Topics Chosen by Others: Talking to Your Kids about S-E-X

from Ann:

Easy E and A Bird (all we need is a Bee)

I have two sons. My oldest  is twelve. My youngest is ten. It is most definitely time to check back in and have the updated and age-appropriate SEX talk. Because we have boys and because Dave is the adult male of the family, I always hoped he would be the one who took the lead in all sex-related matters. However, knowing my lovely husband as I do, I also realize that I am the one who has to get the awkward-conversation-with-your-child ball rolling. I will be the one that says, “Hey Dave, it is time to talk to the boys about [insert uncomfortable topic here].” When I have asked him to talk to Kyle & Eli he always does.  He sticks to the facts and I think the boys respond well to his line of reasoning. In contrast, even the mention of words like, “sex, girls, or babies,” makes them squirm, look away and say things like, “Are you done yet?” I must admit as Kyle is a little older her is less squirmy and seems more interested in what I have to say. I does not hurt that the school held the “maturation” class with Kyle’s grade last year. He seems more confident and less freaked out.

Today  I did want to test the waters and see what my younger son knew. He has always asked my about kissing and girls and has always seemed aware of what’s up or so I thought.  Even though I knew he might cringe (and he did) when I brought up the subject, I decided I would try to bring it up anyway.

I went downstairs. Eli was chilling and watching TV. Oddly, the TV room seems to be a place where we have had a lot of these “uncomfortable” conversations. I grabbed the remote, paused the television and casually asked Eli, “Hey, do kids talk about sex at school?” (Wait! Before I blurted out my question, I warned him that I wanted to talk to him about something important. I needed to ask him a big question and I was ok with his answers.)

E: Completely weirded out by my question he responded, “Mom. No. No they don’t.”


Me: “Do you remember when Dad and I talked to you about it?”  (I said it because saying the word, SEX to my 10 year old was super strange for me too)

E: “Um. No. No I don’t.”

Me: “Do know (deep breath) what SEX  is?”

E: “No. No I don’t.” Eli said as he hid his head under a pillow.

Me: “What do you know?”

E: “It is something a man and a woman does. Mom, Mom, I really don’t want to talk about this.”

Me: “Ok. I just want to make sure you know what’s up. Dad and I don’t want you or Kyle to get in a situation you are not ready for. And this is the time to start talking.”

E: “Ok. (Even though he was super uneasy I could see that Eli did understand.) I am just not comfortable talking about it now.”

Me: “I get it. Dad should be here too. Right?” Then I gave him a look like, “I get it too. I am not very comfortable talking about this either.”

A few minutes later I ask Eli to come upstairs. I have the apples and peanut butter ready that he requested. And no, no I was not going to make a SEX analogy using the Apples and Peanut Butter. Honestly, how would you tie apples and peanut butter into sex? Crazy.

As we walked up the stairs together I slipped in another question, ” So has your school counselor told you guys anything about sex?”

E: “No. No. She just tells us about weird drugs.”

Me: Now in the kitchen I said, “Ok, I have one more question.”

E: “Mom. I thought you were not going to talk about this.”

Me: “Hey so do you know how baies are made?”

E: He pointed at my stomach and said, “They get in there.”

Me: “Do you know how?”

E: “Something with a man and a woman.”

Me: “Do you remember when we told you how that happens?”

E: “No. No I don’t”

Me: “Any ideas”

E: “Dad shoved a seed down your throat [laughs]. No, I am just kidding. I do not know.” Then Eli put his hands over his ears and starts singing, “la la la la la.”

We were definitely done with this conversation.  I also realized that I still am not sure I know how to talk to my kids about sex. I do not know if there is a right way. I have read books. I have read things on the internet.  I know people say you should be real and that when your kids are old enough that you should talk to them candidly about sex. You should tell them about birth control and condoms. And because we have boys, we need to include a chapter on Masturbation and Pornography (that is all Dave).

I am open (or so I thought.) Years ago I thought it would be easy and that I would have no problem talking to my boys: “Hey, so Dad and I really don’t want you to have sex. For starters you could get someone pregnant. . . ” I thought I would say. It is not like that. Not at all. At least it is not like that in our home. This all being said, the conversation needs to be had. I think dialog needs to begin when they are young and it needs to continue. I hope my boys know that they can come to Dave and me and ask any question. If they are too uncomfortable asking, I hope Dave and I keep finding ways of checking in and making sure they both really know what is up. It is our job.

Sure, in theory I want my kids to wait until they are married or in love to have sex. I want them to be careful. I do not want them to get someone pregnant. I want them to understand boundaries and to know enough so that they can stop. STDs are a terrible thing and I want my boys to know better.  I like what a friend of mine says to her teenage children, “If you are going to do something we don’t want you to do, then be smart about it.”  This same friend said something along the lines of, “You can have sex like it is a pastime like going to the spa or playing a sport or you can wait make it something really special.” All good words of wisdom.

