When Is the Right Time to Have the 'Birds and the Bees' Talk?
July 07, 2009
San Diego, CA
My 8 yr old is asking my to explain what is "sex". I've side stepped the topic at least a few times. I have the book "Where Did I Come From". That's what my parents used to explain it to me, but I think I was much older (10 or 11). I know everybody has their own feelings about this, but I definitely want him to hear it from his parents first, and not on the playground. My husband and I are both physicians, and we would be fairly comfortable talking about the body and its functions. However, I want to make sure he's ready. Any comments or suggestions?
I believe the time is now. If he is asking then he is ready. Give him the answers as he asks. Don't give him more information then he is asking for. If he knows you will give him answers then he will always come to you. This will develope the trust you want to have with him in every area of his life. Side steeping can be dangerous. He will soon go to someone else and who knows what they will tell him. If you think the book you have is too old for him, don't use it, yet. Just answer his questions honestly as if he has ask you, "what makes the clouds?" I have raised one son,two step sons and two daughters. They all come to me with thier problems and questions. I will never forget my first sex talk with my youngest step son. This created a bond between us that is pricless.
I first gave the book to each of my kids and told them to read it in private, then I sat them both down together and explained what it was. When I was done, I asked them if they understood me and if they had any questions, they told me that the book pretty much said the same thing as I did. The only issue was when I first explained how the girl parts and boy parts "fit together". My 10 year old son covered his head with a blanket as if to hide because he was embarrassed and my 8 year old daughter said, " I think I'm gonna throw up." She was somewhat joking, but it was an honest reaction. Hope this helps.
Well, it's probably about time to begin the discussion if he's asking about it. Kids are becoming sexually involved at an alarmingly young age these days and it's best if he hears the basics form his parents, and not in the school yard. Good luck!
I know this is a "late in the game" response; apologies if you've heard this point of view before.
If you want to be the "source" of sex information, tell your son what he wants to know when he wants to know it. "Where Did I Come From" is a great book (so is its companion "What's Happening to Me" for puberty). I've done this with my two sons (now 11 and 15) and my eldest swears I was the "source" at the local intermediate school when he was there. Everyone would ask my son their sex questions because they knew he could ask me ANYTHING and I'd tell him straight...and he'd pass the information on!
The best thing about talking early and soon about sex is that you can inculcate your son with your values because you can wrap the biology with the morality in a way that works for your family.
I would caution you, though, to speak plainly. It's amazing what our kids hear when we don't even say it. For example, my husband and I never told our sons they had to wait until married to have sex. We always told them they shouldn't have sex until they are willing to become fathers and that birth control was as much their responsibility as it was the girl's. What did my sons hear? Wait until you're married! Not surprising since my husband and I started dating when I was 17 and married 4 years later. All they've ever seen in their lives are long-lasting, committed marriages!
My daughter has asked me about sex as well, and I told her it was something that mommies and daddies do and that that is how babies are made. I also have shown all my kids, my daughter is my oldest, Nova's "Miracle of Life" video. I made the explanation age appropriate. They don't need details yet.
I wanted to answer their questions openly so that they won't be afraid to ask any other questions they may have as well as give them information. Children today are learning about and in some cases having sex at such young ages that I want to be the one who gives them their information instead of them learning it from friends or worst case scenario, experience.
Bottom line, if they ask give them an answer. Better from you than from other sources.
You are absolutely correct that your child should hear YOUR answers to his questions, rather than looking elsewhere for his answers. When a child is old enough to ask a question, he is old enough to receive a truthful answer -- maybe not the whole truth <grin> but the truth.
I have found these books to be a godsend:
"It's Not the Stork" and "It's So Amazing" (both by Robie Harris). They provide age-appropriate answers to the questions kids ask about where they come from and what sex is.
When I was 8 years old, I asked my mom what "hump" means. She asked me how I heard the word used and I told her that I heard so and so humped so and so in the playground with their clothes on at school. I will never forget that conversation. She told me the word was slang for sex and then told me the basics of sex. She talked about how babies were made etc. She also clarified that they probably didn't have sex in the tire, especially if they had their clothes on. After our conversation, I couldn't stop thinking you did what with dad?!
