At the ripe age of 11, I was handed a book about sex. It had little animated drawings of a naked boy and girl. The only thing I remember about what it said was, “Boys have a penis. It’s on the outside of their body. That is the best place for it. Girls have a vagina. It’s on the inside of their body. That is the best place for it.” Not exactly enlightening. There was no other discussion with the exception of making sure I knew that having sex before marriage was a terrible sin in the sight of God. Lovely.
After having children, I knew I was not going that same route when it came to “explaining” sex. The amount of fear, shame and confusion I experienced could have mostly been avoided if there had just been more honesty and openness around the subject.
When our oldest was 7, one day she randomly blurted out “BUTT SEX”.
Listen, I don’t have a dead set age on when you need to talk to your kids about sex but there are signs you cannot overlook. And this was mine. I decided it was time for the legit sex talk, anatomy and all.
A couple days later I took her out for a shake because giving my kid something delicious to enjoy while I blindsided her with the sex talk seemed like a great plan.
“Abigail, I wanted to talk to you about sex.” I said calmly. “Do you know what it is?” I asked.
“Like kissing and stuff?” she responded.
“Hmm…well, kissing is involved but there is a lot more. Sex is something designed for grown ups when they love each other. When they have sex they are usually both naked.”
Her eyes got bigger. “Why?”
“Well because after kissing there is a lot of touching each other and sex is when the man puts his penis into the woman’s vagina. And there is a lot of moving back and forth.”
There. I had said the hardest, most uncomfortable part and kept my face completely straight and void of awkwardness.
“Grossss” she responded.
“Yea, I understand it seems gross to you now but it won’t when you’re older. I promise.
Do you have any questions?”
“No.” she answered calmly.
“Ok, well the most important thing I want you to know is that you can ask me ANYTHING about sex. ANYTHING. It will not make me uncomfortable and I will answer you honestly. Ok? “
That was the end of our discussion but I asked several times over the next few months if she had any questions or heard anything at school that she wanted to discuss.
Over the last 8 years our daughter has continued to ask me all sorts of things I never would have dreamed of talking to my mom about. What is oral sex, what does 69 mean? What is a blow job? We talked about homosexuality, bisexuality, masturbation and everything else under the sun.
Can I honestly say it’s never uncomfortable? No. But I wouldn't change it for the world. I count it a privilege that my daughter feels safe enough to converse with me about it. While I don't have all the answers, here are my best two tips on how to make it NOT WEIRD and keep them coming to you, instead of the internet, for honest answers.
- Start YOUNG and follow up. I definitely don’t think seven is too young to start the talk. But the key is follow up every few months to give them a place to ask questions and share their thoughts.
- Be casual and HONEST. Don’t coat things to make them sound pretty. I assure you the kids at school won’t. If there is an undertone of awkwardness or shame, they will pick up on it and will feel less safe to come to you.
Sex is a normal part of life and discovering personal sexuality starts taking off during the preteen and teen years. Feeling that kids have safe place to learn and ask questions must start long before then. Remember, we are really the ones who set the tone as to whether it feels weird or not. Our words have the powerful ability to create a safe place for our kids that most of us did not have growing up. Be excited that you get to change that for them. And for the love of all that is good and holy, please do not hand them a book and walk away.
Keep on your journey...even if it's awkward at times.
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