If you have any hints or things that have worked for you (and you probably do), PLEASE let me know. I am open and I hope I can teach my boys to be safe,  respectful and appropriate. I want them to know that sex is a really cool and beautiful thing.

– – –

By the way, as I picked  Kyle up from school I decided to throw the SEX question his way. Contrary to the credit I previously gave him, like his brother, he was equally disgusted and freaked out. He put both hands in the air and said, “Mom, I know what sex is. The kids talk about it on the bus. They talk about it at school. They talk about it in the halls. They talk about it in class. They talk about it EVERYWHERE! Mom, they talk about SEX all the time!”

Me: “Ok, then why don’t you tell me.”

Kyle: “Mom, I really do not want to talk about this now.”

Me: “Ok. I just want to make sure you know what it is.”

Kyle: “I know and I am.”

Then I put my hand on Kyle’s shoulder and assured him that Dave and I will always check in with him and Eli. We want to keep the dialog open. We want them to always know they can talk to us and that we will not stop talking to them (even if they are uncomfortable).

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15 thoughts on “Topics Chosen by Others: Talking to Your Kids about S-E-X

  1. Having a mother who is a doula means my boys know rather a lot about men and women’s fertility cycles. For instance, they know what “moon time” is and what it signifies (namely that a woman isn’t pregnant) that babies grow inside a uterus and are birthed out of a vagina (Kieran, at 4, watched his brother be born from the foot of my bed), and they are starting to understand the rudiments of sex. Well, Kieran is. Spencer is only 4 so he isn’t the least bit curious yet.

    Kieran recently surprised me by letting me know that he knew what SEX stood for. He said that it stood for “sperm exchange”. He said he came up with it all by himself and I had to admit that I thought it was rather clever.

    I don’t find these conversations embarrassing or difficult. What’s hardest for me is to reign myself in and just answer the question asked; not give more information than the kids are looking for. Maybe it’s my job and the fact that we discuss things about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding with such casualness almost every day.

    What I’m dreading is having to explain strippers and porn. Ugh.

  2. Leanne,

    What a great experience your boys get to have. I think it is so cool that you make them art of the birthing experience & that you are open with your communication. What a wonderful example you are. Ha ha ha about “moon time” too. That is awesome! I love the “sperm exchange” concept and I love even more that your son came up with it.

    It is interesting. I did not find conversations difficult until recently. I keep wondering if it is because they are closer to puberty and because they (especially Kyle) are inundated with Crass Sex conversations by their peers. Over the years Dave and I have checked in with the boys every so often. There has been a definite change in their response lately, which in turns makes me feel bad for them and hence uncomfortable. We have decided to push through in the hopes of them knowing what’s up and that they always have a safe place to talk about these things.

    I have a friend with teenage sons who has been excellent talking to her sons about porn. I hope I can be like her. Remind my boys about natural feelings and not getting carried away. Porn scares the crap out of me. I have seen too many lives and marriages damaged by its affects. That is a whole topic for another time (that someone else will have to suggest I discuss.)

    Thank you for your perspective! I love it! Your boys are lucky to have you!

  3. Beth, that is a great and honest story of how most parents feel!
    Being a former health education professional for the Minnetonka School District it’s so nice to see that parents are actually thinking about these types of things and not waiting for the schools to, “do the work”. Because most of the time, students don’t hear it from their parents, and then get the wrong info from their friends…..Or they don’t hear the whole story…due to individual family beliefs etc… I salute your proactivity… being a health educator I’ve made those types of subjects no big deal in our house…. with explicit instructions to not say anything to their friends(I want other students to hear it from their parents or (being that my kids go to a private christian school) from a ‘sanctioned school program’. That’s all I need is to get a phone call from a parent regarding what they learned from my child….ugh!!! Anyway, great job… I have a list of great age appropriate books for parents to read, or just to leave around the house to allow for kids to pick up, get just the right amount of info from, and then have to ask additional questions…just for parents to check for appropriate learning. Lastly, the number 1 thing to prevent students from participating in risky behaviors…… knowing what their parents thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are…. so keep on talking. You’re doing a great job!

  4. Wendy, That means a lot coming from you the Health Educator. Thank you!

    I love what you are saying here and feel free to come back and post the names of the books. What are they? I would love to know.

    I agree about the wrong information. I still remember when a friend decided I needed to know what sex was. I was in 7th grade riding home on the Activity Bus. I was totally caught off guard and confused and too embarrassed to have my mom set me straight. I remind myself that I am the parent and that I set the tone. Of course my 12 year old might feel weird when I broach the subject. I remind myself that his feelings are ok and then I push through. I put my hand on his shoulder and let him know that this dialog is open and we will continue having it. I hope, in time, it won’t be so uncomfortable.

