How do you explain the birds and the bees?


Published December 2009 on (defunct website)

It’s one of those questions every parent dreads: How do I talk to my kids about sex? There aren’t any easy answers, but we can learn from other moms what approaches to take, and how to prepare for “The Talk”.

(* real names have been changed for privacy)

  1. Prepare your child early on

Jenny, 31, shares: “My daughter Grace is 3 and I haven’t had the sex talk with her yet, but I think you can’t just suddenly talk about sex with your kids when they reach what you think is the “proper” age. You have to be open about these things from the start, so that when the time comes, your child feels comfortable asking you about sex. When I was teaching my daughter how to talk, I would point to her body parts and name them: head, hand, nose – even her private parts! So for her, “vagina” isn’t a dirty word and she’s not embarrassed to use it.”

The “sex talk” shouldn’t be a surprise to you or your child. Instead, you should prepare for it by creating an atmosphere where your child knows they can ask you about anything, and gradually introduce some words or ideas relating to sex (like the names of their private parts) so that when you finally talk about it, s/he won’t find it embarrassing or weird to have the talk.

  1. Take the first step

Just because your child doesn’t ask questions about sex, it doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook. The “talk” can’t be ignored, or put off until your child is in high school (they probably know more about sex than you by that time!) There is no right age for when you can talk to a child about sex, as this depends on his/her mental development and curiosity. When you sense that your child is prepared, then you can have the talk.

Tin has a daughter, Abigail, who is now 15 years old. They first talked about sex when Abigail was 9, because Tin felt she was ready for it. Since then, Abigail has asked questions about other sex-related issues. “Aside from sex, you need to also talk about sex-related things, like masturbation and attraction to others. You have to help your child prepare for adolescence, and the sexual feelings that appear. It’s especially important that girls know about menstruation before it happens, to avoid shock and/or embarrassment.”

  1. Don’t be a TMI mom

Giving too much information (TMI) can be just as bad as giving no information at all. Make sure that the information you share is appropriate for your child’s age and mental development. For example, a child below 10 years old might not understand the act of sex itself, so it would be best to limit your description of sexual intercourse to a very basic one. You can elaborate on the details later on.

  1. Make sure sex isn’t just about “sex”

Emphasize that sex isn’t just about the act, but about relationships and choices. Lisa, 39, has a 10 year old son. “A cousin of mine was molested when she was young. One of the things that really broke my heart was that she didn’t even realize that she was being molested until she was a bit older, and by that time it was too late. The person was gone, and the damage was done. That’s because her parents were super conservative and they never talked about sex or anything related to it. Her experience has taught me and when my son turned 8 years old, I had the sex talk with him. I also told him that if someone touches his private parts, or someone makes him touch his or her private parts, to let Mom or Dad know because those parts are special, and not just anyone can touch them.”

When talking about sex, always put it in context. You can tell your child that it is between two people in a specific, loving relationship with each other – like husband and wife. In the future they can make their own decisions about sex and sexuality, but for now, make sure that no one can take advantage of them by letting them know that sex isn’t a trivial act.