Q: As a mother yourself, what age do you think is appropriate to teach your kids about the birds and the bees? I’ve taught my son, who’s 6, that half the baby comes from Dad’s penis and the other half from mom. Daddies have to plant their half in the mommy’s vagina. My family thinks I’m crazy for teaching that to him. I remember (over 25 years ago) I learned from a friend in 2nd grade. I just wanted him to know the truth from me and not another kid in school. And where would you draw the line? My daughter is 4 and I’m teetering on the idea of telling her, too. What’s your opinion??
A: This is such an amazingly powerful topic, and I would be a millionaire if I had the exact age and method of explaining sex to children. But alas, I don’t. Nobody does. You will find an infinite amount of articles on this topic, and depending on the level of progressiveness of the author, you will be told something different each and every time. I am happy to give my opinion on the topic, but remember that my opinion is just that…my opinion. Here it goes…
I personally think you did great, and I’m proud of you. I believe you should explain sex to your kids at whatever age they ask. That, I’m pretty set on. The difficult part is WHAT we’re supposed to tell them. Let’s be honest – even though we have heard the research time and time again that talking about sex does NOT lead to kids HAVING sex, we still believe it does. I am a former health teacher, I should know better. However, when it comes to my kids, all bets are off and I lose my rational thinking capabilities.
I am FAR from a perfect Mother (newsflash: perfect Moms don’t exist), but here’s how I’ve handled it: I always ask them what THEY think it is first. Often times they have heard some bogus explanation from school kids and I want to be the first to correct that misinformation. Every now and then, they will actually present you with ACCURATE information that they’ve heard at school, and you can literally confirm it, and be on with your day!
If they ask for further information, I use this line: “I am happy you asked. These are great questions and your curiosity is 100% normal. My job as your parent is to explain things to you that make sense for someone your age. As you get older, I can explain it differently because you will be able to understand even better. Deal?”
To explain my reasoning even further, I use the analogy of driving. I say, “You’re 7 years old. If I told you that we were going to go to a parking lot and I was going to teach you how to drive and parallel park, what would you say?” They will inevitably respond with something along the lines of, “But, I’m too young! I can’t even drive yet!”.
BINGO! It makes no sense for me to bog their brain down with things that truly have nothing to do with their experiences at their age. I ask again, “Now, what if you were 15 years old and I told you we were going to practice driving?” They get it at that point. I explain that as they get older, I PROMISE to explain things to them in a way that is relevant to their age. What I DON’T want my kids to feel is that I am hiding some Holy Grail secret from them. The truth is, they will find out regardless (Hello, Internet. Ugh), and I’d rather it be from me.
I try not to use words that have a negative vibe to them because I don’t want anything about sex to be negative for my kids (although I’m certain I’ve already messed that up). I don’t want anything to seem wrong or taboo – I just focus on the TIMING and depth of information I share. I rarely, if ever, say, “You’re too young to understand.” I think that actually creates a dynamic that doesn’t lend itself to open communication. Your child will see you as doubting their ability to emotionally handle something. Although that may be true, it doesn’t feel so great to a kid.
Educate them on the basic biology when they ask – sperm meets egg, and a baby is made (sometimes). If they want to know how the sperm meets the egg (which is what happened with my child), I told her that when two adults who are in love want to make a baby, the penis goes into the vagina. Did I wanna die at that moment? Yup! Was I totally irrational and fear that she was going to go out the next day and get pregnant at 8 years old, even though it’s borderline impossible? Yup! I could barely sleep that night and feared she’d be the next star on “I’m a Teen Mom”. Welcome to parenthood.
Depending on their age, you can even go on to say that sometimes adults need Doctors to help make it happen, but that’s up to you. I’ve had to explain that to my kids because we have cousins who have two mommies, and we have cousins who have been pregnant many times, miscarried, and required reproductive medicine.
As they get older, I think it’s important to introduce pleasure education, because they won’t EVER get it here in the US unless they take a college course on it (mega eye roll). If you’re four-year-old is asking, go ahead and explain the basics about the sperm meeting the egg. Chances are, she will not be very interested in it and she’ll move on.
Again, it’s more about how well you know your children. You’re their mother and you will always be met with opposition – that’s just life. I think most of us are fighting more of a cultural war than anything else. The truth is, the less of a deal you make of it, the less intriguing it will be.
Good luck, Mama! You’re doing great =)