Sex Ed

November 14, 2011

Fun fact: I didn’t know what the basic mechanics of sex were until I was a senior in high school. (That didn’t stop me from lots of making out. : ) My kids on the other hand, they know more facts and terms associated with sex than I did at 20 years old!

No doubt influenced by our own lack of knowledge as kids, we gave our oldest 3 the birds and bees discussion when they were fairly young — ages 8-9. And we’ve been pleased with how the conversations have happened. We plan to continue the pattern with our youngest 3.

I get asked pretty frequently by fellow parents how we’ve handled the sex talk with our kids (I’m sure you get asked too. It’s one of those recurring parenting topics.) In a future post, I’m happy to share how we approach the discussion and what has worked for us. But today I’d love to know:

What was your experience as a kid? Did your parents give you the talk? Mom, Dad or both? Do you remember how old you were when you figured it out?

P.S. — The belly shot is me pregnant with Baby June, taken by the talented Tracey Clark.

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{ 129 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes November 14, 2011 at 5:43 am

When I was 8 my father gave me a book and said: ‘read that and if you have any questions come and see me’ . I opened it at random, read about Herpes and hid it in a dark closet. I’ll try a different tactic with my kids….

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2 Sherri November 14, 2011 at 6:03 am

My mom was a nurse and, so, gave me a very facts-based talk when I was 9 or so. She also gave me a book, which I promptly shared with my friends. In fifth grade, when I was 10, my school had a very thorough class. With my oldest, who is now 15, her Catholic School only approached the subject with the animal kingdom and then encouraged parents to talk to kids. She knew the “mechanics” of it all – we just gave her the responsible, emotional side of “the talk” and took she and some friends to a local womens’ hospital who had a very thorough “class” on it all. Our dialogue with her now is pretty open since some kids her age are sexually active. I have younger kids (3, 5 , 7) and will handle it the same way with them, I suppose.

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3 Mother Knows Best November 14, 2011 at 6:13 am

Sex ed at school was perfect for me. The topic was covered several times between ages 9 and 16. I know that a lot of parents want to have more control over this aspect of their child’s education, and each child develops at a different pace, but the emotional distance from the educator, and the mature, factual approach to the subject that the school setting requires were important factors for me. I was far too shy to bring such an intimidating subject home! Teachers are trustworthy, but you don’t have to go and sit across the dinner table from them an hour later, mortified with your new knowledge of just exactly how you came to be :)

Mortifyingly, though, on my wedding day two years ago, my mother chose the car ride to the temple as the right time to describe, in torturous detail and just a few blocks from our destination, some minor sexual illnesses and complications that a pair of newlwed Mormon kids could possibly anticipate, and to describe the place in my suitcase where she had sneakily (lovingly??) hidden a bag of pharmacy supplies! My father was driving the car. I literally could have died right on the spot.

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4 'rachel November 14, 2011 at 8:51 am

HaHaHa! Funniest sex ed story I’ve ever heard!

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5 janelle November 14, 2011 at 10:15 am

thank you for the chuckle! That is hilarious!

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6 Tracy November 14, 2011 at 11:55 am

That’s funny! I can’t believe she waited until the drive to the temple too….cracks me up!

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7 mindy November 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm

ya thats when you think to yourself- im not sure better late than never applies! haha

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8 Shera November 15, 2011 at 3:15 pm

That is hilarious! I learned about sex by watch MTV!

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9 Jus November 14, 2011 at 6:14 am

This has been a subject I have thought about a lot lately. We have four little ones, although the oldest is 11 and not so little any more. I had a very different experience from you while growing up. My mother was VERY proactive about discussing sex to a degree that always made me very uncomfortable. On the other hand I did not want my children to be ignorant or to view sex as something to fear but rather wanted it to be something that they were comfortable with and that they saw as a healthy and beautiful part of their future marriages.
To that effect I took the approach that I always try to be very straightforward but have also been been mindful not to over discuss and therefore end up answering a bunch of questions that they do not have. In the end I have found (with two of the four at least) that has meant a basic understanding of how babies are made pretty early (egg, sperm, womb etc – they have all had siblings after all) and then an understanding of the mechanics around 9 or so. Usually that is a pretty technical discussion – and very open to making sure it is all clear without shoving it down their throat. Now, with my 11 year old daughter who is just entering puberty I have found that we are beginning to have more discussions about the side topics – about having feelings and about how beautiful a relationship between a man and a woman can be. Although these discussions rarely actually discuss “sex” I feel it is part of the larger discussion. We will see where it goes from here as none of our children have passed this stage ;)
I have also found, while discussing this with friends, that what all of us agree to be a HUGE component is modeling affection. This is something that all of those who I view as having good marriages can remember about their own parents (or NOT remember which causes them to make a point of it). I hope and pray that our babies will view sex as part of a whole and not as something separate from love and (I hope) marriage and I hope that as they get older they will have an ingrained understanding that that “whole” is something that their parents have and that is achievable.
Parenting gets so much harder after sweet smelling , nursing babies! ;)
Jus

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10 CeeBee November 14, 2011 at 12:48 pm

So many great points in this comment, like about modeling affection – thanks!

Incidentally, my mom also “overdiscussed.” I think she felt like it was a mom-daughter bonding thing once I asked – discussing girls’ periods, how sex works, etc., plus I was her first-born. But I have memories of feeling more awkward by her than the subject matter itself, so I will definitely have a lighter touch and a more detached vibe.

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11 Janelle November 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm

We have 5, and have discussed a lot with our now 13 yr old – the deep feelings and responsibilities included with a sexual relationship are a major part of our focus. With my second, now 8, the questions are being brought up, and I also am using that as my guide. I try to address what she asks, and no more.

I was raised by a mom who OVERSHARED – and had no limit on what I saw on TV or read in books – ie. “romance” novels are not for 12 yr olds. Because of that, I am very aware of the literature my teen reads as that can also introduce way too much of the “mechanics”.

It is all such a balancing act – not over sheltering, not over exposing.

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12 andrea jay November 14, 2011 at 6:25 am

I was entering kindergarten and my Dad, a physician, gave me a very scientific run down. I kind of wonder if he didn’t want me learning any mis-information at school or was worried about any inappropriate behavior towards me. I think I was a bit too young, but my parents were pretty open with me on this topic and I plan on mimicking that aspect of their teaching me the birds and the bees. We’re already had a few questions from our 6 year old and I’m careful to answer her questions directly, but only her particular question. For example, when she was three, she asked where baby horses come from, and I said, “their mom’s body”. She was satisfied.

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13 Emily Musso November 14, 2011 at 6:37 am

I have to say–thanks so much for addressing this and I’m excited to see what else you have to say. My oldest are 8 and 6 and I been asking many parents with children a bit older than mine how they have handled it. I’m thinking I’d like to discuss it before they get too much older. What we have discussed seems almost easier when they are younger since they don’t have any preconceived notions and it’s very factual without a lot of emotion attached. Anyhow, I figured with 6 children you’ve probably figured out a thing or two–thanks!

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14 Kara November 14, 2011 at 6:43 am

They tried to but I already knew everything! I guess that means they waited too long. I remember my friends and I sharing bits of information we had discovered. I guess collectively we figured it out!

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15 Lori H November 14, 2011 at 6:43 am

My father, a pediatrician, and my mother, a nurse, were still uncomfortable with the sex talk. (I am 49 so I think it was the era). They told me that they would be happy to answer any questions I had. That’s the extent of our talk. And I was not going to ask any questions so that was it. I took a different route with my kids, starting early and they got some through the public school health classes as well, but I made sure they heard it from me, first, with our religious values alongside.

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16 Giulia November 14, 2011 at 6:47 am

I got a book and my best friend had an older brother. I probably was misinformed a quite a while (older brother stories), but the book I actually read and found helpful. Talking to our kids I’m sure will be an improvement and will be what I attempt, but I think books can help as well.

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17 Becky Williams November 14, 2011 at 11:59 pm

My husband’s mom was quite frank on the subject and used all of the proper terms which was helpful, but what he couldn’t stand was the pop-up book she provided to further explain things. No pop-up books.

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18 Patricia November 14, 2011 at 7:08 am

there was a book about conception and reproductive health with great center fold illustrations and i was allowed to read it at age 9. the if i had questions after looking at it, and i did, my mother answered them.

