How young is too young when it comes to talking about sexuality, puberty, and where babies come from? In my opinion, it is never too early to start. Kids need to be aware and know the facts before their friends start teaching them and before they start puberty (which can be as young as 10 these days).
My kids are 5 and 7 and they know where babies come from.
I started talking to my children about sexuality when they were 2 years old. To me, “The Talk” is a process that takes place over a series of years, not a one-time conversation at 13. Our conversations at 2 were to teach them private body parts, using the correct terms like “penis” and “vagina.” I also taught them how to wash and care for their privates. Simple.
We transitioned to what appropriate touch is. Who can and cannot touch them and when. An example of someone touching them in an acceptable way is during their annual check-up with the pediatrician. And Dr. L is such a great doctor that she confirms what I tell them all the time. Every check-up, she says, “I asked you to undress for me because I am a doctor and I am looking to see if you’re healthy. I would not do this if your parents are not here.”
Our conversation progressed to included physical boundaries. When they don’t want someone to hug or kiss them, they get to say no. I have found that it is so hard for adults to understand that it’s okay if my kids don’t want to hug or kiss them. But I reinforce it by supporting my kids when they feel uncomfortable. I introduced them to a book at this time titled I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide on keeping your private parts private, by Zack and Kimberly King. We read the 38-page book in one sitting. They love it and still read it today.
My niece turned 1 at the end of April of this year. When my sister was pregnant with her, my children were very interested in how a baby gets from inside Mommy’s tummy to the outside. Mini Mermaid, who was 4 at the time, thought your belly button opens up and the baby comes through that way. Little Mermaid said you go to the hospital and the doctor gives you your baby. She was correct, only she did not know how. And with their many questions, I explained to them that babies grew in the uterus and come through the vagina or by way of c-section. Their 20-something questions exploded into a million! “Where is the uterus?” “Is the uterus the same as the stomach?” “How does a baby come through our vagina?” “Did I come out the same way?”
About two months ago while walking home from school, Little Mermaid asked me how she was made. She knows where a baby develops and how a baby gets from inside a woman’s body to the outside world. Trying to avoid telling her about intercourse (because I was caught off guard and wasn’t ready), I told her she was created when Mommy’s egg and Daddy’s sperm joined together. My child giggled at the thought of her coming from an egg, but that answer satisfied her.
A couple of days later, Little Mermaid told me that her friend (who is a couple years older than her) told her that babies are made when Mommy and Daddy get naked and sleep together. And that opened up the conversation to how the egg and sperm meet.
This was a really big talk, and I needed the help of a book to illustrate my points. So, I headed to Barnes and Noble soon after and looked at the choices of books they have to teach children how babies are made. They didn’t have a good selection, most likely because they’re out of stock since I remember a bigger variety the last time I was there. I was really looking to buy What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg because I heard that it includes different family dynamics, as well as other means of having a baby (IVF, surrogate, adoption). Unfortunately they didn’t have it. So, I opted for Changing You: A Guide to Body Changes and Sexuality by Gail Saltz.
I really like the detailed diagrams and drawings. Saltz’ book included everything from how your body changes, to intercourse, to briefly discussing about pregnancy, and lastly, boundaries. I do have to nit-pick one detail, and that is that Saltz only describes one way to make a baby. It states that “When a man and a woman love each other and decide that they want to have a child, they will do something called ‘sexual intercourse’ or ‘having sex.'” Although I do agree with Saltz that what we, as parents, say will have an impact on our children and that this is a crucial time to set up guidelines for our children, I disagree that we give them the notion that only those who are in love can make a baby. But I did use this part of the book to elaborate that you can make a baby without being in love (although I would like it if they waited until they’re ready) and that different family dynamics, like gays and lesbians, can still have babies through other means.
It took us a while to finish reading Saltz’ book. The book was only a tool to help me discuss reproduction to my child, so we made a lot of stops along the way to explain in details the diagrams, answer questions, and expand on certain subjects.
My kids have a better understanding of human reproduction after this and Changing You has become one of their favorite books. Why, they asked my spouse and I to read it 5 days in a row because they enjoyed it so much.
I feel that the more we make sex a taboo topic, the more our children will seek elsewhere for answers. Sex is much more than just intercourse. It is about sexuality, reproduction, healthy boundaries, and more. I would rather have my children ask me and I provide facts than my children hear inaccurate information from their peers. And besides, sex and sexuality isn’t bad. There is nothing to be ashamed of.