Talking about sex to your child is one of the scariest parts about being a parent.
Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it, and late last spring I started getting a TON of questions, right along these lines. I’ll use this one, but there were many more almost identical ones:
Hi! Your blog has helped me tremendously! I’m wondering, how and when did you first talk to your girls about sex, the “birds and the bees,” so to speak? I have an 8 year old daughter, and I want to do this right. I want to tell her early enough, but keep it age-appropriate, so that it’s not too “weird” when she does find out. I want her to feel comfortable talking about it with me forever. And I certainly don’t want her to think sex is dirty. How do I accomplish all that? Thanks so much for any input!
Can you relate?
As I started to see all these questions come in, I began talking to my daughters about our own experiences with me giving them “the talk”. And we laughed and laughed, because seriously--I did a horrible job.
I really did. I’m not just saying that. In fact, tomorrow’s post is all going to be about 10 ways that I messed up.
But I was much more comfortable talking about sex from the stage than I was talking about it to my daughters.
I got better as they got older, and by the time they were 14 and 15 we could pretty much say anything. But in those formative years, I did not do a good job.
Let me tell you two things, as a teaser to what’s coming tomorrow.
First, picture Rebecca at 5-years-old. Here, I’ll make it easier:
One day we’re grocery shopping around a holiday, when the parking lot is packed. I’m unpacking the groceries into the car, while the girls are hanging on outside of it. And Rebecca says, in a very loud voice, “Mommy, why do you have hair on your bum and I don’t?”
Other shoppers stared at me and started to snicker. Was I really some werewolf under these mom jeans? Did I really have hair on my backside?
I wasn’t even sure what Rebecca was getting at, until it dawned on me…
I had never given her a word for female genitalia. She didn’t know how to say “vulva” or “vagina”. She just called the whole thing a bum, kind of like a big basketball that extended from the back to the front.
And I had never even realized I was neglecting such a big part of parenting.
I tried to be better. I heard all the advice that you’re just supposed to answer their questions at age appropriate levels, and so I was prepared. No matter what Rebecca asked, I would answer.
Until she stopped asking. She didn’t ask anything at all!
So she’s getting to be 10, and I know I have to tell her about periods, and sex, and everything, because she was going to get her period soon. I looked to see if there were any courses that we could take, and I found a CD-based one done by an older couple (grandparents at the time) where the man explained sex and then the woman explained all the period stuff.
We listened to that, and I’ll tell you more about the problems tomorrow. But while there were funny misunderstandings (Becca thought a penis was like a finger, with joints and everything), the more serious one was that the focus was on purity and getting kids to promise not to have sex until they’re married. At that time, right when Rebecca found out about sex, she would have pledged to never talk to a boy again in her life. (SERIOUSLY?!? He puts THAT WHERE?!?)
So she ended up quite shamed about the whole thing.
Last year, then, when I started getting all of these requests and talking to my girls, we started wondering, how could I have done this better?
And then a thought occurred to me. What if I had had more age appropriate help? One of the things that freaked Rebecca out, after all, was hearing about sex from the voice of an old grandfather guy. What if a younger child could hear about it from someone they could more easily trust and relate to? What if they could hear it from someone like, well, my daughters?
So that’s what we decided to do. We decided to create an online, video based course mothers and daughters can do together, where my girls become the guides telling the girls all about puberty and sex, but then discussion questions, checklists, and mother-daughter activities help the moms continue those conversations.
And we didn’t just cover what happens to your body. We decided to include all kinds of information about peer pressure, and body image, and how to start taking care of yourself (“You have to actually start washing your hair and wearing deodorant now.”)
But then, as Rebecca was preparing the curriculum, we realized it wasn’t enough to just prepare them for puberty
Yes, it’s important for girls to know the facts of life. But the problem in our house was that even though I did eventually muddle through (and with Katie I did a marginally better job at some things), once they knew the facts, the conversations stopped for a few years. They revived when the girls were 14 and 15, but 12, 13? Nothing.
And girls don’t just need to know the facts. They also need to be guided about important things like dating, social media, porn, masturbation, why we should wait for sex until marriage, and so many other things. I found those conversations even harder than the ones about what is happening to your body, because they were personal. They were about what my daughters were actually thinking. And I just didn’t want to picture them having any sexual feelings.
But we can’t run away from this. Our daughters are dealing with this, everyday, with friends. My girls were homeschooled all through high school, and they had a large peer group that was mostly church based. And yet even they were hearing about porn and masturbation when they were younger. We may want to think we can shelter our kids, but we can’t. If they go to public school, they’re going to hear it in sex ed anyway.
So we decided to create a part 2 to the course–one specifically for girls 13-15.
While the younger version is INFORMATION based, the older version is GUIDANCE based. Rebecca and Katie raise important issues and share how girls can make wise decisions, but then the discussion questions steer the mom and daughter towards figuring out what their own rules and boundaries are inside their home for things like social media use, dating in high school, makeup rules, clothing choices, etc. We raise the issue, but you continue it. After all, we’re not the parents. You are. And it’s YOUR opinion that matters. It’s YOUR values that count.
But sometimes having those discussions is super awkward and difficult. And we want to take that awkwardness out!
Late last night I hit Publish on our puberty course.
- It’s called The Whole Story: Not-So-Awkward Talks about Sex, Puberty and Growing Up.
- It’s available in a younger version for 10-12 year olds, or an older version for 13-15 year olds. Buy one version, and you get access for a year.
- OR you can buy a VIP version during this launch period, just until next Monday, when you get lifetime access to BOTH versions, PLUS a whole lot of extra parenting resources and invitations to parenting webinars.
I’m so proud of it, and so thrilled to have done this with my girls. They say THIS is the course that they wish they had had, and that’s what we aimed to create. They’re super chill in the videos, and they’re very relatable to keep the conversations with your daughter easy and open.
And I really pray it will help you!
But what if you have boys?
I hear you. We really wanted to launch one for boys at the same time, but we hit a snag. I believe that we’ll be able to have a similar course out in 2018 for dads and sons, but pray with us, because the guys we’ve got in mind just need to get over some obstacles.
What if your kids are younger now?
We designed the course for 10-15 year olds, but you can start it younger (and you should start it younger) if your daughter is starting to develop younger. But with the VIP version you do get lifetime access, and there are two special audios by me in it about talking to younger children about sex, and about how to teach good touch/bad touch.
You can also buy it as a gift!
If you have a granddaughter about that age, or a niece, or even a best friend, and you want to get it as a gift, just send me an email after you purchase it and I’ll make sure to get them the login details!
This puberty course is maybe the most important thing I’ve ever done.
Sure, I’ve written tons about how to have healthy sexuality in marriage, and about how to improve your marriage.
But increasingly I’ve realized that we have to start teaching this younger. We have to start raising kids who are confident and secure in who God made them to be. Marriage is so much harder later on if we have to repair damage or shame. So if we can start our kids off well, we give them one of the best gifts in the world.
I’m tired today, but I’m happy. And I hope that you will celebrate with me, and that this can help your family and friends!