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19 sarah November 14, 2011 at 7:39 am

so interesting. i had to get to college and have a senior nursing major room mate tell me about it…..no such discussion at home whatsoever. we plan for our little guy to know things gradually….that girls and guys are different etc. also plan to use a little booklet that a friend has that goes over age appropriate things at the right time.
i have many friends who are going through the same thing, so before their wedding, i give them a sex bag with another friend. everything they will need on their honeymoon, and we talk them through a few things they wouldn’t know!

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20 mindy November 14, 2011 at 5:22 pm

sarah- thats an AWESOME idea for your friends! my sisters best friend just got married & asked her about it rather than her mom!

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21 Kelsey November 14, 2011 at 7:50 am

My mom, being my mom, told me sometime around the time I was twelve that I could “learn it on the streets” like she did. Hahahha. I swear it was in good humor, by that age I had four younger siblings and zero questions on the subject. I was never given a talk, but at some point I absorbed the information and moved on with life. The important information was familiar: Sex makes babies. Noisy babies! :) The rest– fertilization and all that nonsense was probably from some sort of Biology class/TheInternet.

I didn’t date until I was eighteen, in college. It’s funny how I love children, but since I was surrounded growing up, the threat of having them early (my mom had me at 18) was enough to keep me away from Gentlemen Callers. I’m 22, now.

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22 Kate Pease November 14, 2011 at 7:55 am

I found out through MTV when I was little. Not the best way to find out! I am not going that route with my kids. My parents NEVER talked with me about it. Even when I was around 10 and courageously asked my mom to talk to me about it, she said no. I never even got any advice or words of counsel before I got married! I don’t really understand why my parents left one of the most important topics up to the media and friends to educate their daughters.

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23 Lee November 14, 2011 at 8:05 am

My mother (a nurse) handed me a medical book which created more questions than it answered. I never really learned much from my parents. I have very open conversations with my four kids – and have since they were very young, maybe as little as 2 or 3 – about all bodily functions :) Right now I’m dealing with the older kids in Grade 9 and 11 being taught at school that the worst thing about pre-marital sex is potential pregnancy – I’ve had to correct them that the worst scenario would be potential death. Never a dull moment!

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24 Sandy November 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm

This really steams my beans. I hate all this focus on pregnancy. While, of course, that can be an unintended consequence, there are much MUCH worse things that could happen. Why doesn’t MTV have a show called “16 and HIV-Positive” or “16 with Herpes”? Kids absolutely need to know this stuff, and there is no romanticizing STIs.

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25 Mother Knows Best November 15, 2011 at 8:03 am

‘Steams my beans’ is my new favourite saying! I totally agree. Give kids the impression that the purpose of abstinence is to avoid pregnancy will not deter anyone who knows where to access any one of the many contraception options. Not that I’m anti contraceptives, but if kids feel pregnancy is the major reason to not sleep around, they can easily solve the problem. Contraceptives don’t ward off emotional damage or most STIs!

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26 Betsy Cutler November 14, 2011 at 8:10 am

I will NEVER forget it. I was 9, my mother was pregnant with my step brother and I wanted to know how it happened. She was making chocolate mousse for a dinner party and now I have forevermore associated sperm with chocolate mousse. I love chocolate, but not chocolate mousse!

Ahhhh….

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27 Nelle November 14, 2011 at 10:25 am

This just made me laugh out loud in my office. Good thing I work by myself!

Also as a very young child, like probably three or four, I somehow came to associate drinking wine coolers and getting pregnant. Wine coolers were my mother’s favorite party drink back in the early to mid 80s, and that would have been when my youngest sister was conceived, so somehow the two facts linked together in my brain. Maybe she did have a wild night with wine coolers? ;)

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28 Erin November 14, 2011 at 8:19 am

This is so coincidental–I just turned on my streaming news as usual this morning, and at this very moment I’m listening to an MPR News show on the topic of the relationship between parents, kids, and the culture of teenage sex. A professor did a study between parents and teens in Holland and the same in the US–and the results are more STIs, teen pregnancies, etc. in the US. It’s very interesting. It’s getting lots and lots of callers, mostly parents, of course. The article (probably the show later) is here: http://live.mprnews.org/Event/Parents_teens_and_the_culture_of_sex.

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29 Mary November 14, 2011 at 8:20 am

I was about 8 or 9. I asked my mom, and she answered all my questions honestly and without hesitation. She pulled out one of her medical journals so she could better explain the mechanics and terms. We didn’t really talk about the emotional side of it until later. She essentially followed my lead, answering any questions I had when I was ready to ask them. I liked that. I have boys, though, so I wonder whether or not they’ll ask me or their dad or if we’ll need to take a different approach.

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30 barchbo November 14, 2011 at 8:20 am

I was in first grade and my mother showed me the ABC Afterschool Special, “My Mom’s Having a Baby” – it answered my questions (though I did wonder why someone would try to camoflage a zit with a bandaid.) She did a followup the following year when my sister asked and she hauled out her Gray’s Anatomy text which REALLY grossed me out. (She was an elementary school PE teacher so she was used to “the talk”.)

The best thing my parents did was sit my sister and I down and tell us about the relational part of sex, how it was designed for love and marriage, and to come to them if we had any questions and not to take the word of other kids in school.

One thing I will do that my parents didn’t is have a really clear talk with my kids (at age 3-5) about appropriate physical boundaries and who is allowed to see them and touch them in any way (thanks to my crisis center training. that’s now at the top of the list!)

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31 the emily November 14, 2011 at 8:25 am

There was no talk. Ever. I learned what I learned from elementary/middle school/high school health classes and friends. I think I would have been mortified so it’s okay with me, but the problem with that is that sex was never a dialogue available to me and my parents. When you’re getting married and a virgin, it might be nice to have somebody to ask questions of, you know? I want my kids to be able to talk to me about it. I have a seven-almost-eight-year-old boy and I will definitely talk to him about it in the next year. He’s already been asking so many questions, starting with the last time I was pregnant, that it’s inevitable anyway.

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32 Sara November 14, 2011 at 8:36 am

While my mother ironed, she told me about all the diseases I could catch… to this day, I can’t iron a shirt without thinking about herpes.

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33 mindy November 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm

thats pretty funny!! i would probably never iron again! maybe i should be grateful i never got “the talk” because now i dont associate any daily actvity with it! haha

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34 Kathleen November 14, 2011 at 8:41 am

This is a great topic!

My Mom always said “If you’re old enough to ask the question you’re old enough to receive an answer.” Problem was I always asked the questions at inappropriate times, re: “What’s an orgasm,” at dinner with my grandparents. To her credit, my Mom tried to unflinchingly answer the questions with age appropriate answers. My Dad also gave me the book “Changing Bodies, Changing Lives,” when I was 12 or 13. I don’t think it’s published anymore, but it was a fountain of information.

I think the key is age appropriateness here. I didn’t whip out a text book when my 10 ten year old son asked (after a lesson at school) what a vagina looked like. I went and got that illustration that they give you in a box of tampons.

And yes, it’s embarrassing and uncomfortable. You just have to get over it, even admit it to them. “Look, this might be awkward but I think it’s time I talked to you about birth control, or these are my feelings on sex before marriage, or… (you fill in the blank) ” It’s worth it. With our sons we started the above talks at 13.

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35 The BabbyMama November 14, 2011 at 8:42 am

The World Book Encyclopedia, which was in every classroom and the library had it pretty much all laid out in no uncertain terms. Eventually some of us got curious as to the specifics and had a look. Mind blown. At some point, my mom asked me if I was curious about anything and I was like naaahhhhhh. Thanks, I guess, World Book!

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36 mrules November 14, 2011 at 8:50 am

My bestie to this day and I found her parent’s copy of Joy of Sex and would routinely check that out in 4th grade – very interesting! I believe my mom just sort of knew I knew the mechanics – I hate that work for it but cannot think of another one – but explained everything about periods/childbirth when I was in 3rd grade. It was pretty non traumatic.

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37 Emily Camp November 14, 2011 at 9:06 am

Oh my! Well I’m 25 and my mom tried to give me “the talk” two years ago before I got married. I just said, “mom, I already know!” I don’t know when exactly I figured it out, but I don’t really remember my parents sitting down and talking to me about the topic. Pretty sure I learned from cable and the awkward videos they make you watch in 5th and 6th grade.

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38 Big Bertha November 14, 2011 at 9:15 am

As far as how my parents handled talking to me about sex…it was a very tense subject at our house. It was not an easy subject in their marriage either, as I understand it. My mom talked to me about getting a period a little when I was 13 or so, but most everything I learned I picked up from books at the library, bits of conversations I overheard at school, or at sex ed. classes in public school, most of which was about terminology and diseases and “don’t get pregnant” in middle school. It seemed very confusing to me at the time and embarrassing to learn about in a room full of your (sometimes crude and mocking) peers and an adult stranger.

