Let me backtrack a bit first before I go on. When my daughters were just learning how to talk I had a fear that if they knew the correct names for their body parts they’d end up saying vagina out loud in the grocery store or on a public bus and embarrassing me. So I kept our discussions very general about the parts “down there” and said such things as, okay, now we have to wash your tushie, which I considered an innocent term. However, I later learned that they both thought that the name for both vagina and butt was tushie and it made things more challenging in explaining anatomy, or teaching them about correct hygiene practices in the bath, etc.
As I spoke with my trusted friends I learned that the earlier I introduce the subject of sex the better. That does not mean describing the act in detail at a very young age. But it does mean calling all body parts by their correct names from the onset. Additionally, there are ways to be completely honest about how babies are made while leaving out graphic details. One book my friend highly recommended was “It’s NOT the Stork!” by Robie H. Harris. It’s illustrated with cartoons and comics in a way that children really enjoy looking at it and reading it on their own. It talks about sex as part of a whole topic about bodies, boys, girls, babies, and families. There is only one page in the whole book that explains the act of “making love” or “sex” as a way for grown ups to make a baby. It’s important for sex to seem like a natural and comfortable topic that is related to our bodies changing and to the cycles of life. This is how our fear and our kids fear of talking about such topics can be eliminated.
When I was pregnant with my son I realised that it was important for my girls to understand where he came from and how. I got the book I mentioned above and we read parts of it together. At first I felt more comfortable skipping the specific page that explained sex. I felt more comfortable providing them with general knowledge about sperm, eggs, body parts and physical development. Then when I felt ready to broach the subject I used the book with its innocent illustrations and explanations to help ease my discomfort and help them digest the strange new concept they were learning. They thought it was weird and today they still think it’s weird. But I’m happy that at least they know the truth and that they learned from me with a healthy attitude rather than from a friend or a website or a movie.
Now that my daughters are 8 and 6 ½ I’m so happy I’ve already had the more challenging parts of the conversation with them. “It’s NOT the Stork!” sits on our bookshelf and I’ve noticed them looking at it periodically on their own. Now and then, sometimes out of nowhere, one of them might ask me to explain something, such as how do dogs have babies? In that incident I simply answered my daughter very casually and honestly, even though she was very surprised to learn that dogs too have penises and vaginas. The edge was taken off the topic, because we had a background of knowledge and vocabulary we could build on. I am glad to have this in place before my daughter’s bodies begin changing and they start to experience new feelings and physical sensations. Some parts of sex are too far beyond them to understand before puberty. But if they ask me about it and it seems too strange to them I say things like, “when you get older you start feeling differently. You’ll see what I mean when you get there…”
We also speak very openly about puberty and how everyone’s body’s change and at different times and speeds. I hope that this will enable them to feel comfortable with those changes when they do begin to occur, and that they’ll understand what’s happening when some of their friends develop earlier or later than them.
If you have any tips about this topic please feel free to leave them below. It's an area where many of us feel like our parents were inadequate and we hope and pray to have a healthy and positive relationship with our children and to help them have healthy and positive relationships to their own bodies and to dating and/or marriage.