If you’re a parent, then you probably plan on explaining the birds and the bees to your children at some point. Maybe you aren’t looking forward to it, or are wondering when would be the right time. You might feel it’s time when you discover your children are suddenly growing up too fast. Time to get it over with. Time to grin and bear it. Time to take one for the team.
I don't believe it has to be this way! In fact, I believe there's a much better alternative. Read on!
How I plan to talk to my kids
Awhile ago I decided that I wouldn’t have the sex talk with my kids. I just wouldn’t. No awkward sit down, no uncomfortable stumbling through a brief and detached version of “when a man and a woman fall in love”, just...no.
What I have been doing is having a lot of talks with my kids, not just “The Talk”. And I plan to continue and grow these talks as they grow older. Talks about our bodies. Talks about how we care for them, respect them(and other’s bodies too!), and treat them like the gifts they are. Talks about feelings, and why we have them. Talks about what kind of touch from others is okay and what isn’t. We’ll talk about things they can expect to happen as they grow older, and why that’s not only okay, but great! How the signs of our bodies growing and changing means they are doing just what they are supposed to do. And how sometimes it might feel surprising or foreign or good or awkward, or just different! Talks about how there is a right time and place to do things with our bodies, and that we have a voice about how they’re treated. Talks about growing up, physical and emotional changes, and lots of talks about shame. How to combat shame with authenticity, self-acceptance, and a willingness to share hard things with safe people. I’m hoping our talks will be conversations, not a one sided lesson.
We’ll talk about sex too of course -not as a formal, dreaded event- but as an ongoing, age-appropriate discussion that evolves and changes depending on what they’re ready to hear or what they want to know. And when one of my children (hopefully) comes to me and shares something - whether they’ve messed up or have just chosen to do something I might not agree with - I plan to do everything I can to let them know they are loved, and that I am here. Even if all I can offer is a listening ear.
Don't leave it up to society & the media to teach your kids!
In a world where our children learn all the wrong things about one of the most powerful gifts we've been given as human beings - the power to bond and create - my hope is that as parents we can face our fears and practice having open conversations with our children. That we can show by example that being human is sometimes complicated and messy, but also show them that in no way does this reduce our value or worth. We don’t have to be perfect(isn't that a relief?!), because when we hide our imperfections instead of being able to acknowledge them, we teach our children that they are no good without perfection, and maybe they should hide who they are too.
Society says you can learn everything you need to know about love, life, and sex from the media, so who is going to be there for your children when they need to know the truth? Who will they turn to when they come across something they don’t quite understand, but are embarrassed to ask someone about it? Are you confident they feel comfortable enough taking that scary step and approaching you with it?
Can they trust that you will receive them without shock or dismissal stemming from discomfort?
Getting past the fear of hard conversations
I know it’s scary for many parents to talk to their kids about sex. I understand. I spend a lot of time talking about, and being around birth. I might have a lot less reserve when it comes to talking about the nitty gritty details of the human body than the average parent, but I can assure you, I’ve experienced my fair share of worries. I’ve wondered, “What if I tell them too much? What if they start experimenting, or *gasp* start yelling ‘Vagina!’ in the grocery store?” (Yes that has happened to me, but I survived.)
So yes, it can be scary. Just like riding a bike. Those first few attempts are terrifying, and sometimes we’ll feel like we have no idea what we are doing. But push through it anyway. Practice makes perfect(or close enough). Those talks will change the world for your children. It will prepare them for the future. It will give them confidence. Assurance. A soft place to land when things feel terrifying to them too. What if talking to your kids regularly about sex, even if it was scary, helped them to feel just a little bit more at peace with themselves, and with being in their own skin? What if it made the difference between your daughter standing up for herself and being able to firmly say no to someone who wrongly assumed they had any say in what she did with her body? Would it be worth it then? It would for me.
You'll probably mess it up sometimes - but keep going anyway
I’m sure there will be lots of times I don’t have all the answers to their questions. I know there will be moments where I’m positive I’ve royally screwed up and I think my kids will be ruined forever because of my inability to know all the things. I’ve actually had a few of those moments already. But I also know it will be fine. I’ll make sure and tell them often that mom is no expert. She’s just another human being on this planet trying to figure out how things work. Still learning what it means to have a body, and to experience joy, pain, vulnerability, fear, pleasure, shame, and all the other human feelings I have at any given moment.
So the next time my daughter comes up to me and asks me to tell her again how a baby is made I will smile, say “I’m glad you brought this up!”(and I am). I’ll do my best to give her an age appropriate answer without trying to rush through it or change the subject or shaming her for asking something just as natural as why we eat food every day. Maybe she’ll ask me something and all I will be able to say in the moment is, “I'm not sure. I’ll see if I can find out some more about it and then we’ll talk again tomorrow, how about that?”. I may even let her know sometimes when I feel a bit nervous to have these conversations, because remember, we don't need to try and pretend perfect! Then I’ll give myself silent kudos for a job well done. For being brave enough to take the leap and decide to have these discussions even if I feel grossly inadequate for the job. Because I am up for the task. I was placed here to be a parent to these courageous little souls for a reason. And doing my best will always be good enough, because that’s all that is asked of me. So I will keep on keeping on with our talks. I will press forward into this crazy world of misinformation and teach my children simple truths.
And if you see me in the grocery store, and your child lets loose with a shout of “vagina!” or “penis!” I will raise my vacuum insulated waterbottle(I love that waterbottle) to you in solidarity. I will salute you as one mother just doing her best to another doing the same. You’ll know that I’ve got your back as we navigate this wild journey, and I’ll be grateful when you withhold judgement for any random anatomical terms my kids throw out in the grocery store too.
Maybe we'd all be better off if we did away with “the talk” for good, because sex, love, worth, value, beauty….it’s all woven into this big ball of important things that makes us who we are. It all needs to be talked about, and often. My hope is that through these many talks we can nurture confident, emotionally healthy beings who are ever creating a wonderful balance of where they’ve been, with who they’re becoming.
I wish you the best with your lifetime of talks, and may there be plenty!
Some books to choose from to get started with your talks!
-It's NOT the Stork - by Robie H. Harris
-30 Days of Sex Talks - by Educate and Empower Kids (They have a separate book for ages 3-7, 8-11, and 12+
-My Body Is a Gift From God: Introducing Conversations to Safeguard Children - Sherie Adams Christensen
-Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids - by Kristen A. Jenson & Dr. Gail A Poyner
Callie is a mom of three fantastic little girls. Some of her favorite things are birth, Brene Brown, rummaging through fabric warehouses(to buy fabric to make clothing for her family or Etsy shop), and having some chocolate that she stashes in her closet for a rainy day. She has a Bachelor's degree in Home and Family Living from BYU and experience in Early Childhood Education. She also teaches Birth Boot Camp Childbirth Classes, serves clients as a Birth Doula in Flower Mound and Denton County, and occasionally teaches prenatal & postpartum fitness classes in Grapevine, TX. You can check out other posts on her blog or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.