Talking to your kids about sex: that makes most of us freeze and want to turn around and run.
Today my friend Rajdeep Paulus, an author of young adult fiction, joins us to talk about her funny conversations with her daughters about sex! Rajdeep proves that it’s okay if you’re nervous and it’s okay if you’re not perfectly scripted. Just keep the conversation with your kids going!
When my twelve and thirteen year olds walked in the door yesterday, I was sitting at my laptop on the couch, and being the straight-shooter mom that I am, I started singing, “Let’s talk about sex, baby.”
My twelve-year old started laughing. And my teen acted like she had no idea what her crazy mother just said. Of course my fifteen-year old left the room to do her homework. She and I had already had the talk. And my eight-year old was at the Boys and Girls club today, but let’s just say, she’s still mulling over the word DNA, because a few days ago, when it was just S. (eight-year old) with hubby and myself on the couch, this conversation transpired:
S.: “Daddy, I know how I’m related to Mommy, because I came out of her, but what about you? How am I related to you?”
Hubby and I looked at each other like YIKES! Is this THE conversation and both started laughing. I know. So mature.
S.: “What’s so funny. Tell me!”
Me: “Your dad will expain it.”
Hubs: “Well, there’s this thing … and well, hmmm… okay, it all starts with eggs and fishies.” Mind you, the hubs is a doctor.
Me: “Fishies? Don’t you want to tell her the correct term?”
S’s face has the classic look of utter confusion.
Hubs: “Ok, you were born with all the eggs you’re ever gonna have.”
S. looks down at her belly: “I have eggs in here? Like a bird?”
Hubs: “So, a baby starts when an egg and not fishies, but a sperm (kinda like a fishie) meet.”
S.: “I am so confused.”
Me? I’m laughing, laughing, laughing, and not helping.
Hubs: “And well, your mom will tell you the rest.”
AND I’m like, “NO! I can’t!!” ← LOOK OF DEATH to the hubs.
Me: “Okay, fine. You’re made up of half of me and half of Dad. It’s all about DNA. What else do you want to know?”
S.: “Ummm… you guys are weird.” *And runs off*
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And Hubs and I both start laughing so hard.
I guess I was just not ready for it. She seems so little, because she’s the youngest.
But the funny thing is, it wouldn’t have been the first conversation with one my kids. My oldest, when she was about ten overheard some friends of ours sharing how they were “trying for a baby.” Next thing I knew, H. asked, “What did they mean by ‘trying?’”
So I took her into the car for a private conversation on sex, and I let her do the asking, and I asked her a lot of questions too, but it was a great conversation and we’ve had more follow-up talks as different things have come up, especially when she hears things at school. So far, she feels comfortable coming home and asking me what I think? Or what some joke means? And I’m so grateful for our relationship and communication.
Not two days after the eggs and fishies talk, my second daughter came home after learning the facts about sex in science class. I only knew because my first said, “Oh, by the way, N. just found out.”
I knew what she meant, and told N., “Hey, let’s talk about sex soon, okay?”
And then my oldest came home and told me that N. said, “Great, now I have to talk to Mom about sex.”
Each of my kids is very different. The first is very open. The second, a little on the shy side. The third thinks she knows it all. And the fourth wants to know it all yesterday. So I try to be sensitive to how they are wired, but sometimes, I overlook what they might be comfortable talking about with what I want them to hear from me first. Sex is one of those topics.
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Here are TEN REASONS to TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT SEX:
1. If you don’t, they might not love, respect, understand, and own their own bodies.
For boys and for girls, this is so important: to not be ashamed of the changes that they are experiencing. Loving and understanding their bodies is the first step to owning the decisions related to your body.
2. If you don’t, they won’t understand what everyone else is talking about.
And everyone at school will have something to say about sex, make sexual jokes, and be referring to slang terms about sex. You want your kids to understand the inside jokes so they won’t feel out of the loop. Yes, you have to gauge that the information is age-appropriate, but we’re their parents, and we need to prepare them to survive in this very sexualized world.
3. If you don’t, Hollywood will teach them an edited version of it.
When I asked my third daughter if she knew about sex, she said, “Sure. It’s in all the movies. Isn’t it just two people sleeping together naked?” So that was her definition of sex. And there are so many shows that never mention contraception, abstinence, commitment, STD’s, pregnancy, or give even two-seconds of attention to the complexity of the female orgasm. No, the Diner scene in When Harry Met Sally does not count.