When I was engaged to be married, my Mom gave me a really good book about “marital relations”, so I understood more about the mechanics and emotions of sex and sexual relationships within marriage, but it would have been so much more helpful if she had been more open to talking about it much earlier, like when I was a teen in high school, if she had been able to.

My husband and I have just taken the talks about sex, body changes with puberty and babies gradually and naturally as our kids have aged and asked questions. Pregnancy and child birth are not hidden topics at our house…some of the children have attended each other’s births and all have watched tasteful video of babies being born–it’s quite a normal part of human life. They ask questions when they occur to them and we answer them simply. That’s worked very well for us all.

Robie Harris’ books (like ‘It’s Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends’) have been very helpful for me when trying to decide on what to talk about , and how, to my kids–I like how innocent the approach is and family-centered–there are very age appropriate illustrations for younger ages and tasteful, too.

I learned as a parent early on not to offer too much information when asked a question by a younger child…give the simplest answer first, and then you’ll know when they are ready to understand more. I believe it’s important to talk about these things when the child is ready, asks questions and shows an interest. For instance, our son when he was about 4 told me all about how very excited he was for the day when he could have hairy armpits just like his Dad…LOL…that was a great conversation starter about puberty.

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39 jen smith November 14, 2011 at 9:19 am

i learned about sex when i was in 2nd grade. my best friend’s mom sent a book to school and our teacher was supposed to read it with her and explain things. weird, i know. she showed it to me at recess and we read through the whole thing snickering, all the way. my parents never had ‘the talk’ with me. i guess after that book they didn’t need to :O)

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40 terina November 14, 2011 at 9:26 am

my parents said nothing at all about it. ever. when i started my period, my mom said ‘the pads are under the sink’ and that was it. she also told me i couldn’t wear a tampon until after i was married. even as an adult, married, and currently pregnant, there is never any sort of talk about that. my parents did show affection, but it was mostly gross to us. well, at least to me. they let the school tell us about the details, which i thought was a poor choice. once i was married, i was very open with my friends who were about to get married. i even had an old missionary friend email me and ask me questions. she was currently attending BYU, and NO ONE would give her a straight answer about the details. they all would just say ‘how wonderful’ it was or something else equally lame. i had a few other friends ask as well, but that one sticks in my mind. my standard wedding gift back when we were younger was some lubrication of some kind, handed to the groom to keep in his jacket pocket. for some reason, sex seems to be a huge taboo discussion amongst members of the LDS church. if my parents would have talked about it with me…well, really they didn’t talk about much with me, it was more about trying to control what i was doing rather than having honest discussions about anything. i have a book for my daughter, when she is ready (she is only 6), and i would like to find a book for my son. he loves to read, and regularly shares with us many things about the books he reads, so i know he would ask and talk to us about what he read. (he is 8). i’m sure there will be more questions when i have this baby. i’ll be ready for them.

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41 Becca November 14, 2011 at 9:31 am

My parents never broached the subject, at all. This left me to figure things out for myself for the most part. I hope to have honest, open dialogue with my kids and answer their questions. I’m sure I will embarrass them completely, but isn’t that my job?

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42 Erin M. November 14, 2011 at 9:56 am

My mother has given “the talk” to my sister and I at least five different times since I started high school (I’m not a third year in college). She wants us to be sure we understand the factual and emotional parts of it and stresses the importance of our virginity. We have actually been watching a t.v. show where sex was mentioned and she used the commercial times for a discussion about sex. And by discussion, I mean my sister and I avoided looking at her or each other and listened to her talk. I do appreciate it though since I understand the facts and emotions involved and know that my mother is open for any kind of conversation, and I can come to her with any questions I may ever have.

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43 Alicia Blogs November 14, 2011 at 9:58 am

My mom talked about it early but I felt like I had my forest sexual experience really young, and hope that doesn’t happen to our kids! My brother was younger then me and I was open with him and really put the importance on waiting till you’re older which he luckily did!

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44 Tina November 14, 2011 at 10:00 am

As a child of a teen mom, I never got ANY info. I think she was too overwhelmed just being a mom and obviously, given the fact that she had me at 17? She probably did not know enough either.
I was just recently certified to teach sexuality education throught he Our Whole Lives curriculum that was created by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. I am so excited to start teaching it in January! It’s a great curriculum.
My son is 4 and we started with teaching the proper names of all the body parts. There’s no silly names in our house. My girlfriends think it’s hilarious but I think it’s very important.
Great post. Can’t wait to hear the variety of responses.
Best,
Tina

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45 Nelle November 14, 2011 at 10:52 am

Tina, I’m super interested in the UUA and UCC curriculum. I might as well tell my “sex ed story” story here.

I am Catholic and went to Catholic schools my whole life. While I think we received good basic sex ed in terms of reproductive biology, we were certainly taught abstinence. We knew what contraceptives were, but that we weren’t supposed to use them. Same message from my mother. What a confusing message, by the time you hit college, manage to remain a virgin, but then when you become sexual active, you still have years of “contraceptives are bad” messaging in you.

But the statistics don’t lie, 70% of high schoolers have had sex, 95% of people have sex before marriage. While I want my kids to have some morals around sex, and not become sexual active too young, I want to be realistic too.

Having had conversations with many of my Catholic friends, it seems our experiences were similar. Recently I had an idea that we need to teach realistic sex ed, at the same time we can frame it from a loving Christian standpoint. I watched Let’s Talk About Sex (a documentary available for streaming on Netflix) that also discussed how American’s taboo mentality around sex actually contributes to our high teen birth rate and STI infection rate. I remember them talking about a UU sex ed curriculum and it sounds pretty on target for what I actually want to teach my kids.

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46 Tina November 18, 2011 at 10:42 am

Hi!
I think you can look up the curriculum. It’s called Our Whole Lives and was co-created by the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association. The curriculum begins with age 4 and even includes and adult component…which I think is awesome….because I think it’s great to talk about our relationships with members of our same faith.
I hope you like the curriculum!
Best,
Tina

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47 Kathleen November 14, 2011 at 10:02 am

I was very lucky to have parents who were very open and honest about sex. We didn’t talk about it at length but each of them brought it up separately with me over the years. I especially appreciated my dad’s willingness to talk about the emotional side of sex. They basically taught me to be responsible and take it seriously (my mom emphasized how easy it was for her to get pregnant so I should definitely be prepared for that which ended up being true for me too) and that it can be a beautiful, wonderful part of a healthy relationship. To this day (my parents are 70), they still have a loving marriage and are open about how much they care for each other. With all that said, I think I first learned about sex in the second grade when one of my friends started telling me about it on the playground (I was 6). I don’t think it had occurred to my parents to talk about it with me yet at that age but my friend filled me in and I was quite shocked! :)

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48 Helena November 14, 2011 at 10:25 am

Ha, I remember my mother trying to teach me about my body (she’d even drawn a little picture of ovaries and a uterus) and me telling her that she must be wrong because it all sounded crazy. Menstruation did not make sense to me until it NEEDED to.

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49 sara November 14, 2011 at 10:44 am

I remember my mom sitting me down for “the talk” when I was 9 or 10 but I really had no idea what she was talking about. I think I learned most the basics in Jr. high sex ed classes. Then, before I got married (at 22, & LDS) I read a book; don’t remember the name of it but my future sis-in-law had recommended it; it was written by a Christian couple and it was very helpful.

Our oldest is 11 and my husband gave him “the talk” when he was 10. None of my kids (11, 9, 7, 7) have been particularly inquisitive with this, so we have had to be the ones to broach the subject… but I would rather have them hear it from us than inaccurate information at school, etc.

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50 sara November 14, 2011 at 10:46 am

Oh and also, we have a dog (female) who has had a couple of heat cycles; explaining to the kids why our dog is bleeding has really helped open the doors for conversations about reproduction — it’s great to be able to introduce the subject with “nature” & animals first :)

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51 Connie November 14, 2011 at 10:49 am

My mom gave me The Talk. She did the best she could, especially since I was mortified about the whole concept and not the least bit curious. (I think she wanted to make sure she said what SHE wanted to say before we reached that unit in 5th grade Health class!).

She informed me about all the changes I was going to have (and how, albeit sort of gross, they were nothing to be scared of!), and then we watched the beginning of ‘Look Who’s Talking.’ and Then she took me out for ice cream, because I think we both earned/needed it :)

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52 Marie November 14, 2011 at 10:52 am

My mom talked to me when I was 8 and gave me a book to read. She also talked to my older brother. He showed the book to all our younger brothers, so we had a family home evening with the whole family to talk about marriage and the special relationship of a husband and wife.

