage, little homework and lots of practice. Talking sex is not only teaching your child about sexual intercourse. Sexuality involves more than that.
Sexuality includes health issues: your 10 year old asks you what is a sexually transmitted disease and if he has it; sexuality includes sexual orientation: your 9 year old is confused about how two men can have sex and asks you to explain; sexuality includes spirituality: your son wants to know what is the church’s teachings about oral sex; sexuality includes your body: your 4 year old points to his scrotum and asks “ what’s this?”; sexuality includes reproduction: your 8 year old daughter asks you what a period means again – she has forgotten your explanation.
These questions might make you nervous; you might be gob-smacked, embarrassed and unsure. I have learned that what is important is not to have all the answers but to be ready for the questions.
Anna deSousa gives you some tips:
Parents imagine having the “big talk” with their child. Talking sex is not about a single moment but about thousands of small moments of learning and teaching. This talk can go on throughout your child’s life.
The younger the child the quicker they will initiate conversation about sex – as they become older you need to start the conversations. Not impossible – just more difficult.
From the time your child is a year old they are learning body parts. When teaching your toddler this is what you could try: “These are your eyes, this is your nose and this is your mouth. This is your belly button and these are your knees" – something missing? How about saying - “this is your penis” or “this is your vulva” in your talks. Mention those parts in a very natural way – they are part of the body and all parts are equally important.
The main goal of any sex talk is to communicate that sex is a very normal and natural thing. The more we talk about sexual issues the more natural and easier it becomes.
Teachable moments and Values
Children prefer not to have formal discussions about tough issues so we need to look for Teachable moments to talk about sex. They are everywhere.
Your sister is pregnant and you notice your 4 year old staring at her very big stomach or worst – she looks under her dress. This is a teachable moment. Ask “Why do you think Aunty Emma’s stomach looks so big?” Wait for an answer because you want to find out what your child knows. Then continue:”Inside Aunty there is a special place called a uterus and a baby has begun to grow.”
Don’t be surprised if your child just walks away and comes back later at age 5 and asks:”But mom how did the baby get in?” You can say “A mom and a dad are needed to make a baby. Inside mom is a tiny egg and inside dad are tiny seeds – sperm. When the egg and the sperm join a baby starts to grow.”
Use teachable moments to initiate conversation and let your child’s questions guide you. If they have had enough they will walk away and come back when ready for new information or you may have to repeat the information as children forget and need to be reminded.
Let’s look at values. Explore your thoughts about sex and sexuality in the context of your culture, your religion and your experience. What do you think about sex, about dating, about masturbation, about abortion for example?
A child wants and needs moral guidance from mom and dad. Don’t hesitate to make your beliefs clear. They are there to protect and guide your child. When you are discussing sexual facts with your child include values like care, intimacy and love. The value of privacy is important in that your child understands that sexual matters are private and personal and be discussed in a spirit of respect.
Your very curious and mature 6 year old might ask you how did the seeds or sperm get inside the stomach. “When two grown-ups love each other it feels good when the man and woman place the man’s penis inside the woman’s vagina. After a while the sperm come out of the man’s body and travel up the woman’s vagina. If the sperm and the egg meet inside the woman then a baby will start to grow.
If your child says “Mom, that’s disgusting! Then you could say “I understand you feel it’s disgusting. That’s okay because only adults, only big people do this. When you are bigger we can talk more about it.”
In this short time you acknowledged his feelings, you gave him your value that intercourse is for adults and you left the door open for future discussions. And to the question “where do babies come from?” you can tell your child the baby grows from an egg in mommy’s uterus and comes out of a special and private place called the vagina.
Create an open environment for your child to talk to you
Research suggests children want to chat to their parents about sex. Let’s be more aware of our reaction to situations as they can inhibit communication.
For example: When your 9 year old daughter comments that 2 boys are eyeing her out on the sports field encourage her to express her understanding of this; when your 3 year old son looks intensely at his baby sister’s genitals ask him to tell you what he sees. Try and be spontaneous, positive, excited and natural about talking sex.
We live in the world of information. The more informed we are the better prepared we are to embark on challenges. Talking sex is a challenge. The more you examine the subject, the more confident you’ll feel discussing it. If you are not able to overcome your discomfort don’t worry about admitting it to your child.
If your child is 8 years old and you still haven’t broached the subject, it’s okay to say something like this: “You know I’m uncomfortable talking about sex because my parents never talked with me about it. But I want us to be able to talk about anything—including sex—so please come to me if you have any questions. And if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out.”
You may not have all the answers but you will be ready for the questions.
Children are naturally curious. Curiosity allows them to investigate and get answers. They are learning all the time. At school when they are asked about sex they will be better equiped to deal with those situations and if they don’t know how to answer they will know they can come to you!
You may be shocked at the kind of information a child can know by the examples I have used but today our children are exposed to sexuality issues at a much younger age and we need to equip them in order to cope. Advanced technology has broadened the paedophile’s playground, easier access to pornographic images, reduced sense of modesty to sexuality and the increase of sexual abuse by known people to our children puts them in a vulnerable place.
We can take Dr Rob Evans advice where “… we cannot prepare the road for our children but we can prepare our children for the road.”
By accepting sexuality as a normal part of our lives, you start chatting to your child in a natural easy way about sex – and that opens doors of communication. And more importantly, your child will know she can come to you with questions even though you may not have the answers at hand.
Know that you are the best teacher for your child!