“Wait. Mom? Have you and Dad had sex?” My 9 year-old son caught me off guard recently with this innocent question. His older sister smiled, then pointed at herself and her brother. I responded, “At least four times.” His eyes widened and then we all laughed. And moments like these are why I love the tween stage. Talking about “the birds and the bees” doesn’t have to be awkward, stilted, or embarrassing. Incorporating age-appropriate messages about sex into conversations with kids builds a relationship of trust, openness, and security.
Having The Talk with your kids does not need to be scary. It can even be a positive part of parenting. Here’s Why I Don’t Fear The Talk:
Kids Benefit from Preparation
I recently had dinner with two awesome young women in their early twenties who confessed to feeling under-prepared for sex. One never received any direct information from her parents and another sat down with her father for an anatomy lesson. Everything else they learned about sex came from chastity lessons at church, sex ed at school, media, or peers. This left them feeling uncertain, embarrassed, and afraid of the unknown.
Adults Fear Taboo Topics More than Kids
My son’s question actually came up, I think, because puberty, sex, and our bodies are not a taboo subject in our home. We were discussing my daughter’s first middle school dance and he made a joking portrayal of how boys and girls behave differently at events. He then went on to segue into, “I don’t really understand why teenagers want to have babies.” I explained to him how pregnancy is often unplanned and that many teenagers don’t make a specific life choice to become parents. This allowed us to talk briefly about birth control, the consequences of sex, and the maturity necessary to make serious choices about our bodies. My son joked, “Mom. Are we having ‘the talk’?” We were, in a way, but it wasn’t our first talk, nor will it be our last.
Parents Can Be a Trusted Source
When I think about “the talk,” I feel lucky to have three older sisters and a Mom I can bring questions to. We grew up learning about abstinence as “the way,” but sex wasn’t viewed as simply necessary or something to fear. I learned from the amazing women in my life that sex was also about intimacy and pleasure. It was something to look forward to; to choose; to enjoy. Perhaps this is what prompted me to say to my son, “And we still do” in response to his question.
Informed Choices Teach Responsibility and Build Confidence
I want my kids to trust me in the same way I trust my family. I want them to never be too embarrassed to ask a question, especially if they are curious enough to potentially find the answer in other places. I want them to understand puberty as a natural part of life that they do not need to experience alone or endure silently. I want my kids to make informed choices and this applies to abstinence as well. And if they ever struggle with that choice, I want them to know that I’m here to talk it through.
The Talk is an Ongoing Conversation
Our talk started with using anatomically correct terms for our bodies, then included age-appropriate books, a hilarious birth story, and regular conversations about bodily autonomy and consent. We’ve even used these conversation starters about sexual abuse so our children would recognize signs. These don’t require a sit down for The Talk, but can be a natural part of conversation. After awhile, these will be conversations initiated by kids as questions arise.
I’m not certain where conversations will go from here, but I’m certainly not dreading “the talk” or worried that I won’t know the “right” thing to say when hard questions come up. If I don’t know the answers, I’ll say so, and we’ll learn together. If I’m uncertain about how much or how little detail, I’ll look to the books we have in our home. I don’t fear the talk because it’s an ongoing conversation and I’m glad to be a part of it.
I Would Love Your Ideas!
I’ve read quite a few conversations where parents have discussed a desire to have bloggers write more about parenting older children. Blogging publicly about parenting gets trickier as kids get older because protecting their privacy–especially in regards to life’s milestones–prohibits use of some of the personal stories we rely on to write about raising younger kids. I would love to write about parenting tweens and teens, though. If this interests you, what topics would you like to see covered?