Looking back, my mom was really good about trying to bring the subject up and trying to make to make it comfortable, but being the only daughter, I was super shy talking about it.

The Penn State abuse feels like such a tragedy to me. If only the parents had been more aware. Here is a link to some helpful info on how to help kids avoid abuse. The next couple posts on the same site have good videos for parents to watch with their kids:

http://www.patrioticmoms.com/1/post/2011/11/preventing-child-abuse.html

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53 Melissa L. November 14, 2011 at 11:12 am

I learned about the birds and the bees in the sixth grade. There was a special sex education unit that was taught to us that year (boys and girls were separated).

For our 6 children (ranging from 19 years down to 3 years), we have found that 10 – 12 years old is that “magic” age range, when they really want to know what is what. We try to “do book” with each on our our kids during the teen / pre-teen years. What this looks like is taking a night or two out of the week (sometimes every other week) and reading through a book with them that addresses hygiene, puberty, sex, self esteem, dating, goal setting, organizing, leadership, etc. Some of our favorite books on the subject of puberty / sex have been: The Care and Keeping of You (American Girl), and Preparing for Adolescence (Dobson), Preparing Your Daughter / Son for Every Women’s / Man’s Battle.

We really enjoy these special times with our older kids. It is nice to have a book to assist in explaining some of the more difficult to talk about subjects. The book always seems to provide a launching ground for more deep conversations.

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54 Julie November 14, 2011 at 11:52 am

I love how you are so frank! Honestly, I would expect a religious person to be a lot more uptight and tight-lipped – and I love that you are not!

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55 Jaime November 14, 2011 at 11:59 am

I remember my mom sitting me down for a “talk,” (maybe around 8 or 9?) but I don’t remember any of the details, just that I couldn’t wait for it to be over. When I was about the same age we had a class at school about periods and tampons, and I remember being terrified and grossed out by all that. I didn’t even get my period until almost 14 so I just lived in fear for the next six years. I don’t think my parents ever broached the subject of sex though – puberty and how bodies change, sure, but definitely not The Deed, except maybe to ask if we had any questions, to which I’m sure we said NO. I remember first learning about the mechanics of it in biology class at age 17, like you, which seems SO late to me as an adult! I will definitely be more forthcoming with my own kids!

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56 Barbara November 14, 2011 at 12:03 pm

So, I think kids start hearing rumblings about sex much earlier than some people might think. I didn’t have any older siblings and didn’t watch any adult-geared TV as a kid, but I still starting hearing about sex on the playground in first grade, from kids with older siblings. I was a good reader by that point, and I lived in a house where our parents always said, “let’s look it up in the encyclopedia!” if we had questions about history/another country/etc. So I just went home, read the encyclopedia entry on sex (which covered lots of other stuff about chromosomes and puberty before I got to the section on sexual intercourse). I read it a few times to make sure I really got it, and said nothing to my parents. (Too embarrassing to discuss, and I preferred to think they were exempt, despite my presence.) When I was 13 (NOTE: WAY TOO LATE!), my mom asked if I had any questions about sex. I rolled my eyes and said, “I read all about it in the encyclopedia when I was six.” Not a great learning process, but I suppose my source was better (in that it was very factual and scientific) than many others would have been!

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57 stacey November 14, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I would LOVE to hear how you’ve approached the situation in discussing the topic of sex with your kids…please do post it!

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58 J.d. November 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I remember two things vividly- First, in third grade, laughing hysterically whenever someone would say “Go do IT” etc, with this common knowledge that IT was something forbidden to talk about but funny nonetheless.

Second, My mom had a “surprise” baby when I was 8- I remember opening a letter from my Aunt Sally around the time she got pregnant, and finding a condom, and trying to figure out why my parents thought it was so hilarious (They’d been trying since me to have another, and my Aunt had 6 in the same amount of time. So it was funny). Anyways, my mom gave me the talk around that time because it was on our minds. Not to mention the frequent viewing of animal shows and the wild cats in the neighborhood showing us exactly how the animal kingdom reproduces.

But I wish I could have gotten more talk about what all the slang words I heard in school were referring to. And when I was in high school and middle school, what the signs were that I or the guy was aroused. I said “What’s in your pocket?” with a boy, totally clueless that could happen when we’d kiss.

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59 Andrew B. November 14, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I think a neutral discussion of various aspects is incredibly important. Yes, there’s the biology. But there are also social aspects. There are larger societal aspects and religious aspects. And of course there are personal aspects. Sex can be good, bad, beautiful, awful, biological, connected, disconnected, exciting, boring, negative, positive, sinful, the essence of being human, you name it.

It’s not our proper role as parents to overly steer our children in one direction or another. There is no right or wrong, and to imply that there is, is doing a disservice to our kids.

Allowing a person to understand all these aspects is vital.

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60 DeeAnna November 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Like the commenter Terina, my mom told me that only women who had babies could use tampons? So I promptly had my friend walk me through it at cheer camp in 8th grade. The girls across the street gave me the sex details when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. Here is what I “heard” your dad peed on your moms stomach and made a baby. When I asked my mom about it she drove me to the pediatrician’s office!! He handed me a book about chickens, eggs, and something about pollinating of flowers?? Wha? I was more confused than EVER!! I decided to be very open with my own two boys. We have always used proper names for body parts. I have answered some very crazy questions with a straight face. Now that they are teenagers the dialog is an ongoing process. Books can be helpful, but I think and honest, straightforward approach is best.

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61 lauren angert November 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm

When I was about six years old and learning to read, I went with my mom to the doctor’s office. I felt like such a cool, big kid, waiting for her in the waiting room, reading the magazines. One of the magazine articles (it was a parenting magazine :) was about how to explain the birds and the bees to your children. Since the article spelled out the mechanics of sex in such clear, simple terms, I understood exactly. When my mom came back to the waiting room, I was hysterical. I held up the magazine and, with tears streaming down my face, demanded, “Is this true?” I guess it was a big shock for my sheltered six-year-old mind. My mom was mortified… I am sure she and my dad planned to discuss sex with me when I was a little older :) Now it’s become a huge joke in my family, and I was not permanently damaged by the experience, though I refused to leave my Barbie and Ken dolls alone together after that.

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62 Inna November 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Too funny!!

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63 Kelly November 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Two words: Judy Blume. I read “Forever” in 5th grade, had NO idea what it was about, it was just the next on the list of my then-favorite author. I never had “the talk” with my mother or dad…but I read a whole lot!

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64 Dee November 14, 2011 at 2:41 pm

My mom gave me a book when I was a pre-teen. I figured things out about the same time. She always said we could come to her to talk about “it”, but my brother and I both knew that wasn’t true! My husband and I have had conversations through the years with our kids about sex. We have some related books for them to read, that we’ve also read together (It’s Not the Stork, It’s So Amazing). We went such discussions to flow naturally and hopefully, not be too awkward, and I hope that’s how it has been so far! My 11 y/o and I recently had a more in depth discussion b/c I wanted to tell him about some things he might hear that weren’t true and talk more about sexual pressure, slang, etc. That one was a bit awkward, but we got through it. I hope my kids know I mean it when I say they can come to me (or Daddy, or grandparents) with their feelings, thoughts, questions about sex.

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65 Andrea @ Strawberry-Chic November 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I think I got the sex ed talk when I was about 9. I remember it was right after a “Full House” episode. My mom walked in the room right when someone was talking about “sleeping with someone” and immediately told me to turn the tv off. I was baffled by her response and stated “but why, they are just going to bed.” then I got the talk…i remember being horrified and I told my mom I would rather eat slugs then ever have sex!

Excited to hear your tips on how to explain things to your kids :)

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66 Martha November 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I found out bit by bit. Them most formal discussion was with my older sister sitting on the kitchen floor eating chicken nuggets at midnight. We were a big family and my parents we’re good about letting us know things without sitting us down and embarrasing us. There is a time and a place.

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67 Lizzi November 14, 2011 at 3:40 pm

I’m a little ashamed about this, but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t thinking about sex as a kid, and I think it really freaked my parents out. I was smooching in tunnels on the pre-school playground, making fake bras and panties out of toilet paper, skipping to “sex” in any kind of dictionary, working my way around parental controls on our computer, and always getting a very serious reprimand (note: not discussion) after each incidence.

