Monday, June 09, 2008

The birds and the bees

Are you still talking to your kids about sex?

Have you even started?

It's never too early or too late. Time to get crackin'!

You can instill an open door to sexual discussions from the time your children are born. When you name body parts, you name them all ... and you name them correctly. We don't call our noses whicka-whacka's. So, we shouldn't call our vagina's our who-ha's.

When children ask questions, answer them.


When kids are not asking questions, bring it up. We have a sit-down time of questions and answers at least once a month. However, because my kids know we can talk about anything in this house, then it doesn't take much to spark a conversation.

Last night I told the kids that I wanted to blog about parents talking to their kids about sex and babies. I said that there are a lot of parents who are extremely nervous and embarrassed, so they just don't talk about it. So, when their kids have questions, they end up getting their answers from friends or older siblings ... or friends of older siblings!

I said, "Why don't each one of you tell me how it makes you feel to know that you can talk to us about anything. What would you want to say to these parents that are really nervous about talking to their kids about our bodies?" Here's how it went:

11 year old (boy)
Ewww. I don't want to do this.

10 year old (girl)
I'm glad that my parents can talk to me about birth and all of that sexual stuff because if I couldn't tell them anything it would be really weird. I would be kind of nervous - what would it be like if I told them or asked them about stuff? Kids tell me crazy stuff sometimes that I have to come home and ask them about it. I'm so glad that I can ask them anything! They're great parents. (She really did say that last part - didn't make it up - I swear)

9 year old (boy)
Do I have to?

8 year old (girl)
I want to know everything about sex and how to make babies. The part where you tell me how the woman and the man have to touch, well, I wanted to learn about it because it's really important - how to make babies. It would be sad if our Mom and Dad didn't tell us about it.

5 year old (girl)
The book about how babies are born is so great and cool and fun to read. It's happy. Of course we not get to laugh at it.

Now, there are those who will look at those responses and say, "See! Your boys don't want to talk about it!" Don't let yourself go there. My boys had just sat in the room, of their own accord, for a good ten minutes and actively participated in a conversation about sex. Last week when we read through "Where Babies Come From" as a family ... our newest boy in the clan gave out several "Ewwww"'s, but he stayed right where he was. Like a bad wreck, he couldn't look away.

And ya' know what? When we finished the book, I said what I've said a gazillion times, "Kids, this is your safe place. You can ask mom and dad anything. You don't talk to your friends about sex - tell them to ask their own parents. But if you hear something or you wonder about something, just ask. We will always answer you." And the "Ewwwwww"er looked right at me and said, "Mom, one of my friends said that babies can come out your butt."

He really thought it might possibly be true. Just like when I was in third grade and saw a news report on having babies and taking "the pill," and went to school the next day to tell all of my friends that you took a pill to have a baby.

We recapped the whole womb/vagina thing ... also taking a detour to describe (and draw an illustration) of how vagina, urethra and anus are all separate, and what goes into or comes out of each one.

Tonight we were talking about proper names for body parts: penis and vagina. The kids were all telling me the crazy names that some of their friends have used ... hot dogs and blueberries were the ones that brought the most laughs on this particular evening ... especially since we had all had blueberry muffins for breakfast - EEEWWWWWWWW!

We laughed together. We smiled. We connected. And we kept that bat phone open to all things sexual.

And nobody curled up in a ball and died of embarrassment.

You can do this.

(photo by ramzi hashisho)


Abby said...

We too want our home to be a safe haven for our kids where they can ask anything.

Over the last year or so, our oldest has asked a lot of questions (which we encourage). So after one particularily long conversation, she looked at me and said, "Momma, I'm so glad that you talk to me about these things."

I'm also going to borrow a page from your book tell my girls not to talk to their friends about sex. I think in the past I've encouraged them to ask me or their father questions not their friends. But as parents we should equip our kids to be able to say, "I think you need to talk to your parents about this."

Great post. Thanks.