4. If you don’t, Social Media will put in its two cents.
As in two THOUSAND tweets and Instagram pics of it. And the truth is, how can anyone filter all those images and know what to do with them, if we don’t teach our kids what to look at, how to manage images that they never planned to look at, and how to interpret the images and tidbits of info that are being thrown at them. If they start with the truth and the facts, they have a baseline to work with.
5. If you don’t, they could get hurt.
This is SO important. It starts when they’re old enough to leave your sight. You need to tell your kids about appropriate and inappropriate touches from loved ones and strangers. But it goes further, because sexual assault and date rape are just two injustices that happen when least expected.
6. If you don’t, when and if they get hurt, they won’t know what to do or who to talk to or that it’s okay to talk about it.
This is JUST as important. Because there is so much shame associated with anything sexual in so many cultures that if anything happens, you want your kids to know the proper order of informing a good friend, a responsible adult, a physician, and the proper authorities if needed. On top of it, you want them to feel comfortable coming and talking to you right away.
7. If you don’t, the first (or second or third) person they date will expect it, and they won’t know why or how to take a stand.
I told my kids, “Don’t be surprised if before you graduate from high school, you’ll hear kids brag about it, talk about it like it was nothing and talk about it like it was everything. Most of that is lies. Kids make up a lot of stuff to get attention. But also, don’t be surprised if someone you like or are dating asks you to have sex. Even if he’s a Christian. When you’re in love and attracted to someone, the desire will be there. Trust me.”
This is where your values come into play, and as you raise your children, they will each make their own choices, but as a parent, we guide our kids to learn about faith, convictions, Biblical principals, and the one thing that distinguishes a marital relationship from any other relationship. It’s sex.
8. If you don’t, they won’t know how to make a plan and follow through.
This is where you get into details and speak to your kids before they start dating. They should have a plan as to where they will spend time together. And have a good friend keep them accountable. And they should have candid conversations with the person they are dating well before the first kiss, in my opinion. Because a kiss is like a window: it could very well lead to so much more if your teen and the person they are dating haven’t talked about boundaries. We were all teenagers once, so we know all about those raging hormones.
9. If you don’t, they won’t know how to talk about it with their future partner.
This one is about marriage. But it starts when they’re young. They need to feel comfortable talking to their future spouse about their bodies, their needs, what works, what feels good, what doesn’t, timing, and a whole lot of other things regarding their sexuality. The time to practice being comfortable and real and candid about sex starts when they’re little.
10. Bottom Line: If you don’t, somebody else will.
And that somebody might be the school, a science class, friends, tv, the Internet, music videos, etc. Don’t you want to be the first to have a say in how your kids understand on of the most natural and beautiful gifts God has created?
And I’ll be honest, I wish I had brought up the topic before my two middle kids heard it in school. The good thing is we’re talking about it. And I said, several times, “Your body is beautiful. A gift. And sex is a good thing. A good, good thing. A gift from God.”
Both girls nodded, smiling, even able to make eye contact.
And I ended with, “And from now on, until you get married, and even after you get married, you can ask me anything. Or ask your father. No question is too small, or weird, or hard, or inappropriate. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll look into it. Okay?”
Bottom Line: They can talk to us.
And yes, we need to revisit the “eggs and fishies” conversation with my eight year old. Take two should go a lot smoother now that I have the giggles out of my system. I hope. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Now go forth, and talk to your kids about sex. Because there’s no denying it: if you don’t, somebody else will.
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Want to see more about how to have that conversation with kids about sex?
Rajdeep Paulus studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and spent over a decade as an English Teacher and SAT Tutor, during which she married her best friend from Chicago whom she then followed to the island of Dominica where he began medical school. Fourteen years, four daughters, and a little house on a hill in the quaint town of Locust Valley, New York later, she now blogs weekly and writes masala-marinated, Y.A. fiction.When Raj is not tapping on her Mac, you can find her dancing with her princesses, kayaking with her hubs, coaching basketball or eating dark chocolate while sipping a frothy, sugar-free latte. She writes about all her books and musings here, and secretly hopes someday she’ll own a laptop that functions under water.