I never had any open communication with my parents about sex that I can remember (although I’m not ruling out that it could have happened and I intentionally supressed it. I have 5 other siblings and I know a few of them got “the talk” from my Dad). I learned really early that my sexual feelings were something that I could not discuss with anyone in my family, raging though they were, and as friendly and fun as our family is. We just couldn’t get around it in a way that felt satisfactory, so from my perspective, we just ignored it or made fun of it. But it was ok, because I was more than willing to figure it all out, ALL of it, on my own. :)

Somehow I managed to remain abstinent until I was married, and now that I’m older, I’m glad that’s how it happened for me. But I’m stressing out about how to teach my kids about sex. I feel like it’s a fine line, and I’m not sure how to walk it. I’m glad to read everyone’s stories and suggestions!

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68 Amy Jo November 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Any sort of official sex ed was in school. I recall some creepy, hand-drawn overhead transparencies in middle school health . . . My parents? Not so much. My mom’s advice boiled down to: “Keep you underwear on at all times and you will be fine.” Right . . .

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69 michelle a November 14, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I got the ‘talk’ when I was 6, only because my older sisters were also getting the talk so my mother included me. I only comprehended what I could, a lot didn’t make sense to me. I remember thinking “why would anyone want to do that?!” Haha.

I did like that if I had any questions about anything, my mother would answer it and never made me feel stupid or inappropriate.

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70 Jennifer November 14, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I was raised Unitarian and at that time they offered a course in Sunday school for 7th and 8th graders that was called About Your Sexuality. You can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/About_Your_Sexuality

The teacher was my friend’s father and the assistant teacher was another woman in the church. Both of them were very open and comfortable with themselves. Some of my closest friends were in the course and we had a lot of fun. It was lightyears better than any sex-ed class that I had in school. I do not remember my parents telling me anything really; I guess they assumed that AYS covered all of the bases. And really, it did.

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71 The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful November 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm

There was nothing but sexual information subterfuge in my early life. At age 6 while watching Summer of ’49 with my mother one night I was prompted to ask my mother what a condom was. For years after I believed it was a water balloon you throw off roofs onto your friends heads.

At 7 while reading my mom’s Cosmopolitan I became curious about the Female Orgasm. I determined never to have a “small seizure” myself. And I didn’t until the rather sad age of 30.

It’s always the mothers…

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72 mindy November 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm

my parents never talked to us about sex. & i wasnt allowed to go to the sex talk in junior high or highschool!! thanksfully i met a wonderful man who knew a whole lot more than me :) i’m grateful opposites attract! & i’m glad i have 3 older sisters who talked fairly openly about girl stuff & a lil about intimacy. my husband is the youngest of 7 & they were pretty open about everything! i dont plan on shunning my children from what they should know! & i’m sure my hubs will help me with that!

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73 Tanya November 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm

At about age 8 my mom pulled out the encyclopedia with pics of the human anatomy and went over the basics. It was all great and good, except for the fact that my dad was eating dinner with his back to us the whole time, purposefully avoiding the conversation. I felt like (and still to this day) feel like I can’t talk to my dad about anything personal or serious. I’d like for my husband to be involved in the conversation when the time comes with my kids.

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74 brooke November 14, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Oh man. My mom sat me down and explained it all to me along with drawn pictures when I was five. I specifically remember her drawing of the uterus and ovaries. And my sister who what 6 years older snickering in the background. I remember thinking “how in the world does a penis fit into a vagina?” When I started my period (11-12 years old?) I realized I didn’t quite understand my own anatomy and that my urethra and vagina were different things! So while I knew the facts pretty young, I wasn’t compltely clear until years later. I was happy that my mom gave me the facts when she did and as I gew up she talked more and more about the emotional side of it all. And of course that she didn’t want me to have sex until I was married!
Now I have a four year old boy and am 6 months pregnant. I have tried to answer all his questions honestly about the baby and how it got there. Though most of his questions are simple and he doesn’t seem too interested in how the baby got in there and how it’s going to get out! He has been asking me lately how girls go potty – so I have had to explain a bit of the female anatomy to him. I even bought a book called “What’s the Big Secret” about boys and girls bodies and pregnancy cause I thought he would have more questions, but so far he has been satisfied with simple answers.

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75 brittney November 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm

I asked my mom when I was in the first grade. really short conversation that left me very concerned. I am one hundred percent interested in hearing about how to do it better – it’s definitely a concern of mine.

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76 Andrea November 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm

My mom is nurse is was always comfortable conversations about the body.. I don’t remember much only the book she read to me was, Where do” babies come from?” I have heard that you do not remember of how they told you have did a good job…. not sure if that is true??? I first child is 8 1/2yrs a son. I would love any feedback would be great! I was trying to read it as since is he a boy then really he is emotional 7yrs old… I am thinking this summer is going to be the time….. and do you do with mom and dad?? or just dad? Thanks!

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77 Matt November 14, 2011 at 5:39 pm

im 10 and allready know how 2 have sex and someone who got mallested

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78 Esther November 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm

I was 11 YO. I remember because my mom chose the hyper-hormonal, milestone moment of the day I got my little gift from Mother Nature. Talk about terrible timing, in my opinion. The conversation was awkward and unnatural. She used official terms, like Fallopian tubes and egg. It was horrible. I cried and I asked her to stop. She did. We never talked about it again.

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79 Ashley C November 14, 2011 at 5:53 pm

I never got “the talk” from my parents. Just that it was something I shouldn’t do til I was married. I thought sex was a swear word until sixth grade. I learned everything from junior high health class. My parents never even gave me the Santa Claus talk. Ha ha. I’m going to be more upfront with my kids for sure.

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80 Ashley C November 14, 2011 at 6:11 pm

One funny story I remember is when I was little I was asking what a virgin was because of the Virgin Mary. I don’t remember what my parents told me but they obviously weren’t clear because after I said “So I’m not a virgin” and my dad said “You better be!” My brothers were laughing really hard and my question never got answered.

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81 Mariah November 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm

We just had this conversation at home with our 8 year old, prompted by something she heard from a friend at school. I did not have this talk with my mom until I was in 7th grade. I look forward to hearing how you present this topic to your children. This is a really important subject and a worthwhile discussion for parents to have with one another. Thank you for raising this…

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82 Jenny Rebecca November 14, 2011 at 6:12 pm

We had these two books by Peter Mayle. The same Peter Mayle who wrote the Year in Provence books!
http://www.amazon.com/Whats-Happening-Me-Guide-Puberty/dp/0818403128/ref=pd_sim_b_1
http://www.amazon.com/Where-Did-Come-Peter-Mayle/dp/0818402539/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b
I’m sure we had good talks with my Mom, but I’ve never forgotten those books.

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83 Melissa November 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

My parents handed me a book and told me to read it and come to them with any questions. I can’t remember how old I was, except that I was embarrassed reading the book (it had cartoon pictures of a naked man and woman), and too embarrassed to go back to them with questions. And that was the end of that!

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84 honey November 14, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Off topic but my 4 yr. old grand daughter recently ask her mom how babies got out of their moms tummy. My daughter explained in simple terms and my grand daughter replied “I’m getting my babies at the orphanage!”

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85 Patricia November 14, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Can you please give more information (detailed) on what you told your children. We are wayyyyy too late, and need to do this asap.

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86 Angela November 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I have not yet read all the previous comments – but as soon as my own little procreations (is that a word?) are in bed, I am going to. We are just about to “go for it” on this subject, with our oldest (4th grade). :>

I am a Protestant from a small midwestern town. I am also the oldest of all girls. My mom took me to the city park (I remember the exact swing we sat on) the summer before 4th grade, and talked to me. It was 300% perfect and if I can just channel her with my own girls, I will be very happy. :> I don’t remember exactly all she said – I know I was mostly repulsed by the idea of a period – but she gave enough information, but not too much. There were no scare tactics or anything like that – she made it sound wonderful and loving and planned from above and absolutely SOMETHING I WAS NOT TO DO UNTIL I WAS MARRIED. :>

My poor husband, on the other hand, was told by a “bad boy” in second grade that the boy peed inside the girl, and that is where babies came from. No kidding. Of course his dad cleared it up for him, but still. I hope I (or my husband in our son’s case) get to them before someone else does!

We plan to each singly address our children of the same gender.

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87 jessicamaylords November 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Apparently I asked my folks a question right after my 9th birthday that made them think I was curious about sex. So they told me how babies were made, using normal words (penis, vagina) and not kiddie words. At the end, they asked “do you have any questions?” I didn’t, except why on earth did they tell me that? Hahaha I hadn’t been curious, but it was good to know, and they told me in such a way that I didn’t feel embarrassed or awkward.