Although I thought it was disgusting, I was glad to understand what was being talked about at school. I was glad to know what the truth was and I was also glad that I could go to my mom and trust that she would answer me honestly.
Like the other posts said, if your son is asking, he is ready. You should definitely be the one to educate him. Talk to him in basic terms as though he were one of your patients and you'll be fine.
Be prepared for him to feel various emotions about the subject, but know that ultimately he will respect you.
He's asking for a reason. Either someone at school brought it up or something he saw in a movie or TV has sparked his curiousty. I would ask him what about 'sex' he wants to know. Be as candid as you think is appropriate, but more than likely it's just wanting to understand the basics or what it is.
At least he feels he can ask you!! I'm not sure of books, but you can check on Amazon for age appropriate titles that might help you show him the body today.
If he is asking then he is more then ready. Use explanations that are somewhat "clinical" but age appropriate. I think it is also a good idea to have "the talk" in stages- or a series of talks- that answer his questions but wont overwhelm him with too much information at once.
I would consider the introduction to your 5 year old too. Nothing to detailed, just an explanation of body parts (appropriate touching versus inappropriate touching). Kids are REALLY smart and know much more then parents give them credit for.
An open dialog now will let your kids feel comfortable with asking questions and coming to you in the future. Good luck!
My daughter is only six. Instead of avoiding the topic I tried my best to example it in terms she would understand, and hopefully not be more interested in. I've never liked your too young for that, I remember being young and curious and that answer always made want to group up faster to just to know what the fuss is all about. I am hoping to avoid this with my children. I guess I am just not weirded out by the topic. Don't get me wrong, I am not into parents being friend and being all open with my children. I just know that someday they are going to learn it from 'somewhere' (media, peers, other) and I am hoping to beat 'somewhere' to the punch and be the ones to teach my children the facts.
If he asked than he's ready. If you have side stpped You re not ready! lol By dancing around the issue you are teaching him that there is something wrong about it or that it is some big secret which is going to make him want to know even more but know not to approach you and your husband because he isn't going to want to make you uncomfortable. By not talking to him about it now you are setting the ground work for all the future conversations about the 'deep' issues in life. I just had the period talk with my 8 year old daughter. And while I may have been little uncomfortable. I tried my best to act as normal and comfortable. Because I want her to know she can come to me for anything. The latest studies show that parents who have the type of sex talk that doesn't imply that sex is wrong have the best chances of children waiting. So make sure you talk about the beauty of sex for people who are married. If you are religious discuss how it is a gift from God for when two people get married. Good luck!
My kids were both 9 when we had the talk but I do know some kids who were 8. You should probably go ahead and do it because some kids at school talk about it that young, just gossip and curious questions among the kids. My daughter told me when she was 9 the girls were talking about it at a slumber party, so it should definitely be soon!
Often times kids are asking because they have heard a word and don't know what it means. Other kids are really curious about those things early.
I would start by asking him what he knows. After you have figured out what he is really interested in, then you will know how to simply and vaguely answer the question. If he is still curious, then you can elaborate.
An 8 year old usually does not want a biology lesson. Just a sentence or two will suffice.
i think if hes asking most likely he heard other kids talking about it at school. talk to him about it in a way that he can understand it. ask him why she wants to know about sex. then base your explination off of his questions. good luck!
If he's asking, it means he's getting confusing signals and wants reliable information. Don't worry that hearing it so "early" will "ruin" his childhood - you want your kids to come to YOU with the hard questions, not to the kid down the street!
It's perfectly acceptable to be accurate but but not overwhelming. Say something like, "The word 'sex' means the things parents do that makes babies." Explain that it's personal, private and since it creates babies, nothing to be treated casually (he may have heard a phrase like "abstain from sex until married,") and tell him that when he's older, you'll explain more, but "it's pretty complicated, and I don't think you'll remember it all if I tell you too much now."
