Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The TALK


Sorry for the crickets around here, but Lamp and I are getting ready to head out on a little mommy/daughter trip to Texas and we've been battling various sickness around our household.  Hopefully we're over the worst of it!  As far as Texas goes we're heading back to see her orthopedic docs in Dallas and then we're headed down to San Antonio for a few days to see our friends and visit our old stomping grounds.  I'm so excited.  It's no secret that I miss Texas something fierce these days  and I'm really looking forward to a trip with just Lamp and I--something I'd like to do with my other kids at some point too.  That being said last month on our trip to Florida was the first time we've flown on a plane with Lamp and her power chair and we're going to do it again today--it was an interesting experience, something I might write about in the future.

But today I've been wanting to throw another question out there, something that has been on my mind a lot lately--the talk.  You know... the sex talk.  A couple of years ago I had heard from various sources that a good time to have the talk with children was when they're 8 years old.  The idea being that they're old enough to understand, yet young enough that they won't be completely mortified to be discussing this with their parents (gah!) of all people.  Additionally, I think the idea is also that as parents you want to get to them before other sources do--kids at school, TV/Movies, etc--and help them understand the proper role sex plays in our lives.  This book is one that a lot of people have pointed to as a good guide to having this discussion with your kids.  (I've purchased it, but have yet to read it.  Also, I believe the authors are LDS FYI.)  They authors advocate taking your child out for a special night with just him/her and both parents.  They talk say you should really talk it up like "hey, we're going have a great evening and we're gonna tell you about something really cool!  This is going to be so awesome!"  Or something along those lines.

So a couple of years ago when I first heard this idea I was totally on board and thought this was a great idea.  Fast forward to the present and I've got cold feet.  Do we really want to have the talk now?  Isn't she too young?  How much do you tell/don't tell? 

So internets what say you?  Is there a fool-proof way of having a great sex talk with your kids?  Have you done this in a formal manner or was it off the cuff?  If you are a 2 parent home, were both of you there or just one?  What about when you were a kid--did your parents have the talk with you and did it go well?  Does that affect what you want to do with your kids now?  Personally I didn't like having 'the talk' with my mom... I was 12, it was embarrassing and in general I just didn't like it.  Which is one reason I think I'm so hesitant now.  I want this to be a good experience, but at the same time I can't control how my children will react and perhaps like many things in life there will never be a perfect time.  I'd love to hear your thoughts, experiences and suggestions!

16 comments:

  1. I teach human sexuality at a major public university and it has been so good to help keep up my motivation to be really open with my girls. The principles that make the most sense to me as a parent (and sex educator) are 1) think of it as talkS (plural) not "a/the" talk (singular). You should make sure it's clear to your child it doesn't have to be a special event to talk about sex. If you're uncomfortable sharing everything in this first talk, consider the first one your intro. You could start by assessing what your child knows or wants to know. You could ask things like, "What do you think about where babies come from?" "Have kids at school ever talked about their different body parts?" You might be surprised by what your child already knows, and it's important to not make them feel shamed for anything they might have been exposed to already even if it bothers you. 2) Use anatomically correct terms. This is important to decrease self-shame about sexuality and help protect your child from sexual abuse. (Potty-training is a great time to start using them. People hate to think of a 2 year old knowing the word vulva/vagina (what most people call the vagina is actually called the vulva; the vagina is solely an internal organ), but I'm here to say, she is still perfectly innocent and sweet even though she knows the V words). 3) If you're uncomfortable or feeling awkward, I say own it. It helps decrease everyone's awkwardness if you can somehow acknowledge the awkwardness. 3) If you decide you're not comfortable with sharing anatomical terms and detailed information with your child, you can still educate them about body safety by teaching them that they have private body parts and that some people try to use games, tricks, or secrets to get access to those. But that they can listen to their feelings, ask trusted adults questions, say no, and know that any abuse they ever experience is not their fault. Ok, I have more I could say on this topic, but not right now. :) Oh, one last thing. I think personal stories are always good. Maybe you could share how you learned about something related to sex or puberty or something (especially if it was funny or interesting in some way, so you can add the point that you know it can be uncomfortable to bring up sometime, but it's ok).

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  2. Oh, and I'm a single mom of two girls so this isn't an option for me, but I really think cross-gender sex education (not necessarily one-on-one) is a really good idea. If someone can't talk to a trusted adult on some level about basic physiological functions, how do we expect them to have the courage/skills/knowledge base necessary to talk to a (presumably) opposite-sex sexual partner about safe sexual behavior (whether married or not). I also have a friend who, even though she completely trusts her husband, makes a point to let her children know that if they are ever abused by anyone, including the other parent, they can come to her. Her father was sexually abusive and like most, did not fit the image most people have of a sexual abuser (usually 8 times out of 10 someone is sexually abused or assaulted by someone the know and trust).

