I was driving my 8 year old home from school one day when he asked me a question I will never forget. He said, Mom, is sex a bad word?
My heart started racing but my brain slowed down. I had prepared for questions like this. I am a confident modern mom who believes we should use honesty, scientific facts, and openness when discussing these delicate topics. Yet there I was fumbling for words when approached without warning.
“Well, sweetie” I began trying to fake a super calm tone. “It’s not bad, but it’s something for married grown-ups. Remember we had this talk and your dad went over some stuff with you? It’s a beautiful thing that God created but I don’t think you should be talking about it at school… ” I rambled on for what felt like an eternity trying to appropriately explain what I meant and concluded with “No. Sex is not a bad word”. This was followed by him correcting me with “I said, is SUCKS a bad word?”. There was definitely a brief awkward moment before I spat out “Yes. Sucks is a bad word. Don’t say it.”
No matter how cool or knowledgable we are, for most of us, talking about sex to our children is still somewhat uncomfortable. It’s important to get over it though. I am the first in line to want to blame our hypersexualized society for everything, and it has increased the need for these discussions and lowered the age at which we have them. Let’s be honest though, the human sex drive has been around since Adam and Eve. Even if there was no Ariana Grande or Victoria’s Secret we would still need to talk about it. There is no escaping the fact that your child will encounter things that will make them curious. It’s natural. The question is, what do we say?
I am no sexpert (proof, right there with my cheesy mom joke) so I have turned to those that are, specifically ones that share my values and faith. I have three main resources for discussing and teaching your children about physical intimacy and the human body. We have all three of these books and I highly recommend them, some I have mentioned before.
This book includes 7 biblically based lessons that you can go through with your child about sexuality. It is all scripturally based and includes diagrams and illustrations as well as web URLs for some additional material such as videos. The Talk is recommended for ages 6-10. You read that right. This book is for elementary age children. I personally never introduced the book to any of our children at age 6, but we definitely did it before age 10. If your kids are in school, sports, a neighborhood, or have any communication to the outside world (Rapunzel you can sit this one out) then they probably need this information sooner rather than later. You don’t have to share everything, but even pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can get questions from the baby’s older siblings that are sex related. So it makes sense to give truthful, factual answers that are age appropriate as they grow rather than all at once when their hormones and pubescent changes have already taken over their bodies.
I love this book about parenting boys. I refer to it over and over. It has been a lifesaver for us. Even though it is about boys some of it applies to boys and girls alike. I’ll give some excerpts from the section that is titled “Talking with boys about sex” where it gives 5 tips for parents. If you have a daughter just swap out the gender in the information below. It will still apply in these scenarios.
- Take the initiative. Give a loving consistent, steady flow of information that should begin as early as possible.
- Explore your own attitude. If you are very uncomfortable with the subject read some books and discuss your feelings with a trusted friend, relative, physician, pastor, or counselor. The more you examine the subject the more confident you’ll feel discussing it.
- Offer Accurate Age Appropriate information. Talk about sex in a way that fits your boy’s age and stage of development.
- Cover more than sex. In addition to telling a boy about the biological specifics of puberty, parents need to discuss dating with him as well and how relationships with girls can be very emotionally powerful.
- Talk with boys specifically about girls. Boys need to be as informed about female sexual development as they are about their own sexual development. If they only hear about themselves, they only have half the equation.
Last but not least, this is a small picture book that teaches children the dangers of pornography. This isn’t exactly the birds and the bees chat, but it is such an important conversation to have in the world we live in. Unlike the other two books I mentioned, this one does not have scripture in it, but it does fit in with the principals that are in the Bible. It uses analogies and science to explain a complicated subject to young children. It gives them an action plan so that they are empowered with knowledge and a strategy when and if they find themselves in a compromising situation.
Those are the three books that have been helpful to us at this point. I’ve only been a mom for 12 years so I am still in the thick of all this trying to figure it out as I go. Even though that first book I mentioned is titled “The Talk” it isn’t about this one time thing. The best way to communicate with our children is through openness and honesty and it’s ONGOING. Your child is going to learn about sex, do them a favor and let it be from a safe and loving caregiver rather than the world.