Then you could go on to explain how very often people use the word "sexy" to describe something attractive, even a car, but those descriptions are slang and therefore not very accurate. He might want to know more about baby making, and you can explain rudimentary fetal development, but most likely he just wants clatrification on the definition of the word, not details about the process. Ask him where he's heard the word, because that will give you an idea where to take the conversation.
I'd ask him what he thinks it is and what he wants to know. That will help you figure out how much information he needs at this point. Kids today get way more information than we were faced with as kids. My oldest is 5 so we haven't had this conversation yet but he recently asked me where babies come from. I asked him where he thought they come from and he said they come from the hospital. I confirmed that and he was happy. He really didn't want a full blown explanation.
My best friend's daughter asked me what sex was when she was about 8. I was pretty freaked out but am really close to her and her mom so I asked her what she thought it was. She said that it is when you swim naked with a boy. I told her "no, that is skinny dipping." And she said "Oh" and wandered off to play. It really does help to know what is on their mind and see if you can figure out why they are asking or what they really want to know.
Sadly soon! I know a few sub-teachers and they tell me that 5th and 6th graders are having sex regularly!!!!!!!! I couldnt believe it! My parents gave me the talk in 3rd grade. They took me out to dessert then took me home and we watched a cartoon video about it, then we had a Q&A it was all strange. With my daughter I plan on having the talk around 5 or 6.
The time is when the children ask the question, and the asnwer should be age-appropriate -anywhere from 10 words to a dialogue about it. The rule of thumb is that a child is developmentally ready to hear answers to the questions they ask. Unfortunately, most of those who are asking the question is because they have already heard about it... so hurry up or he will get his asnwers in the school playgrond! Welcome to the world of pre-puberty! A.
"We"...being my friends and I... figured "mating" out from the discovery channel in the first grade in South Carolina. (1986)
In the second grade the whole "snake & jungle", and "car & garage" jokes were paramount on the playground in San Diego. (These were new to me-1987)
And then in the 3rd grade in Huntington Beach(8-9 years old), one of our classmates got pregnant via another of our classmates. Oy. At the time the school wide sex talk happened in the 5th grade. They bumped it back that year. (1988) Now, granted, we were all drinking hormone milk, and eating meat that had the same growth hormones in them...so most of my 3rd grade class had their period (and the hormones that go along with puberty that made it a FASCINATING topic...but it always struck me that their moving the "talk" back that year rather like locking the barn after the horse had escaped).
Oy. I have to admit though, my son's turning 7, and I'm really not looking forward to it. Ugh. Like you, the science is no problem. For us it's very definitely a how much/when proposition. Don't get me wrong, sex is fantastic, but not only does a whole lot go into all the different aspects...so choosing which aspects when is an issue...there's also the not wanting our son to be "that kid" who educates everyone else's kids about it on the playground. Sigh. Our puritan heritage once again making life difficult.
And thanks for the reminder, that the time's coming up fast on us, also.
Have you asked your son what he knows? Don't assume he knows anything accurate. Ask him.
Ask him what he wants to know about it.
Ask him if he wants to know the how or the why.
ASk him a direct question, tell him only a direct answer. Use real words. Kids today are receiveing more and more explicit info than ever before.
But know that as a parent, you get to decide what information your children have.
My daughters are 13 and 10. I have done a good job of keeping them "young" but not "naive". The comment "kids in 5th and 6th grade are "regularly" haveing sex" that is ridiculous. absolultely NONSENSE. Regulalrly would imply that it happens at every school, every day. I taught school for over 10 years, that is not even the "norm" in junior high and high school".
The best advice I can give, one mom to another. Talk to your son. You ask the questions, you direct the conversation. Don't jump to conclusions, love him, listen to him and honour where he is.
You are a good mom, I can tell that because you are out there asking for help. Bless you.
I don't know if I'm to late or not, but he has simply heard the word and all he needs to know is that it's when a mom and dad snuggle together. He might add in Naked and you say yes. This is something you do when your married only. Most likely he will be grossed out at this thought. You can ask him what he has heard and or if it's at school or a friends. But before you leave this conversation talk to him about not talking to others about it and that if someone asks him about it then he needs to say, go talk to your mom or dad they will tell you. There is nothing worse then a little kid telling this to other little kids. And we wonder why they know so early. Sex is alot to deal with, keep your answers small he doesn't need to know where daddy parks his privates yet. He'll learn that in a few more years. Just be open so he'll be okay with coming back to ask more questions when he is ready. Good luck. J.
