Talking to Kids about Sex
It's awkward, it's uncomfortable, but it's going to happen at some point.
Moms Talk is a new feature on Chelmsford Patch that is part of a new initiative on our Patch sites to reach out to moms and families.
Each week in Moms Talk, our Moms Council of experts and smart moms take your questions, give advice and share solutions.
Moms Talk will also be the place to drop in for a talk about the latest parenting hot topic. If you have a question for our council, e-mail it to Krista@patch.com.
How do you approach the subject of sex with your kids? When is the right age to start talking to them?
Claire Petrillo: I have not quite gotten there with any of mine. My two older girls have had the talk, but with their mom. Personally, I am dreading it. While I know that human beings are sexual creatures, certainly MY kids are not. They are just sweet and innocent and will remain that way until they are at least 29.
Okay, so I am kidding myself. My 9 year old, however, is starting to ask questions, especially where I am pregnant. While she has not yet asked where babies come from, she seems to have acquired a basic working knowledge that it somehow required my husband to be home from overseas. This is a subject that I should tackle soon, as I don't want her finding out 'facts' from school, which is were kids find out a lot of things that parents wish they could control more. Such as mythological celebrations that the majority of us engage in, and one day my daughter came home from school, ready to accuse me of lying to her.
Truth be told, I have no idea how to go about this and I do not think that I am alone in that. I keep reading about it and mostly I read to let the kids ask the questions and answer the best you can. However, I know that my daughter is a very curious child and these tough questions will have be to answered soon. One thing that I did was to download Dr. Laura Berman's sex ed handbook, to get some ideas. While I do not agree with all her suggestions, I did find some of the material helpful. I want my kids to feel like they can talk to me about anything, and if that entails some uncomfortable squirming on my part, then I will. At the very basis of our biology, humans are sexual, and as parents, if we want to be able to have a hand in how they develop in this sense, the talks need to happen. Much to my own dismay.
Vivian Merrill: Both my kids brought up the subject on their own, because of something someone said at school. With my daughter, it started in second grade, when another girl warned her about her period, because the friend’s older sister had just started it. As a parent of a Girl Scout, we were asked by the troop leaders to kindly have some sort of discussion with our daughters on bodily changes, as they’ve had experiences with girls that are on an overnight trip that were not prepared for the experience. I’m willing to bet it’s most fathers’ nightmare to be the one at home when that time comes. Everyone I know of has survived the experience, even if they were horrified.
Based on comments from both kids, they were aware of what sex is by the fourth grade. I am supposing that would be because of comments made by other kids, what is seen on television, movies, magazines and probably from wandering around online. Kids in general are pretty comfortable talking to each other, rather than their parents, which makes getting accurate information to them tricky. However, even at such a young age, many of them still believe their parents know everything, and they often still look to them for confirmation of something they heard. Mine were most frank with their questions. We’ve had casual conversations with them based on their questions and situations we see around us.
By middle school, kids talking about sex runs rampant on the school playgrounds, and that was when the conversations turned to what one should or should not allow to happen. Health education classes also help to give kids an idea of what to expect, and some of them have started handing out condoms in the high schools. Some parents may not agree with that approach, but, that’s reality, and at some point the kids are going to be in a situation where certain decisions will be made.
Teenage pregnancy was happening when I was in high school during the 80s, so it didn’t surprise me when it became more popular, and I started seeing day-care centers in the high school. It was not the choice for me, but I see some young women that are very comfortable with it, and I’ve seen how their parents and families have accepted it.
It’s a balancing act on how close a tab you want to keep on your teenager. We give our 16-year-old son some freedom, and so far he has not abused it. We’ll see how it goes once he gets his driver’s license, and he’ll probably resent all the questions we’ll ask him. He knows of a young lady that became pregnant at 16. He has watched her struggles as he was growing up, and hopefully has learned something from it.