The day my daughter wanted to know about our boy dog and why he does certain things like why he got neutered was the time I had to make a decision to talk to my daughter candidly about sex. She was almost 10. I wasn’t sure what the right age is and you can read everything from 5 years old to college and everywhere in between. For us, the actually conversation happened between 4th and 5th grade. She took it pretty well, me…not as much.
I didn’t want to get anything wrong that freaked her out, use the wrong terms or give her information that confused her, forcing her to take to the playground to get further details.
We have always talked about safe touch and used very specific terms and language but this was the function talk, beyond the safety chat.
I will start by saying my daughter is not known as being street savvy. And everything is LITERAL. Literally. I stuck to the facts -- No storks, no birds and bees. Strictly textbook details despite my awkwardness. She accepted the topic pretty well, didn’t really ask any questions (at first). Then I gave her a book to take and look at it on her own terms. This wasn’t a sexual education book but rather one about her body and things are changing. That’s when it all started to click and then the questions came pouring out.
There are a ton of resources out there.
I liked the American Girl book series called “The Care and Keeping of You”. It was a great entry point because it is simply explained and able to be understood, more importantly. She read it, we read it together, I read it separately ahead of her to make sure I stayed on task. We had already talked about topics in a very light fashion as age needed, but as a late bloomer there wasn’t a rush on these topics. This book talked about puberty and how her body changes, making a natural entry to our “sex talk”. One thing I’ve learned from my mom friends is that everything is different for every kid and I can only speak to my daughter but I found what worked for us:
Research when you have a toddler, learn how and when to talk to them about inappropriate touch and decide what makes it most comfortable to openly discuss. I was open about terminology and boundaries of others making sure to focus on safe touch by other parents, friends, school people and doctors.
By the time she was in late elementary school, we discussed puberty and why your body changes.
By middle school, she knows about sexual intercourse, what boys (or girls) might try and why. I find it helps to sprinkle this into dialogue, don’t just come on full force as they shut down on the conversations. Best time to do it is when you don’t have to look at each other usually – driving in the car, laying down in bed, when you are cooking dinner together. My daughter got uncomfortable with straight on eye contact but was perfectly at ease having the conversation when we weren’t just having a discussion without another activity.
And this is real; kids are having sex much younger and unfortunately exposed to so much more than we were.
We constantly talk about inappropriate images being potentially flashed in social media and why. We talk about the exposure that the Internet allows so that she is aware of what lurks out there, but you CAN and need to find a balance to keep them innocent but educated.
It’s never too early to start the conversation about their bodies and give yourself some time to come to terms with the fact that it is an inevitable discussion. Just make sure you have the conversation. Literally.