I think that now is the right time to talk to him, esp. considering that you and your husband are physicians and thus, I imagine, well-informed on the topic. I've found that people whose parents educated them about sex early in life tend to have healthier lives and healthier attitudes about sex. People whose parents who refused to talk to them about sex and just acted as though their kids would suddenly just "know" what to do, my in-laws, for example, tend not to have healthy sex lives. I wish that my in-laws had been comfortable talking to my husband about sex. Maybe talking to him would have helped our sex life and helped prevent us from separating. Maybe my husband, at 43, would have been comfortable at least talking about basic sexual health issues.
I was nine when my parents talked to me about it...my mom didn't want me surprised by getting my period and figured at nine I was at the beggining of that possibility window. We read through a booklet about that and then we watched the Nova show "Miracle of Life" to learn about sex. It seemed appropriate and I'm glad we learned when we did...didn't make me or my sisters any more likely to have sex.
I don't personally believe in one "talk." I believe that this is a subject that evolves over time. I have no idea how this way of explaining things came up at our house, but my seven year old has known that mommies and daddies "plug in" to each other to make babies for quite some time. Yes, it's over simplified and one of the first nuances we're already having to explain is why there are sometimes mommies without apparent daddies, but I'm thrilled with this phased discussion, and I can almost keep a straight face when she mentions the plugging in. The important thing to me is that my daughter knows this is a natural act that doesn't have a lot of drama around it (like a "big talk" could engender). You might have missed the opportunity with an 8 year old to simplify to the level that we're at, but like the other mamas below, I encourage you to ask your son clarifying questions and just feed him a little information at a time in the biggest picture explanation possible.
You will first want to find out where you son heard the word from and how it was used. Then you will want to determine your sons maturity. Kids are much more sexually aware these days, but it does not mean that they are mature enough to handle the knowledge that goes with it. For some children, it is so overwhelming that they may choose to "share" with those around them as a means to help them cope with information that is "too much" for their little minds to wrap around.
You can also give a very general answer such as, "sex is a way that married adults express their love for one another." This will allow him to understand that it's meant to be an act of love and at the same time plant the seeds of your family's moral roots.
I was a teacher for 17 years and worked with prepubescent youth (4th-6th grade) and it was very frustrating for me to see their innocence robbed at too early an age. Once they had the information there was peer pressure to act on what they learned. Unfortunately, at that age most children do not have the inner strength to value their bodies enough to know what is appropriate or inappropriate and thus they would get themselves into situations too mature for their liking.
You, as the parent, have the right to tell your son, we will tell you about that in a few years. If anyone tries to talk to you again about that, will you let us know?
If he is old enough to ask, then he is old enough to know. Make sure that your answers are truthful and age appropriate. You want your child to be comfortable telling you or asking you ANYTHING!! .
If a child feels that you have lied or will not answers their questions, then they will turn to their friends for answers. Is that what you really want? A child explaning to another child what they THINK sex is.
My son is almost 8 and I've already read him a book several times and talked with him about the "birds and the bees". This all started when he was 6. It seemed he was learning words and different things at school much sooner than I expected and I wanted to make sure I broached the subject before he "heard it on the playground". I just casually read him the book I had that is christian based and goes into detail about sex. I then allowed him to ask questions. I also explained that not all mommy's and daddy's are okay with their children knowing this information and it's to be talked about only at home. I elaborated that kids hear/share wrong information all the time and I wanted him to have the right information. I instructed him to talk with me or his daddy if he hears anything at school or among friends about this information. We've revisited the topic several times and he totally understands the topic. However, I was impressed that he took it seriously and has felt comfortable asking questions. And, his questions have not been the details many adults find so scary, but rather about marriage. It has not been a big deal at all for us, but I feel good that the door has been opened.
