One of the questions I answer most often is when should we tell children about the birds and the bees, aka the truth about how babies are made. The short answer is, when they ask! And if they don’t ask, you tell them…before age 8!
Many children start asking questions about where they came from around ages 4-6 years old because developmentally this is when it starts to occur to them that they haven’t always existed and that people and things come from somewhere. This is the perfect time to answer with the facts.
We should not tell them that we bought them at a hospital or that the stork brought them or that they are too young to be asking these questions. Just as parents try to answer questions about the world, this should be no different – but, unfortunately, it often is. As parents, it makes us uncomfortable – we don’t know what to say, we are afraid of saying too much or what if they tell their friends, etc. However, please know that the discomfort and concern is generally about our own feelings, experiences and beliefs about sex. For children it’s simply something else they are trying to figure out – like why the sky is blue or how gravity keeps them grounded to earth.
Beginning in these early conversations, we teach our children how they should feel around this topic. If we are reluctant, evasive or give incomplete or untruthful answers to these important questions, the message they get is that there is something strange about this topic and maybe they can’t talk to their parents about it. If they are persistent, they will find answers, but maybe not from us.
If you want your child to talk to you about crushes and relationships when they are teens, then you have to establish that this is a topic of conversation that you can talk with them about. You must also be as honest as you can. They need to know that their parents are good and truthful sources of information; otherwise they will find other sources that will not have their health, safety or best interests in mind.
Children are capable of hearing these answers and need to hear this information well before puberty or the teen years and from a developmental perspective before age 8-ish. The beautiful part is that just as we teach math in stages, you also get to do this in stages. It will never be one conversation but an ongoing conversation that you get to adapt to your child’s development and circumstances. After age 8, it will likely get harder and more uncomfortable for everyone involved. So do yourself a favor and make this part of parenting easier. We could all use a little easier when it comes to parenting.
Here are some concrete ways that you can get started:
~ Read a book together at bedtime like Robie Harris’s books. She has a set of three books that are geared to different age groups: It’s Not The Stork (4-7 y.o), It’s So Amazing (7-10 y.o.) It’s Perfectly Normal (10+ y.o). These books have amazing illustrations and language that can help you start and guide your conversations.
~ If you are feeling really uncomfortable or your child is, you can have conversations where you don’t have to make eye contact – like when you are driving in the car (but don’t crash!) or sitting next to each other.
~ Practice having conversations with a partner or friend so you will feel more confident when talking with your child.
Special offer for Nashville Mom Blog readers: You can use the code NASHVILLEMOM to get a $10 discount on the exciting new online course 7 Essential Tools for Raising Sexually Healthy Children at www.talkandthrive.com launching on June 20th, 2017. You can contact Emi at www.talkandthrive.com or you can look for an educator or therapist near you at www.aasect.org.
Talk and Thrive Education, LLC was founded in 2012 by Emi Canahuati, MA an AASECT certified sexuality educator. She is an award winning educator and has been doing sexuality education for over 18 years. Emi is committed to helping parents and caregivers raise sexually healthy children who hopefully grow up to be sexually healthy adults. She helps to coordinate the Nashville Alliance for Sexual Health and Sex Positive Nashville. She is also a member of theAlignment Nashville Adolescent Sexual Health Responsibility Team. She lives in Nashville with her 9 y.o daughter and husband Pete and can’t make anything Pinterest- worthy.