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88 Jenny Meyerson November 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm

My mother still refers to our anatomical parts as Muffins and Wingy Wangy(s). Still. I was the oldest of 2 girls. I learned from a video at school and talking with friends and books as I grew older.
I have 4 kids now- 13,9,8, and 2 and I’m a nurse. So thank goodness I have evolved. I try not to give them too much information. Also, I talked to all 3 about a small aspect once together and it turned into a giggle session- so I would advise against that.
Keep it factual, simple, and that it is a gift of affection between a husband and wife. When they ask about unmarried adults or friends they know who are active, I just politely say that is not what I desire for myself or them, but that I trust they will respect themselves and be responsible.
My husband has also talked to our son about respecting a girl’s gift/purity. He is only 9, but has already planted the seed.

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89 Renae November 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm

I give the sex talk each year, I am a teacher. It makes me really happy that parents are going to talk to their kids about this at an early age. I have a lot of high school students who do not hear about any of this in their own home and the only adult that talks to them about this is me. I truly believe that we would have a whole lot less babies having babies if more parents took a few moments to pass on their beliefs and expectations about this aspect of life. I have learned from my students that they actually do want to talk to their parents about this.

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90 Katie November 14, 2011 at 7:14 pm

So interesting to read all these comments – my first is still a baby but I supposed we’ll be thinking about how to approach these topics in no time!
My parents never really talked to me about sex. When I was in middle school (maybe 5th grade or so) my mom took me to the pediatrician and didn’t go in with me – it was the first time she’d ever stayed in the waiting room and I remember being confused and a little scared. When the doctor came in he just asked me all sorts of mortifying (to me at the time) questions about if I knew what sex was and understood pregnancy, etc, etc. I was so uncomfortable and weirded out!!
I’m now in my mid-30′s and feel anxious anytime I see a doctor, I’m quite certain it’s related to that experience still haunting me.
Ugh – obviously I’ll use a different tactic!

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91 Lee November 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm

I’m a fan of talking with them honestly at a young age and when they’re still young enough that they’ll probe with questions. Books help too. In my mind there’s no one talk but many, many informal conversation.

If you google Mary Flo Ridley, she has some great information, books and videos that might be helpful to someone looking for where to start talking about such things.

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92 Olivia November 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm

I learned around the birds and the bees when i was ten. My doctor decided it was time to give me an extensive talk since i hadn’t let my mom do it before then. After that he just updated me each year, where as my mom told my brother and sister.

My aunt has a system where her daughter can ask her questions. Based on the level of seriousness, my aunt will either answer them, or have her write it down in her notebook and address it when she feels her daughter is old enough.

As of now, i’m only 16, but when i have kids i’d rather be open with them about it. I don’t want them to be freaked out, or forced to hear it from their doctor in such technical terms. I agree with some other answers, i will address their questions when they ask, but only go far enough to satisfy them. No matter what, my kids won’t go into middle school wondering what things mean. I know for a fact things are worse that way.

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93 Heather November 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm

My mom read me a body book when I was young…not just about sex, but all parts of the body. So I learned about privates when I learned about knees and ankles and toes. So, I don’t really remember not knowing how babies were made. That doesn’t mean that I knew all the in’s and out’s of what sex is and the meaning behind it; that came later.

I do appreciate how my mom approached the subject when I was young. It’s a part of life and it’s important. It wasn’t until later that we had the talk about the emotional side of sex and what it mean to me as a person and a woman. She would take cues from shows I had watched or books or questions I had. I agree that because sex is a part of life, it must be talked about in regards to a lot of different aspects of our lives. We didn’t talk about sex all the time; nor did we talk about it none of the time. In fact, when I was much older, she made it clear how important it was that I and my partner knew what we were doing because “it makes all the difference in the world.” Now that I’m 28 years old and pregnant with twins, we talk about sex in completely different ways. Not in gross ways, and not too graphic, but it’s nice to have someone older, with more experience that I can talk to about that stuff.

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94 whitneyingram November 14, 2011 at 8:13 pm

For starters, we call a spade a spade. It’s a penis and a vagina and they learn that from the beginning. I think that as soon as I start making up names for their body parts and showing them that I am uncomfortable with the bodies I made for them, they are guided to feel the same way. As questions have been asked, I have been very straight forward. My 5 year old asks, “Where does a baby come out of a mom?” “Out of her vagina.” He wasn’t weirded out at all. I think we are the ones that make it awkward. If we can just be straight up and put our own uncomfortableness aside, I think we are doing them a much bigger favor than sheltering them. On that note, I had a friend who really told her kids that baby hatch out of eggs. WHAT?????

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95 Erin {i can craft that} November 14, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I agree with you. and EGG???????? try explaining that one out.

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96 Erin {i can craft that} November 14, 2011 at 8:42 pm

My mother was fairly open but age appropriate. when i will very little and asked about where babies came from she said they came from mommys and daddys who love each other very much, then as I got older she described more how mommy and daddy would make the baby in mommys tummy etc. I dont remember ever having a big talk with my parents as it was an open ongoing discussion. around the age of 11 my mom did sit me down for a talk about menstruation and what that was how it was for making babies when i got older and what I should expect. When I got my first boyfriend she told me not to feel pressured and that she would feel wrong if I had sex before she had (age 17) and that I should wait for the right person and not feel pressured etc. I once said I was going to wait till marriage and she said she thought that was a bad idea, but it was up to me.
I have never felt any embarrassment about sex or talking about it with my mother because she has always been so open. My mother knew when I went on the pill and when I first had sex. She would ask how things were going to make sure that I was happy and not pressured etc. She still knows about my sex life even though I am married and have a child of my own, and I know about hers as well.
I just hope that my daughter can be so open and comfortable with me.

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97 Kimberly November 14, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I’m #4 of 9 children, and my twin brother (#3) and I had the opportunity to watch our mom give birth to one of our younger brothers. We were 10 when he was born and the morning of his birth, before we left for the hospital, my parents sat us both down and told us what we’d be witnessing. Then they told us about the birds and the bees, and the importance of abstinence from an eternal perspective. I don’t remember it in too much detail (the sex talk) but I remember feeling like it all made sense and I was grateful for the knowledge. That experience was one I am SO grateful for, and I felt like it was the perfect age. I, however, will probably be teaching my kids earlier. The world has changed a lot, and I’d rather they learn from me and their dad vs their peers at school!

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98 spelhouseLove November 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Hi Design Mom,

I like your photos and your logo. Keep writing!

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99 Hannah November 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Hi Gabby,

I was just wondering how, as a Mormon, you discuss sex with your children. I’m not Mormon but I am taking a class on it (yes, a class called “Mormonism”!). Its so interesting…I’ve been reading design blogs for a couple years now, so undoubtedly I have come across my fair share of bloggers who are Mormon! The class has really given me a new perspective on the lives of the women I read about online- but to be completely honest, the blogs I read bring just as much perspective into the classroom!

Oh, how I’ve gotten off topic. My original question was, since Mormons believe in abstaining from sex until marriage, how does that influence the way you talk to your kids about sex? If your children aren’t going to be sexually active until they get married, why have you and your husband already chosen to talk about sex with your kids?

As a disclaimer: I have absolutely no judgement on any of these answers. I understand that these questions might be too personal- if that is the case, I completely understand if you do not wish to answer. I am not a mother, nor a Mormon, just a curious 20-year-old college undergrad.

If any other women- Mormon or not- have anything to add I would love your opinion!

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100 Sarah November 14, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Hannah, I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me as an LDS woman, I would choose to have this talk with my kids as early as I think they would understand it–mostly because of the things I know I was exposed to at a surprisingly young age, and with the prevalence of sex in movies, TV, and the internet, I want to have the talk with my kids before they are coming across it in the media, or being exposed to it through their friends (or their friends’ older siblings, which is part of how I got my earliest exposure to “sex ed”).

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101 Kay November 15, 2011 at 6:20 am

I do think personal views influence “how” we talk about sex with our kids. My son’s school let us opt out of having him attend a three part discussion on sex, all the different kinds of sex and sex partners. I found the amount of detail they planned to include was too much information, too soon for a third grader. But I agree with Sarah and did feel it was time for him to start to understand the basics. I don’t want my children learning everything from school, TV & movies. While I hope my children will choose to wait until marriage, they still need to start learning it is wonderful in the right time and place. They can only get that kind of information from me. Avoiding the discussion altogether doesn’t seem to improve their chances they will choose abstinence.

