No parent ever looks forward to this conversation.
Unfortunately, our children won’t be kids forever. They grow up so fast, and it is our responsibilities to make sure that they are educated on certain things as they get older, no matter how embarrassing it may be.
In this article, we will help you plan for your big conversation with your little ones, making sure that it is done in a safe, healthy, and (mainly) non-awkward manner.
What Is The ‘Birds And The Bees’ Talk?
The basics of this ‘talk’ is to teach your children about sex. However, depending on the age of your children, there is a lot more to it than simply explaining how babies are made.
Here are 5 important topics that you should teach your children.
The part that we all remember about the ‘birds and the bees’ talk is the main event. This conversation typically comes up when your child asks the dreaded question:
“How are babies made?”
At this point, you’ll have two options. You can either tell them a sweet story about how Mommy swallowed a seed, and that seed grew in her belly to become a baby – i.e., lying to them – or you can be completely truthful.
Although, when we say ‘completely truthful’, this doesn’t necessarily mean going into great depths of detail. It is all about keeping it simple, yet informative (more on this later).
Male And Female ‘Private Parts’
If you have sons and daughters, they will likely already know that males and females have different genitals, due to seeing their siblings naked at some point or another.
However, if you only have one child, they may not be aware of this fact.
Without siblings, your son may assume that everyone in the world has a penis, or your daughter may think that everyone has a vagina.
If you’re teaching your children about sex, but they don’t know what genitals are (and that there are different types) then it will be a lot harder to explain. These topics come hand-in-hand.
The Names Of ‘Private Parts’
As a parent, it comes natural to many of us to give our genitals nicknames, like ‘willies’, or ‘hoo-has’.
You may think you’re teaching your child manners by giving their genitals silly names, but, in reality, this may not be a great idea in the long run.
No one ever wants to consider the worst-case-scenarios when it comes to our children, but unfortunately, this is something that could be detrimental to your child’s safety (see also “Independent Teens: 10 Safety Tips To Protect Yourself“).
If someone should ever touch your child inappropriately, you may not be able to understand what they’re telling you if they say that someone touched their ‘cookie’, for example.
Additionally, by teaching your child the real names of their genitals, it teaches them that they are nothing to be ashamed of. We shouldn’t be embarrassed of vaginas and/or penises – after all, everybody has them!
You may be concerned about teaching your child about sex in the first place, and if this is the case, it may be because you’re worried that it’ll encourage them to partake in sexual acts at a younger age.
This is why we teach them sexual boundaries at the same time.
You need to teach your child that no one should touch their genitals, or any other ‘personal’ body part. Let them know that if this ever occurs, they need to tell a trusted adult – e.g., their parents.
Once you’ve taught them about sex, tell them that this is something that only adults take part in. Children shouldn’t ever do this, and if anyone ever tries to tell them otherwise, they should, once again, tell a trusted adult.
Depending on your child’s gender, this part of the talk will vary:
- If your child is female, you will want to talk about menstruation, vaginal discharge, breast development, etc.
- If your child is male, you will want to explain about erections, nocturnal emission (wet dreams), voice changes, etc.
- For both, you may want to teach them about hair growth, acne, body odor, etc.
Aside from the sex talk, these conversations may be some of the more awkward ones to have. The most important thing you can do is convince your child that these are not awkward things to talk about – these are natural parts of life!
While you may feel uncomfortable about talking to your daughter about periods, or your son about erections, you need to remember that they are going to discover these things on their own, whether you teach them or not.
However, by teaching them about this kind of stuff, they will be less frightened/concerned, and more prepared, when they do eventually occur.
The Ideal Age To Give The ‘Talk’
This is often the biggest question new parents have when it comes to this topic. At what point do you teach your children about how babies are made?
Many parents decide to leave it as long as possible, for many reasons. Some worry that bringing up the subject of sex too early could be harmful to their children.
Others simply find it too embarrassing to talk about with their young kids.
Every parent is different, just as every child is different. Some prefer to teach their children at a young age, while others will simply allow their children to grow up and learn on their own, through friends, and sex education at school.
Ultimately, it would be best if you gave your child ‘the talk’ yourself. This way, they are learning from an adult that they know and trust.
It is recommended that, rather than giving your child a one-off conversation, you introduce the facts of the ‘birds and the bees’ throughout their childhoods.
For example, you can introduce the official terms for genitals (penis/vagina) as soon as they’re old enough to talk.
When they start preschool, or just before, introduce the concept of boundaries and consent. Remind them that no one should touch their private areas, aside from if they are having their diapers changed by trusted teachers/adults.
When your child finally asks the big question – ‘Where do babies come from?’ — you may want to keep your answer short and simple at first, depending on how old they are.
Start off by explaining that babies grow inside the Mommy’s tummy, and then they come out when they have grown big enough.
If your child is particularly young, this answer may be enough to satisfy them. The older they get, they may have bigger questions to ask, such as ‘How did the baby get inside the tummy?’
