Wondering when to talk to kids about sex?
I have heard this question multiple times, "When is the right age to start talking to children about sex?"
Sex is an important topic that we cannot shy away from as parents. It is not only a natural desire that humans have, but an important way husbands and wives connect in marriage. The problem is, too many parents are either too embarrassed to talk about it because no one told them how to talk about it in a healthy way or maybe they were shamed to talk about it, or they minimize the importance and assume the school system will eventually teach their children.
We should not view this topic as a one-time conversation, and definitely not a conversation about the how-to's of intercourse, but think of it as an ongoing dialogue about sexual health and development that is age appropriate with the intent to raise up sexually healthy individuals. Talking to your children about sex doesn't have to be awkward. It starts with helping children to know the names of their private parts and the boundaries for safety, as well as being comfortable talking about the topic...completely shame-free.
It is absolutely necessary that parents talk about sexual health and development. I cannot stress this enough. There is a principle of first mention that states whatever teaches a person first about a topic will become the lens in which they view that same topic. In other words, if I allow my children's peers or inappropriate television to expose my kids to what the world deems as okay for sexual topics, then my child will think that is normal even if I talk with them afterwards and correct that thinking. It is easier to teach something right the first time, than to try to correct a mindset that has already been formed. Ask anyone who has struggled with breaking bad habits or old mindsets.
In 2018, I had the privilege of talking with parents in a local school district conference about this topic. I wanted to give parents the most practical tools, as usual, so I looked up books that parents could use as a reference for talking with their children. A lot of what I found was horrifying and were books for children and teens that I would not in a million years want in the hands of children, so beware, always look through a book before handing it to your children...
I did, however, find some golden ones and wanted to share with you my favorite for young children up to age 8. Once your children are 8, they really need resources to prepare them for puberty and to begin conversations surrounding the changes that their bodies will be going through.
The book, Who Has What, is so far my favorite book as an introductory book on private parts for young children. It is matter of fact, makes the topic completely normalized, and labels body parts without an overfocus on private parts. It tosses it in there with the rest of the body parts we all have, making it a natural thing....which it is! You can grab your copy here:
Even though we want to teach our children that private parts are normal, we do want to let our children know that they are special and protected in additional ways: it is not okay for others to see them, touch them, or have them touch or see their private parts either. Explain that it is not because they are bad parts of the body, but rather opposite. They are treated with much respect and are to be only seen by themselves, with exception to parents changing babies diapers or doctors making sure those parts are staying healthy, with the presence of the parent.
For girls who are 8-10, I like this book by American Girl.
It covers a wide variety of physical and emotional topics, including changes to the body during puberty. They have one for older girls but I have not gone through that one so I can't necessarily recommend what I have not looked through myself. I'm hesitant for some things like this because as you get into puberty and relationship books for teens, you are going to find a dividing line where people's morals and teachings will shift and separate you from the masses. It's good practice to look through books before handing them over to teach your child about relationships and sexual development.
Interestingly enough, the American Girl company makes a book on puberty for boys. Because I'm not a boy mom, I don't own that one but I have flipped through one for that presentation I gave and from what I could tell, I would say it is worth the investment.
I also recommend that you talk through the contents of these books with your child so they can ask questions, you can build your relationship with them, and demonstrate that there is no topic they can't come to you about. You are their guide in life...their ambassador, and no one can teach them about life better than you, their most trusted adult on planet earth.
May these resources (keyword, resources, not replacement of parent) give you a great start to wonderful conversations that helps your child build a healthy foundation for sexual development.
For additional tips on this topic and perspective, listen to my interview on the I Am Truth And Love Podcast with my friends, Beau and Shanna, where I go into more depths about things to consider.