As a kid I watched NOVA’s “Miracle of Life” in school. When my son’s school offered their course, I rented it from Netflix and watched it with him. He had a lot of good questions and a lot of detailed questions. Most shocking was “When is the last time you and Dad had sex?”. I tried the “some things are personal and we don’t share” response, but he didn’t give up. I eventually answered “yes” to the question, “Have you had sex in the last month”!

Later I showed the same video to my daughter and she did not want to discuss it at all. I respected that. I am hopeful we can eventually talk comfortably. It has been good for me to read the entries from the women who had mom’s who were too open and made them uncomfortable. I need to continue to be careful with my daughter. Thank you!

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102 val November 15, 2011 at 11:11 am

Hannah, this is a great question! I’m an LDS mom of 6 kids ages 15-2, and I truly hope that each my children wait until they’re married to have sex. But, I believe that in order to do that, my children need to first understand that we are all sexual beings, and that while it’s definitely “normal” to want to have sex, we can CHOOSE to wait to experience those things in a marriage partnership that is supportive and healthy. My oldest daughter is just about to start dating, and I’ve been talking to her for years about the many reasons she might want to abstain from sex (from stds to pregnancy, etc). Now that she’s beginning to experience new feelings about it all — not so grossed out by it anymore :) our discussions have shifted as I answer her questions about the emotional side of it. I’ve had widely varying discussions with each of my children as they have questions because I want them to know that I believe sex is a wonderful and amazing part of a healthy marriage relationship — and in a way that also helps them understand part of the reason we’re thrilled to have such a large family.

My reasons for teaching my children this way is because I was very sheltered by my own mother whose method of teaching this idea was to convince me that sex was “bad” and the ultimate reason I should stay away from it. As a teenager, I didn’t understand the slang that was used at school by both boys and girls, and I was embarrassed by the fact that I was very naive about sex. Then, the night before I got married my mom sat me down to actually talk about my upcoming wedding night. I was totally mortified by her explanation and I further found it extremely difficult to shift my own thinking from “sex is bad” to “sex is great!” overnight. I NEVER want my children to experience that in their own relationships, so that is the reason I’ve tried to help them understand that sex is a normal, amazing part of a healthy relationship between people who are married :)

As for your question about why I would teach these things if they’re not going to have sex before marriage, it’s because I really believe that we have to make informed decisions, and if I give my children no information, then they are left wondering what a good decision is. In this way, I hope to give them the information they need and want, and to instill in them a desire to wait until they’re ready for marriage.

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103 Hannah November 15, 2011 at 11:26 am

Thank you so much to everyone who replied, for taking the time to answer my questions, and answering them so well articulated and detailed! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!

I don’t have kids, so I approach this subject (undoubtedly) with a different perspective than any mother, LDS or non-LDS. That being said, I am at an age where most of the people my age are having sex, and I think it is great- no, fantastic- that all of you are discussing, or even attempting to discuss, this subject with your children, even if they don’t plan on becoming sexually active until they are married.

As a kid, I don’t have a specific recollection of my parents giving me “the talk” but I do know that they talked about it with me several times. In all honesty, it was always awkward and I hated it. However, what I DID get out of it was the facts, good and bad, and therefore I think it was worth it.

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104 Lexie Stokes November 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm

The women who have already responded to your question have said so much of what I would say, too. My son is just one year old but I have already discussed with my husband how we will approach this topic when the time comes.

This summer I had an assignment to give a lesson at church on the law of chastity. I had present in front of 20-30 women from age 18 to age 70+ about our beliefs regarding sex. I have to say I was a little intimidated about what to say. I really appreciated the direction the manual gave on how to approach children about sex. The advice to parents is going to be my guide as I talk to my kids.

You can check out what the manual says here:
http://lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-39-the-law-of-chastity?lang=eng

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105 Hannah November 15, 2011 at 7:24 pm

This is the book that was always around, and it taught me a lot. It is pretty informative without being too complicated. I think I started reading it around age seven, and I already knew some stuff about sex by then. Anyone else read this book? It was originally published in 1968, so its been around for a while.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Babies-Made-Steven-Schepp/dp/0316042277

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106 Ellen W November 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm

My parents gave me basic information along with the expectation that no guy would see us naked until we were married. As someone with public health background, I plan to be much more open with my two boys. We always use anatomically correct terms (our boys are almost 6 and 2 1/2). When our older son was about 3 years old we started talking about our “private areas” that other people are not allowed to touch and even when we bathe the boys, we ask for permission to wash their private parts.

My older son has asked a few questions like why I don’t have a penis and was disappointed to learn he will not be able to breastfeed his children someday. I’m curious to see what questions they will ask in the future.

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107 Sandy November 14, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Oh my gosh. Frankly, I learned everything from my best (gay, though I didn’t know it at the time) friend down the street. Then, when “Family Life” (the Catholic program where they wedge sex education in between chapters on obeying your parents and being nice to your siblings) came up in 5th grade, they made us take worksheets home to do with our parents. I thought I would DIE of embarrassment.

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108 Nikki November 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I don’t remember the exact age but I do remember I was young…like maybe 8 or so and my best friend and I would read that classic book her parents gave her “Where Did I Come From?”. My mother tried to explain menstruation to me once but I remember tuning her out, I was so embarrassed. Sex ed was part of our regular phys ed classes by the time I was in grade 5, complete with graphic movies (my best friend had to leave the class to throw up after watching a birthing video! ha). We just assumed that all kids our age learned when we did and it never seemed like a big deal til we were much much older.

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109 Colleen November 14, 2011 at 11:12 pm

My parents didn’t say a word about it until I was 17 and my dad(!) sat me down. I stopped him pretty quickly and said, “Uh, Dad, I’m 17. I know.” He was flustered and embarrassed and said, “Okay, uh, do you have any questions?” Just to antagonize him, I answered, “Yeah, what’s an orgasm?” My engineer father went beet red and mumbled something about “maximal level of human pleasure” and that was that.

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110 Becky Williams November 14, 2011 at 11:50 pm

There was some show on TV in the 80′s we were watching where the subject was brought to mind. My mom, not a let’s-talk-about-deep-stuff kind of person, said, “Gary (my dad), you tell them!” My dad then took me and my younger sister to the other room and explained things. At the end of the discussion, my sister and I said in unison, “gross!!!” and fled the room in disgust and a new opinion of our parents. Ugh. At age 6, I liked the story of the watermelon seed that my uncle Dave told me my aunt had swallowed. I don’t think I really believed it at the time, but it worked for a 6 year old’s imagination and curiosity.

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111 Summer November 15, 2011 at 8:35 am

My mom told me at 9, because that’s what age my aunt was when she got her period and thought she was dying because they never got the talk back in the day.

My mother was very, very open about discussing sex and always told me “if you’re not mature enough to tell me and get on the pill then you’re not mature enough to be having sex.” I’m from a long line of teenage unplanned pregnancies (um, we’re not Mormon, in case you’re wondering. haha), so Mom put the fear in me for sure, but I broke the cycle! Too bad she kind of turned me into a manhater, but….oh well.

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112 Emily November 15, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Gosh. My mom was pretty open, but I didn’t really ask that many questions, but it was helpful when mom of friend got unexpectedly preggers when we were 11, and we got to see the whole “results” part, and discussing the baby’s growth I think gave us a clearer picture of the anatomy parts. That being said, I did have a big argument with our other friend Ginny, one time, over a reading of the “How Did I Get Here?” book — I was on the wrong side of the argument, asserting that OF COURSE you couldn’t MOVE during sex: you were attached! But she trotted out that book and proved me wrong — evidently whatever you did when you were attached made you tired, “like after jumping rope!” So. Clearly I was fuzzy on the detials.

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113 Tanya November 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm

I love that you’re having these conversations so early. I think it really makes a difference. My mom had the talk with my sister and me fairly young and I felt better prepared going into Sex Ed in school. That whole concept can be so embarrassing in Junior High.

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114 Maike November 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm

I am from Germany and we had a cartoon book flying around, called “Peter, Ida und Minimum” (no English Translation unfortunately) about a family with two kids that is expecting another baby.
It was explaining all the biological and social background facts about having a baby. Since this book was just flying around it feels like i always knew where babies are coming from and never had “the talk”.
i remember my mom was reading the book with us but it also had a lot of pictures and i have no idea since when we had it, i have very early memories and this book has always been there.
i find it a funny thought, that there can be a certain age when you learn about it, for me it was like, where does milk come from or how do you tie a shoe lace.