Good for you that your son is willing to ask you those questions. Children are ever more curious earlier, and it is good to share this information with him. Just don't overload him. Keep it simple, on his intellectual and maturity level. If he asks for more, carefully give him what he needs.
If he's asking, it's the right time. My own daughter started asking questions when she was a bit younger than your son and I found a book titled "First Comes Love" -- It's great because it has a simpler main text that you can read to younger children (like your younger daughter) and then a secondary text appropriate for slightly older children, like your son. For their ages, I think it's perfectly targeted and it also puts the idea of procreating into the context of a marriage. I figure that can't hurt! Then he could probably also use some kind of book on puberty fairly soon, too. Having only a daughter I can't recommend a particular one for boys though I'm sure you can find a good one. (And for girls, I can't say enough about "The Care and Keeping of You" -- it's just right.) As you can tell, I'm a fan of using books to open up these conversations. Have fun!
Around our house there has never been "a talk" it is as natural as going to the bathroom. We talk at the dinner table, in the car or where ever we hear something that makes them go "hum". We clarify things to be sure they understand as time goes on. Don't forget to inform him on your beliefs/morals and values. my oldest is 13, so far so good...I know I have just begun. They start to hear thing as soon as they are in school. A lot of children have older siblings and that gets it all going. If he is asking what sex is, then he is already hearing things on the playground...the talk should be SOON. Good luck. Relax this will open doors for communication for you, DH and son. Enjoy it!
If he's asking, he's ready, IMHO. I wish my parents had gone over it with me. I pretty much had an idea at that age, but I was never comfortable talking with my parents about it because they never tried to explain anything to me first.
By all means, asking=ready! I was pregnant when my 8 year-old asked her dad where babies come from (one day mom is not prego, next day she is, what gives?). He asked her if she really wanted to know. She said "yes" so he told her... in terms and amounts she would understand. I knew I would have to have 'the talk' since at the time I had 3 girls. I just didn't think my DH would beat me to the punch! Actually, it was nice because he's very open, relaxed, and respectful about the whole thing (not too medical, not 'gross' at all). Maybe you and your husband could talk about it together before discussing it with him. For us, we had many discussions as to what we thought about it WAY before we even had children... what we wanted to share with them (nothing personal) and our views on virtue, etc. In fact, this week my oldest had her first period. She was actually excited to share the news with her dad (I think even he was a bit stunned). What it gets down to is that this can be a great relationship builder between you, your husband, and your son. Good luck!
being that you have all the pictures and correct info because you're physicians i'm sure you're well equiped.. when i helped my sister explain it to her 11 yr old daughter we had pictures, available but let her ask the question and give her understand of what she thought some of the things wer,,,i.e. like what is sex, her explanation is when people get naked and show how much they like each other,,, we killed that one real fast by showing her what exactly it was and helping her understand that just because you like some one it's not the best way to show it... kids have way more info and understanding then we think but need to be re assured that what they know is wrong or right or partially either.. i'd say if he's wondering then let him ask explain and you aid ... i'm scared for when my 4 yr old and 3 yr come to this stage
My son was 6 when he asked me how the baby got into the mom's stomach. I told him. His reaction was "When did they think that up?" lol. Anyway, we've had discussions periodically over the years. He started puberty at 8 years old so I thought it best he'd be prepared for what was happening to his body. He is 13 now and he asks me questions about girls, relationships, what to do (not sex). I give him advise and suggestions and he actually listens. It is never too early to start talking when they ask questions. Just make it age appropriate and honest. My goal has always been for them to come to me when they have questions about anything. I tell them the truth, good and bad and tell them the consquences and my opinion on the issue. The same goes for drugs, alcohol, school, grades, friends, family, etc. I'm trying to give them the right tools and information so they will make good decisions for themselves (my daughter is 10). While my son has always wanted to know everything, even if it embarrassed him, my daughter has very clear boundries of what she wants to know and when. One time I wanted to review some information on sex with her and she told me, "I don't feel that's appropriate for a child of my age" and she was 7. Kids will let you know when they're ready and when they're not. Just make sure you're ready too and never miss an opportunity to have open and honest talks about life and your values with them.