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  3. Ok, I promise this will be the last comment! I have a couple of anatomy books written for kids. Most of them are on all the various systems of the body, but they include a section on the reproductive system. It has been a great way for them to be exposed to the basics (which they haven't asked for clarification on). So they still don't know the mechanics of sex, but they have pictures showing them how a baby is created from an egg and a sperm. I think that's appropriate to expose a child of any age to.

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  4. I have no advice, I'm just stalking your comment section. My twin girls turn 8 at the end of the month!

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  5. Anonymous9:18 PM

    I got the talk when I was 8. I think it was a great age. My mother read us a book (which was very tastefully illustrated.) I remember thinking "gross!" but never being embarrassed. She showed us what condoms looked like and the birth control pill. She told us that it was totally normal to think that it all sounded gross but that it was actually a really wonderful part of life. And that was it. I thought she did great. It was a positive experience. All the negative feelings I had came from YWs lessons at church. But, fortunately, as I grew up I realized that those weren't the lessons to hold onto. I say do it now. I am sure there are still great books out there that will help with the conversation. Good luck!

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  6. Anonymous10:12 PM

    I was a very shy, self-conscious child, and I would have died if my dad had been included in that conversation. I know some kids are completely fine with it, and I think opposite sex parents being involved is definitely appropriate later when it's more dating/sex *choices* and less pure biology, but initially... DIED.

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  7. Anonymous11:57 PM

    "The Longest Shortest Time" podcast recently did a series of sex episodes that included some good resources for talking to your kids.

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  8. My kids are 11, 14 & 16. We have always been open about talking about sex and reproduction. When they were little, it was mainly just answering their questions (how did the baby get in her tummy....) and it's moved on to more talk about why people have sex (teen sexual activity is a big subject round about now...). My kids go to Catholic schools so their school curriculum is taught from a church perspective. We want to be sure they also have the "real world" perspective, too (i.e., knowing about birth control). At this point, both of my older kids will openly ask questions, make jokes (humor keeps the conversations light), or just comment about something they heard re: sex. My 11 yo is kind of embarrassed by this but, hopefully, he's realizing that we are a family that is OK talking about this -- all questions will be answered and there is no judgement put on a kid for being curious about how/why things work the way they do.

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  9. Anonymous9:32 AM

    I read the book you mentioned and decided that my kids just weren't ready at age eight. Fortunately, they were in a school system where I didn't really worry about them finding out before I could tell them. We had the talk with our children at age 10 and for my son this was perfect. My husband and I did it together. We used the book Where Did I Come From. He was totally surprised that he hadn't been aware of this before and felt comfortable talking to us. Now, I think that it might have been better to talk to my daughter around age 9. So, I think it just depends on the child and their maturity. Good luck. I have to say, that it is a memory that I don't think any of us will forget. There were moments of laughter and serious moments as well. This is just the starting point. This opens the dialogue for them to feel free to ask you further questions about sex and other topics. It's all good :) Lisa C.

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  10. Anonymous11:13 AM

    I don't think it has to be a "thing", or just one talk. I have an 11 yr old son and 7 yr old daughter and as they've come to me with questions, I've answered them openly and sometimes expanded on their questions to give more info or background. I guess it's been "organic" vs. planned or organized. I have given my son books, there are so many available now (vs. when I was a kid and it was Judy Blume or Where Did I Come From") so that he could explore aspects of puberty and sexuality on his own. They know they can come to me and we'll have an open, honest conversation with some fun thrown in. Where with my husband, his first reply will inevitably be, "where did you hear that?!" and then he'll launch into a one hour biology lecture leaving the kids glassy eyed and yawning.

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  11. Off the cuff. I told myself (and my husband) that the next time I got a question they were getting the talk. The question came in the middle of dinner prep on a campsite! Not the best timing. But we took a little walk and did 'the talk'. Not very long. They were 9 and 7. It was such a relief to me to get it over with. And for me, better to do it in an understated, this is all normal and part of life way than making a song and dance about it!

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  12. As the parent of two older teens (a girl that will be 18 in one week and a boy that is 15) I can say you have to have the talk that the kids are ready to accept. My oldest was mortified to talk about it when she was younger and in middle school I actually had to paint a picture for her (with words) about what exactly sex was. She's older now and we are comfortable talking about it and birth control and all that. My son on the other hand told me to get busy having sex with his dad so he could have a baby brother when he was about 8. Thank you sleepovers with older siblings. He has been "in the know" since then. He really did know the basics at 8. He's always been a little more worldy wise than his sister. He's had several girlfriends already and he's only in 9th grade. My daughter has just started dating her first boyfriend this year. We do talk about it and we make sure she's chaperoned at all times (never alone in the house with him watching a movie or whatever). They both know about birth control and the consequences of having sex. I will say that they are both more comfortable talking about it with me than their dad because i am more comfortable that they know than he is. He practically loses it when our daughter starts talking about doing "the frick frack". You got to have a sense of humor!

