How to talk to your younger child about sex
Really, really young isn't too young to talk about "it"
Tips from the pros:
- Teach your child the concept of public versus private and explain that some areas of the body are private, and some activities should only happen in private.
- Be prepared to hear the same questions over and over again. It takes time for children to process new information, and they may need to hear it a few times before they understand.
- If by age nine your child hasn't expressed any curiosity at all about bodies, or where babies come from, it's probably time to initiate the discussion.
- Do what you can to present sex as a positive and natural part of a loving relationship.
By Laura Scholes
Just when the tantrums have subsided and you think it’s safe to take your child on an extended shopping trip again, don’t be surprised if you encounter another land mine in the checkout line.
“Mommy, how did the baby get into that lady’s tummy?” your five-year-old asks in a loud voice, pointing at the very pregnant woman in front of you.
As unnerving as such questions often are for parents, they’re completely normal. “In preschool, kids start noticing and asking questions about how mom and dad have different body parts,” says Jenna Saul, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Auburndale, WI. “Then, by the time they turn five, the curiosity about body parts turns into a preoccupation with where babies come from.”
At my own house, the conversation began even earlier. At two, my daughter spotted a scar on my stomach, and I fumbled my way through a TMI explanation of a C-section: my first sex talk fail.
That first (uncomfortable) sex question
Whether the first sex question happens in private or very much in public, it catches almost every parent off guard.
Katrina Alcorn, an Oakland, CA, blogger, says she never worried about the "sex talk."
“I didn’t think it would be a big deal," says Alcorn, who has three children. "I’m progressive. I’m body positive. I’ll make sure my kids know what they need to know.”
Then, in the car one day, Alcorn's second grade daughter announced that she wanted to marry a girl because she didn’t want to die in childbirth.
“I was just floored,” Alcorn says. “But I tried to gather my thoughts and address her concerns one by one. I said, first of all, it’s really rare that people die in childbirth, and I don’t think that would happen to you. Second of all, it’s fine if you want to marry a girl, and you don’t have to decide now. Finally, you can adopt a baby whether you’re with a boy or a girl.”
Alcorn was proud of herself for dealing with her daughter's questions with such aplomb — but in the end her child got the last word. “She said, ‘I still want to marry a girl because I think kissing boys is gross and anyway, I don’t want to have sex.’ I couldn’t believe the sex talk snuck up on me without me being prepared for it!”