If your young child asks questions about sex, consider sharing the facts instead of changing the subject.
When it comes to the sex talk, some parents prefer waiting until a certain age to share certain information. They spend years skating around scary questions and coming up with creative half-truths to keep from having an uncomfortable conversation with their child. At the end of the day, all it does is create confusion. And the fact is, little kids might be more ready to hear the real deal than we think.
In an essay for The Washington Post, Rasha Madkour recounts a conversation with her 3-year-old son in which she decided to answer his sex-related question honestly. With his testicles in his hands, the little boy said, “Mama, I think these two things are my kidneys.” Describing a recent talk between her son and husband about kidneys and how urine is made, she realized the child was trying to figure out his own body parts. So she decided to tell him.
“They’re testicles,” she told her son. He asked if pee goes in and out of them to which Madkour responded, “No, but they are part of your farfoora (Arabic for penis), so I understand why you’d think that.”
The child pressed for more information and Madkour decided to wait for her husband to come home and help her explain further. She says he has a history of being unabashedly frank about sex starting in childhood, having presented his 5th grade class with a detailed explanation of sexual intercourse as part of a project. When he arrives home, their son hasn’t forgotten the question his mother put on pause earlier.
Her husband explained that testicles make sperm and when the child asked what sperm is, his father didn’t miss a beat. “Sperm goes into the womb and makes a baby.” Satisfied, the boy left the topic alone and returned to his Legos.
Madkour’s husband says, “I’d rather my kid know the facts. If they ask, they’re ready to know.”
This is the philosophy I’ve followed with my children and at ages eight and six, they know a good deal more about their bodies, sex and how babies are made than their peers. Honesty has always been our policy.
And to clarify, it’s not like I got out a dry-erase board and drew people humping, but I’ve always answered their questions as they came. Instead of a formal sit-down in their early teens where we lay it all out, my husband and I have taken the exact approach of Madkour and her husband — if they ask, they’re ready to know. In an age-appropriate fashion, of course.
This may not work for every family, but having come from a childhood where information about sex was cloaked in shame, I decided long ago that transparency would be key in my discussions about sex with my children. I hold no ill-will toward my parents and believe they did what they thought was right in choosing to withhold certain information from my brothers and I. But as an adult with kids of my own, I see the error of that method and want something different for my son and daughter.
When we hide information about sex from our kids or tell them nonsense in place of facts (i.e., The Stork, or giving cutesy names to private parts) we are doing them a disservice. It’s not as though we need to explain sex positions in vivid detail or provide diagrams, but it’s perfectly fair to tell them in simple, age-appropriate words how a baby is made, if they bother to ask.
After all, as the author’s husband notes, their friends will tell them if we don’t. We’ve already had our daughter come home spouting ridiculous things about sex shared by a child on the bus. No thanks. When you tell your kids the correct answers to these questions, you empower them against the misinformation they’ll be hearing from their peers. And there’s nothing wrong with that.