It's called "the talk" or "the birds and the bees". Our period is called "our little friend", "our monthly visitor" or "Aunt flo".
I remember my aunt asking me when I was about 12 or 13 if I had my "friend" yet. I didn't understand what she meant and she kind of winked and said "You know - your monthly FRIEND". It took me a few seconds to get it, and I said 'Oh! You mean my period?" and she blushed! And I remember thinking how odd it was for a woman in her 50s to be so embarrassed about something so - normal. I told myself that if we stopped thinking of all this reproductive stuff as being something hush-hush, we'd all be a lot more comfortable with sex and sexuality.
So when do we have "the talk" with our own kids? Do we want to make it a "talk" or should it be a normal part of conversation? My vote is for the latter.
Kids know a lot more than we give them credit for. By the time a child is five, he or she knows they look different to members of the opposite sex and they know women have babies and men don't. And it's ok to talk to them about it!
When our kids ask us how our hearts beat - don't we tell them, in a way they understand? And when they ask why they blink or how our brains work or why we need our tongues to talk (and on and on because once a child has reached the age of four, you can expect about a hundred questions about....oh, every hour or so) don't we do our best to explain it to them?
But sex and reproduction? We don't want to go there.
We don't have to talk about these things with our kids at the grocery store or when out to dinner at our favorite restaurant but when we do, we need to leave the silly names behind and call them what they are. It's also ok to generally refer to them as our "private parts" since they ARE private and this is an easy way to generalize those many different private parts.
At what age? The sooner the better. This isn't to say that our two year old needs a play by play of childbirth or how the baby gets in there in the first place. But once children start to talk about it (from about age 4 onwards) let the talk begin. It may not, and should not be detailed. Children only need as much as they can cognitively digest without being overwhelmed or scared.
But simple information about body parts and how babies arrive in this world can happen as early as age 4, with age 7 or 8 being the very latest one should start to educate children.
Girls as young as 8 are getting their periods and growing breasts and kids as young as 8 or 9 are getting pubic hair. If they are, and they don't understand sex and sexuality, they'll be left confused and embarrassed. Everyone of us at some stage of childhood was sure we were the only ones in the world with or going through [insert whatever it was here]. It's not a good feeling. We can't let our kids have that feeling too.
Kids as young as 7 or 8 are talking amongst themselves in school about body parts and what they think they know about sex. It's important to get in before their friends do or our kids will think they can get pregnant by sitting next to each other or that HIV is something that everyone lives with and it's ok because a cure is coming any day now.
Like any big step in life - easing in gradually is key. We have orientation for school, new jobs and even gym memberships. We need that too, when learning about sex. Short, simple sentences that use proper terms without giving information that kids cannot comprehend (and we can judge that based on our own kids and their specific maturity and comfort levels) is important.
Leaving it too late will allow their friends, and the media, to inform them on a subject than should come from their parents. This is not a time to be embarrassed or shy. Kids are wonderfully curious and fantastically non-judgmental. Telling them early, when they have no pre-conceived notions or judgments, gives them the best opportunity to learn about sex and sexuality the right way, not how their friends or the media decide they should learn.
One other important note is to never discuss our own sexual behaviors with children. So now they know what mom and dad did to get them. That's fine. Any other questions go into the "that's between me and your Dad" file and should never be discussed.
Do you remember being educated about sex and sexuality? When did you (or do you) plan on talking to your kids about sex?
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