This is Olive, age 8, holding Flora June the day she arrived home.
This post is a continuation of a discussion we had last November, where we talked about when and how we first learned about sex. When I wrote that post, I promised I’d share how we’ve talked about sex with our kids, in case it might help any of you with your own discussions. So here goes…
This is how it works at our house. This book was recommended to us and we’ve used it as a guide with great success. Confession: I haven’t actually read the whole book, just the specific chapter on the actual conversation to have with your child. As the book recommends, we like to give the talk at age 8, but Olive didn’t get the talk till age 9 and she seemed to survive.
To signify that this conversation is important, we give them some advance announcements. A week or so before we plan to have the talk, we tell them we’re going to take them out to dinner — just mom, dad and the child — and tell them something really amazing. They can pick any restaurant they want.
Ben Blair and I give the talk together. We sit with the child between us and slowly flip through this book (we’ve found it to be the right fit for an 8 year old, but a little too immature for older kids). We take turns reading (we are somewhat practiced at reading things together with our children, so this helps with the comfort level) and walk them through the basic mechanics. If the child has any questions while reading, we respond right away pointing to the pictures, or assure them that it will be covered later in the book (and point it out when it occurs). Ben and I may add information if it seems to clarify or help. We love the book because it gives a clear visual and written context, is happy, and covers important details. But it’s not essential, and another book could work just as well. In fact, for Olive, we didn’t have access to the book, so we just talked her through it instead.
The hardest part for me is to keep my expression somewhere between serious and casual, when my instincts are to giggle and blush through the whole conversation. (Yes, I realize I’m ridiculous.) The tone we attempt is something like: this is an important topic, but nothing scary.
The best part is near the end of the conversation when we ask if they have any questions. The responses are invariably awesome! I remember 8 year old Maude pausing to think for a minute and asking, “So you’ve done that 5 times?!”
This particular talk is strictly about how babies are made. But we have more casual follow-up conversations a couple of times a year where related topics are brought up. We’ll throw out a question like: Anything new you’ve heard at school that you don’t understand? Usually they say no, but every so often we get a bite. Especially as they get older and read more. Sometimes it’s hard stuff like: What’s the difference between molesting and rape? Other times it’s something easier like: What does the f-word mean?
So far, it’s been great. And I hope our kids feel like they can talk to us about anything. That nothing they bring up is out of bounds or will embarrass us. Sex is one of the happiest parts of our marriage, and I hope it will be for my kids too.
Finally, and just to be clear, I’m not recommending this as the one way to talk to your kids. If you’ve had conversations with fellow parents about this topic, you already know there are tons of ways to handle this, often dependent on the child’s personality — and your own comfort level with sex. But hopefully this will help!
And now I’d love to know: Have you told your kids? Have they asked? And would you rather give the talk solo, or with your spouse?
P.S. — I mentioned this in the last post, but my parents never actually gave me the talk. I was a senior in high school before I had a basic understanding and was in college before before I really understood the mechanics. Isn’t that crazy?