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115 Kimberly November 15, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Best movie would be: Into The Blue Lagoon
It’s natural, innocent, pure and really well done. After that you really don’t have to say that much except fill in the science when they are interested or when it’s a good time :)

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116 Kathleen November 15, 2011 at 10:53 pm

The extent of the sex talk for me was my parents sitting me and my two sisters down and my Dad saying something like, “Don’t do it. Wait until marriage. You’ll get pregnant and ruin your life. Or get AIDS. Just don’t do it.” My mom added, “You will regret it for the rest of your life. Sex is horrible!” Needless to say my sisters and I were terrified and embarrassed! Thankfully, our older siblings set us straight, but for a while, I was very confused and scared.

Needless to say, I will be taking a different approach with my children.

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117 ellenpatton November 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm

My mom wasn’t happy with how the school handled the sex ed talk with my brother’s class (one year older than me) so when it was my turn in 6th grade she had me stay home and she checked out the filmstrip from the LA City Schools and showed it to me herself. I remember my youngest brother banging on the closed kitchen door and saying, “I know you’re in there talking about innertube.”

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118 Becky November 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I was a second grader when I asked my mom about sex, and she promptly accused me of “trying to embarrass” her and refused to talk about it. As a result, I learned like most kids in my neighborhood did — by getting misinformation from older kids and guessing at the rest of it while playing with Barbies. For years, I thought the more sex you had, the more pregnant you got. Whenever I saw someone in late pregnancy I’d think to myself, “wow, she’s been busy.”
My almost-5-year-old has had a few questions since her little brother was born, but so far they’ve all been about how the baby gets out of the tummy, not how he gets in. Whew! But still — when she does ask, I hope I can strike the balance of giving her the information she’s looking for but not overwhelming her with things she may not be ready to know yet.
We always use the real words for body parts.
Funny story – after I told her how the baby gets out, my daughter said, “Wow, that’s the worst work ever.” I replied that it can be hard work but it’s all worth it because you end up with a baby, and she said, “No, I mean for the doctor!” :)

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119 Olivia November 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm

My parents told me when I was really young. Like 4 or 5? Maybe younger. I asked where babies came from and they told me everything. The definitely focused more on the growing baby in the tummy then the logistics of how it got in there but I knew from a young age & never felt uncomfortable asking them questions when stuff came up at school. They were just SUPER open. I think having a good long talk with them at 8 is a great time. Unfortunately kids keep learning things younger, and younger these days.

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120 Prefer not to say! November 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm

One comment: make sure to cover physical developmental milestones before they happen. When I got my period (in the late fifth grade) I was traumatized. I thought I was dying. When mom explained this is a normal, healthy sign of growing up I felt that my childhood was taken out from underneath me. I did not want to be a woman, but wanted to be a little girl !

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121 Stacey H November 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I think my mom may have tried but her generalities never got through to me. I was like you in that I did not understand the mechanics till I was nearly out of my teens. I was engaged at age 19 and honestly did not understand the insinuation when, as a joke, I bought a condom out of a gas station vending machine and gave it to my fiancee. On the little box it said “No Calorie Dessert” and I had no concept of what that meant. I thought the fact that my soon to be husband turned beet red was kinda endearing but now that I understand the connotation, I am mortified that I did that!!

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122 Mel November 17, 2011 at 10:40 pm

I never had much of a talk with my parents, they just gave me a book to read. And on the day they had the maturation talk at school, my mom let me go to SkateWorld with my cousins instead… at the time I thought that was awesome. But now, I wish she had at least had some discussions with me about it.

My husband and I read the book “How to Talk to Your Child About Sex” by Linda and Richard Eyre (suggested to me by my sister with older kids) and it talks about having a special talk at 8 and making it really special and even taking them out to dinner. It really emphasizes being really positive and discussing how amazing and awesome that sex is and that it’s a miracle that that’s how babies are made. And what a special thing it is for a husband and wife to share and reasons why you might want to save such an awesome and amazing thing for just one special person when you fall in love and get married and want to start a family. It also suggests using the book, “Where Did I Come From,” by Peter Mayle.

Last week we just had this “8″ year old discussion with our son and it went really well and we were very open and honest about everything and he thought it was really great. And as the book reinforces, this is just the beginning of many, many more discussions to come (and it gives lots of help on how to have those discussions and what to say- it’s a great book!). When your kids are 8 years old, they are old enough to understand and be mature enough to know that it’s something special, but not too old where they are embarrassed to talk about it and ask questions. I hope this opens the discussion where he can continue to feel comfortable asking me questions and coming to me and my husband for advice. I think it’s good for both parents to be involved in the discussion.

. . . I am a Mormon mom with 3 boys and 1 on the way. :)

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123 joanne November 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm

we have the “how to talk to your child about sex” book, too! but we didn’t feel right having the big talk with my daughter when she turned 8 a few months ago, although we are planning on doing it soon. i’ve tried to never lie to my kids about anything, or make up anything like a stork, but we haven’t told them the whole story either. it’s funny but my son who is 4 probably knows a little more than my daughter now because he was full of questions when he found out i was pregnant a few months ago. i read to him from parts of “where did i come from” and he seemed satisfied.
the big talk does kind of intimidate me but it’s nice to know it’s gone really well for someone else.
one thing i am very glad about is that we have always used “penis” and “vagina” and never talked about body parts with shame.

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124 Lola December 3, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Interesting topic – a friend told me when I was around 6. I can’t imagine not knowing until the end of high school! But my parents never monitored what I watched or read (obviously I can see the downsides of that approach, but that’s just how they are) or sent me to bed when the TV programmes started getting steamier, so I knew a lot pretty early on. And you know what? No STIs, no unplanned pregnancies, no teenage over-sexualisation, in fact no regretable sexual experiences full stop. (Also no awkward conversation with my parents, as they comfortably knew I knew. And believe me, with my parents it really would have been awkward!)

Which I guess shows that a little bit of information never hurt anyone, and that knowing these things doesn’t take away your childhood or anything like that.

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125 olivia January 16, 2012 at 8:28 am

I know I’m late to this, but I’ve always been proud of how my parents handled this, and from a glance over past comments, it seems pretty rare.

I was never sat down for an official “talk.” Instead, they shared simply & openly ‘along the way.’ They were to-the-point and down to earth about it all and I never felt weird or awkward about it. I vaguely remember this including small explanations when I was very young—mostly my mom answering my question about what the box of tampons was, leading to what a period means, that the egg is the beginning of the process, leading to a phrase I’ll never forget about the mom and dad “joining their bodies.” It feels a little odd now as I write it, but what impresses me is that I never sensed it was taboo, while at the same time didn’t openly talk about it with other kids. They covered the basics, and so the only thing new by the time it came up in school was the logistics of STDs, contraceptives, etc.

I consider it a great balance and have absolutely no idea how to recreate it with my own family (I have just one, almost 1), but it has been a nice example to consider.

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126 molly February 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Just came across this, newish reader to your blog… more frequently I should say… anyway, can you point me to the followup post on this? I’d love to read how you did so as I have an almost 4 yr old.

My parents didn’t really focus at all on teaching us. I think my mom has a hard time talking seriously about sex in the first place, makes her uncomfortable. hah. I am more open. I think it would have been nice to have that feeling that I could be open with my parents. Sex was something I was afraid of throughout school so at least I didn’t do the opposite and start doing it when I was 12 or so and gotten in a bad state such as pregnancy or and STD. But it still left me out in the open when I was a teen and even in to my 20′s. The only real education I got was more centered on your period: 5th grade – and that was intriguing from someone who came to our school and we got a box of different tampon / pad types and brands to check out. Which I was highly amused with. But no sex talk really. And then sex ed in middle school and HS but really more about reproduction, not the actual act of sex as a real human being. hah. So I have always felt lacking. I also think it’s important to bring it up with families who have religious beliefs that center seemingly so many rules of do’s and don’ts about sex… I mean, I didn’t understand what mastubation was, etc.

I wouldn’t want my children to feel this way at all. My mom was our main go-to parent and is my best buddy but she definitely dropped out in this area. My dad and I just really didn’t get along and he’s not a guy of great words anyway. I feel bad for my mom because I also think she grew up with a lack of background on this and choices she could have made.

Anyway, this is an awesome topic. I think that also the whole “being naked around your kids” topic is a good one too. There are many varied views on this….

ok so anyway, can you point me to the second post if you did do it? Thanks! I pinned this in my “Parenting” board and would like to add the other to that. :) m.

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