L. Elizabeth Powers said...

I am 36 and my parents still haven't had "the talk" with me. Once I saw a program on tv about how the sperm and egg form a baby in the mother's "stomach". So surmised that sperm was transferred through saliva. I can't tell you HOW many cokes I threw out in my pre-teen years after boys drank from my soda can over fear of getting pregnant. Seriously.
You'd think at some point someone would have taken me aside and explained this to me, but in the end I guess no one wants to stick their whicka-whacka into someone else's business.
Anyway kudos to you for tellin' it like it is.

Cammie said...

I am so glad you talked about this. I cannot tell you how many dirty looks and disparaging comments I got from people when my 2 year old son would say, "Girls have a vagina and boys have a penis'. I would just look at them and respond, 'Well, that's what they are, aren't they?"

I just recently had a discussion with my son (who is now 10) about what sanitary napkins are. :)

Suburban Correspondent said...

Sorry - that cute little thing on tiny boys? Doesn't look like a penis to me, so we've always called it a pee-pee. As they get bigger, it morphs into a penis.

We call the vagina the birth canal, because that is what it is for. We teach them the other word also, of course; but when you are explaining how the baby gets out of mommy's tummy, it makes sense to say birth canal. Not everyone uses different words because they are scared or hung up! We use what is appropriate to the situation/discussion at hand. I call their navels belly buttons, and they aren't really buttons. I call their tiny little toes "piggies"...

You get my drift!

Suburban Correspondent said...

It is important to teach young; as they get older, they get more embarrassed!

Unknown said...

In all seriousness, using anatomically correct names greatly (underline GREATLY) decreases the chance of your child being sexually abused. This was a big point of discussion in our foster care training.

Perpetrators use silly, "funnier" names for body parts in their ploys to build an abusive relationship. They try to make everything very game-like. Experts have found that children will question those motives and discuss it with their parents more readily if they were taught anatomical names ("Mommy, why did Mr. Jones call my penis a wiggly worm?" "Uh, Mr. Jones did WHAT???").

Shan said...

Hmmm... I don't remember that part in training. I guess I WILL reconsider "peeparoni and cheese" then. Eek!

You'd have been proud of me the other day. My 4th grader came home from school and said the girls watched "The Film" and did his fingers in quotes. So I oh so casually explained what they'd be learning like I would explain how food moves through the body. When I was finished he said "Did you know I can make my nose pop?" I laughed and then he laughed and said "OH...not to change the subject or anything..." with a cheeky face. It was all so easy I loved the result. Pure open lines of chitty chats. :D Whew!

Gayle said...

With ya on the openness, anatomically correct terms and safe haven! But I have to tell you a funny story..My 5 yr. old understands that you do not have babies [sex (God brings a husband and wife together in a special way)] until your are married, so she asked me the other day "did you and daddy have to get married 3times to have a baby, it was so sweet..of course that led to a bit more coming together discussion, which satisfied her curiosity

Amy T. S. said...

I like to talk about penises (is that the plural?) a lot to my boys. I don't know why! I guess because they're always pulling on their own and each others'.

I have to admit though, sometimes I say "pagina" because I think it's funny. lol. I won't do that when "the talk" begins to happen.

We'll definitely use the anatomically correct words. I'm not crazy about the word anus, but it'll do!

One time when I was still seeing music therapy clients, I had a sweet boy draw a picture of a penis, draw a face on it and say, "It's you, Miss Amy!" Then he talked about the urethra. He was about 4-5 so I was pretty impressed. It was hilarious and pretty gross all at the same time.

Candy said...

When my youngest was about 3 he told his older brother after a "pee pee" reference, "we're calling it a penis because that's what it is... and girls have Virginias!"

R-Liz said...

I know this is an old post, but I have to add something:

When naming female body parts, please don't stop at the vagina. In fact, when helping my daughter name her anatomy as she goes checking herself out, we rarely get to naming her vagina. We've talked about the clitoris, labia, urethra, etc. (and, yes, sometimes she asks about her vagina). I am actually quite tired of the "vagina-centered" dialogue folks are having when it comes to female genitalia. For straight up coitus (and no focus on female orgasm), then sure-- let's only focus on the vagina. BUT, we do a great disservice to our daughters AND ours sons (given they hope to pleasure the stuffings out of a future spouse) when we don't give them the WHOLE picture of female genitals and what the function of each part is.

And P.S.-- Girls don't pee out of their vaginas.