As a rule, it may be best to give them the bigger answers once they start going through puberty. After all, a girl who has started her period, or a boy who’s having wet dreams, will have questions about why these things are happening to them.
How To Answer The ‘Big Question’
So, you’ve just told your child that babies form inside the Mommy’s tummy, and they, in return, ask how the baby got there.
How do you answer this question?
Again, sex should not be a shameful subject. It is a natural thing that most people do, whether they want to have their own babies or not (although, you don’t need to explain that part to them).
By ignoring their question, or giving them a false answer – e.g., Mommy swallowed a special seed – you are not helping them. They’ve asked you a serious question; therefore, you should give them a serious answer.
The best way to do this is to keep it simple, teaching them using the official, biological terms: people with vaginas have eggs inside them, and people with penises have sperm inside them.
When a sperm meets an egg, a baby is formed inside the tummy.
As the child gets older, they may wonder how the sperm gets inside the tummy in the first place. Again, keep it simple, and try not to show your child that you’re uncomfortable (even if you are).
Explain that, when a Mommy and a Daddy love each other, and they want to make a baby, the Mommy gives the Daddy consent to put his penis inside her vagina.
The sperm from the penis then travels through the vagina, finds the egg, and creates the baby.
They may then ask how the baby comes out of the tummy. You can simply explain that, when the baby has fully grown, it will come out the same way it went in – through the vagina!
Avoiding Unnecessary Details
Obviously, you don’t have to explain the pleasurable aspect of intercourse to your child.
They don’t need to know about that side of things at their age, and even if you did tell them, they likely wouldn’t understand how putting a penis inside a vagina could be pleasurable.
Instead, they’ll probably just think it’s really gross. Like kissing.
By keeping it strictly biological, you are answering the question that you were asked without going into graphic detail.
Your child doesn’t need to know that people have sex whether they want a baby or not, or whether they are ‘in love’ or not. All they need to know, at that point, is how the baby is made.
As they enter puberty, they may have questions about masturbation. At this point, you will need to explain the pleasurable aspects of sex, but this isn’t something that a young child is likely to ask.
And, by the time your child reaches puberty, they may feel too embarrassed to ask about that kind of stuff, and may have already learned through other means, e.g., sex education at school.
So, as long as you answer the main question (‘How are babies made?’), they won’t be likely to ask any further questions at that time.
Although, let your child know that you are open to asking any questions that they have, as it is important that they know that you’re comfortable speaking to them.
If you show that you are comfortable speaking to them, they will feel comfortable speaking to you.
The Dangers Of Not Giving Your Child The ‘Talk’
In 2022, we live in a very different world to what our parents did, or our grandparents.
These days, everything is on the internet. If you haven’t given your child the ‘birds and the bees’ talk by the time they’ve started watching YouTube, they may have already gained some knowledge, maybe without realizing it.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of preteens and teenagers are reported to have learned about sex through discovering online porn.
This can be dangerous, as watching pornography at such a young age can cause children to develop unhealthy/unrealistic views on sex. Additionally, this can have a number of negative effects on a child’s developing brain.
Finally, we all remember what it was like being a kid on the playground.
Some kids learn about sex earlier than others, and they end up teaching the other kids the broken pieces of information that they know. This can become a game of Chinese Whispers.
Therefore, it is your responsibility to set the record straight!
How Not To Make It (Too) Awkward
The best way to explain the ‘birds and the bees’ to a child is, first and foremost, to not make it awkward. Or, at least, not too awkward.
One of the best ways to make the conversation less awkward is to straight-up address the elephant in the room. Say that, ‘Yes, this may be a little awkward to talk about, but it shouldn’t be, because it’s all completely natural’.
HOWEVER, you should only say that if your child is visibly uncomfortable. If they’re not, and you then express that you are uncomfortable, they will feed off of your emotions and feel the same way.
Ultimately, you just want to be straightforward with your child, keeping it simple. Give them the facts, and don’t make it into a ‘big deal’. Avoid using made up words – like willies or hoo-ha’s – and only stick to biological terms.
However, on the flip side, you will need to be firm with the more serious aspects, e.g., consent and boundaries. Make sure that they understand what you are saying, but in a calm, collected manner.
Most importantly, remain confident throughout the conversation. Assure the child that this is a completely natural thing.
Also remind them that, if they have any further questions on this topic, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask you, or another trusted adult in their life (e.g., their other parent).
No parent ever looks forward to the ‘birds and the bees’ talk, but it is an important conversation that needs to be had.
You should teach your children about these topics in a safe environment, allowing them to feel comfortable to ask questions freely.
Don’t lie to them, but don’t give them details that they don’t need to know about yet (e.g., sexual pleasure).
By being open with your children at a young age, the healthier their relationships to sex, puberty, and boundaries will be as they get older (see also “Do High School Relationships Last?“).
And, as a parent, that is all we could ever ask for.
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