My son has had me blushing since he was very young. Whether it was exclaiming “Holy (Expletive)” in the library or loud whispering in church that he needed to go poop, life is an adventure being his mother. At age four, he was quick to ask questions and determined (on his own) that Santa isn’t real. So, at age five, when he made a comment about having sex, I wasn’t too surprised. That kicked off the first of many conversations about sexuality, the human body, and how babies are made.
Now, several years later and with puberty on the horizon, he recently asked a question about how his body works and what certain parts are for. When my mention of sperm drew a blank look, I realized it was time to provide more in-depth information. The next day, we were able to have a frank talk about his body parts, the male role in producing offspring, and how to prevent pregnancy. His honest, thoughtful questions astounded me. I love that he comes to me with these questions, and hope that our honest talks will continue throughout his entire life.
Talking to our children about these things can be difficult and uncomfortable sometimes. I personally didn’t get any “talk” as a kid. My parents bought my sister and me a couple of books, and told us to read them. (That was more than they got as kids.) The rest I learned at school. I am determined to demystify sexuality in my home so that it is never a shameful secret. Here are the guidelines I follow when talking with my son.
Keep calm. While their timing may catch you off guard, these questions are an opportunity to connect with your child. Never become angry with their questions; be flattered that they choose to ask you. Also, try to hide any nerves you have the best you can. Keep a matter-of-fact attitude.
Be medical and scientific. Use the correct names for body parts. This helps to keep things normal and shows that those “private parts” are ordinary, acceptable parts of the body that everybody has.
Do your research. Don’t know the answer to your kid’s questions? Ask for a day or two to figure it out and then get back to them. Use this as an opportunity to learn a thing or two yourself. Our bodies are pretty amazing!
Emphasize the difference between “private” and “inappropriate.” This is a work in progress with my son. I’ve told him that he can ask me anything, so long as we are alone. Helping him learn that some things are private will serve him well as he grows older. But questions about our bodies and the changes that will be coming soon in puberty are far from inappropriate.
Be honest, even if it may make you look bad. Our kids think that we can do no wrong and hold us up so high. It’s good for our children to see us as human beings, beyond being their mom or dad. (Plus, it’s priceless when they finally connect what their mom and dad did to create them!)
Be available. Make sure that you have time to talk with your kids. If they ask something that needs time, make the time. Schedule a special time to talk, go out to eat or talk a walk together. These conversations matter. If they don’t get the information from you, they’ll get it somewhere.
Consider their age and stage in life. Answering their curiosities in an age-appropriate way is the best idea. Simply answer their question until they are satisfied. There’s no need to go into serious details when the child is too young to really accept or absorb it. Keep it simple.
The best part about these conversations is the connection that they build between ourselves and our children. It teaches our children that we are a safe place to talk about hard things, and that we can handle their questions. It leaves the door open for them to approach us when they need help. And it helps them know that they are never alone in this big world.