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  13. I talk openly about everything with my kids and allow the questions to come. Sometimes I have to tell my daughter (5 1/2) that the answer is complicated and I can explain but it might be better to ask when she is older and will understand the words. Some things I just simplify. She knows a lot but it is very unscientific, just simple facts. For example, girls have parts inside their body that have the eggs that can grow into a baby but if there is no baby they have a period, which is blood. You only have the blood of you are old enough that your body could make a baby. I mean, it isn't that easy, but I try to help her understand and she asks questions openly. I never tell her no don't ask
    About that. Even my 2 year old son just today was grabbing his penis and asking in toddler speak of daddy had one, and if mama and sister have one. So I am so imperfect with this but my hope is that they will continue to ask when the old explanation is obviously too simple for them. I think by 10 or I will have to sit down and spell it all out.

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  14. My boys were ages five and four. I saw one of my boys playing with his penis (for the 100th time) and I calmly asked him to stop. He asked why and I felt guided by the Holy Ghost that this was a time to talk about what penises are used for. I explained that we use our private parts to use the bathroom and to create children. I very simply and factual shared how intercourse works. Then I bore my testimony about how amazing our bodies are! I did not, at that time, feel prompted to discuss husbands/wives/love. I did say that we need to be married/older before our vaginas/penises are to be used in sexual way. I didn't use the word "sex". I also talked about how this is a sacred topic and one that moms and dads should teach their children about. Bascially, I didn't want my kindergartner going to school and telling his friends what he had learned.

    Our "talk" lasted less than five minutes, and was very informal. If I remember correctly, we paused their tv show to have the discussion, and then they watched it when we were done. I did tell them that they could ask their Dad or I at ANYtime about what we'd discussed. Since then they have each asked once or twice about where a vagina is, and if I have a penis. I give them simple, TRUE answers, using correct terminology, but I do not go indepth.

    As they get older their dad and I will discuss this all more in depth. For us, it was a prompting. The moment presented itself. It was spontaneous but good. I expect more moments like this, but also think that "planned" conversations may be necessary too.

    My parents told me about sex, after I asked what it was, when I was 10. It was extremely overwhelming and I was disgusted. I have often wondered if they had told me more about it at an earlier age if it wouldn't have been so traumatic. Or if they would have ever approached the subject again, as I aged--perhaps then I would have felt more comfortable. They never mentioned the "love" aspect of sex (and their marriage wasn't an ideal example)--so I never knew until I was married that intimacy is also very spiritual. As my children get older I want to share this fact with them, too, but I feel that they're too emotionally immature to understand that right now.

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  15. Anonymous6:33 PM

    EVERYTHING is sexualized. Even if you don't think she is exposed to it, she is or will be soon. I remember my mom gave me "THE TALK" in two parts: one, was about boundaries, and the parts of my body that are private...I think this took place about age six; part two I was a little bit older, maybe 8 or 9, and it was just kind of a basic explanation of what takes place. I don't recall there being pictures or there needing to be pictures.

    Of the method you talked about, the blog 71 Toes talks about how they do it in their family and I think that after having done it a few times, her points might be helpful. That said, you know your daughter and know what she can handle.

    It is probably important to keep in mind, that most children by the age of 11 will have been exposed to porn in one capacity or another (FRIGHTENING), so they need to know how to confront/cope/deal/avoid it. The movie Men, Women & Children (starring Jennifer Garner and Adam Sandler, rated R), is very eye opening look at how technology affects everyone sexually, and how you can't shield you children from any of it, you can only prepare them for it and be aware of it all. I can't say I recommend the movie because there was a lot I fast forwarded through, but the basic points are fascinating in their delivery (not least because a) this is the same Adam Sandler of Big Daddy and b) Emma Thompson narrates) since this is not a religious or pious take on any of it--just a real snapshot of how technology has changed how we relate to sex.

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  16. I had a formal talk at 12 too. Much I knew already and the stuff I didn't I was too embarrassed by it all to absorb. I agree with Anonymous that sex is everywhere around us--plants, food, insects, animals, ads, teenage behavior and the literal meaning of the swear words they hear other kids use. I found it much easier to have many, many short conversations about what we see around us--the talk broken up into dribs and drabs. I started this straightforward discussion when my daughters were 5 and 3, so by now almost a decade later we have had dozens of easy conversations and a few harder ones talking about things like abuse, what to watch out for, porn. Even those have been easier I think because of being used to talking about sex often and openly.

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