    I plan on following this post up with a few stories (sex education from odd places) about my youth in hopes that my kids will know the facts and be able to weather the weird experiences they may encounter.

    I also appreciate your reminder to keep this information at home and yes, we will keep talking.

    Thanks again!

  5. I laughed out loud when you wrote
    E: “No. No. She just tells us about weird drugs.”

    It’s a tough phase for parents and kids alike. Lots of convenient mysteries get solved (sex, santa, tooth fairy) and we all begin to look at each other in a new light. As difficult as is it, you are right to be there, and to pledge to be there when the questions begin. Even if they are plugging their ears now, they will know they can ask you later, and they will. Communication is key, and you are doing a great job with it.

  6. My oldest at age 11 was keen to know all about menstruation. She asked me questions for nearly a year. But when she started to ask why do women bleed every month, and when she heard my answers, she didn’t want to have anything to do with the subject of sexual intercourse. I tried. That daughter is 22 now and still gets mad when I refer to my husband, her father, as “my boyfriend.” She keeps saying GROSS, MOM. And I always answer her, “Well, how do you think you got here? And no, it’s not gross, it’s pretty neat.” And then she pretends to hang up on me.

    My other children will talk about it in the round about way of how to avoid situations where one would feel pressured into doing things one is not comfortable doing.

    Otherwise, I have not unlocked the key to successful candid discussion with my children about sex.

  7. Other B, you laughed out loud because you could hear her saying it. He he he.

    Yes, this is the time when Innocence is Lost and I am a little sad about it. I am also a parent and because I am responsible for these boys, I want send them into this crazy world prepared (even when it is awkward). I agree. It is all about communication and letting them know they will be ok! 🙂

  8. Sara, You have tried and that is what makes a difference. I love your stories. My kids were super curious and as they get older they are more private. I remember how open I was as a child. One night I think I asked my parents during dinner, “do you like sex?” You know I am the youngest and we were all there. As I got older, I clammed up to. For me, it was the changes and was me feeling awkward and not ready to kiss boys. I was terrified and confused. As a mom, I hope I can help my boys feel confident, respectful and safe.

    You are a great mom!

  9. For Parents: From Diapers to Dating by Debra Haffner
    For kids: It’s Not the Stork, or It’s Perfectly Normal both by Robie Harris
    Robie Harris also has some newer books out too that have high ratings on Amazon
    Also, for girls- The American Girl Series has great book – The Care and Keeping of You, The Care and Keeping of Your Emotions, and also The Smart Girls Guide to:— series.
    Hope this helps!

  10. One thing that helped me was a friend’s mom telling me that I will never get another 1st time to have sex and to make sure that 1st time is with someone worthy of that memory and experience. Also, she talked to me about how each step towards sex is a step you can’t really take back…you always want to move forward but that once you go all the way, you will never enjoy just making out like you did before you had sex.

    Finally, I will say that I was raised in a somewhat repressed Christian home where sex outside of marriage was “forbidden” as was promiscuity. But once I got married, it was really hard to turn that off in my mind. Thankfully my husband is awesome and patient and helped me find my inner sex kitten. You don’t have to tell your boys that, it’s just something I never thought of before I got married and was free to have all the sex I wanted. 🙂

  11. Ewwww! SEX! GROSS! Hehehe

    My son is 12, too! He gets caught in the crossfire of my 14 y.o. daaughter and my conversation which range from sex and menstruation to bullies and drugs. I’ll have to ask him tomorrow if he knows what it is. He always pops off with, ” What does THAT mean?” In reference to some sex related joke in movie or on the tv. Then immediately after asking he’ll say, “You know what? Nevermind. I know I don’t want to know.” Then, that usually is my segue into asking, “So, do you know what meant? Do you want to know?” I always grab my chances with bothh hands and let ‘er rip! My kidsknow nothing embarasses me so they can ask me anything. My Mom was pretty much like that with me. Just watch for moments when you can segue your own conversation even if it’s in the car going to the grocery. There are always free moments like those, you just have to listen for them. Sorry, that’s the only advise I can pass along. 🙂

  12. Amy, I love what your mom told you. I remember hearing something similar and yes, it did help.

    Thank you for telling us about growing up in a repressed Christian home.

    This is such a big issue and I have seen marriages ruined because over not being ale to shake that whole forbidden aspect of sex. Women never can relax because they think they are doing something bad. I am so glad your husband was patient with you. Because of my religious background I know several women who have also had a hard time turning off the “forbidden” message about sex once they were married. I would often tell these women, “You know you can take it slow. Just because you are married, you do not have to have sex on your wedding night.”

    We talk about a time and a place. We were watching a movie last night and sex was vaguely mentioned. I asked my boys if they wanted to talk about sex again. They laughed and said, “No.” What I could see is that they were much more relaxed from our earlier conversation. It does help to keep it part of the dialog. Thanks Amy!

  13. Sue, You are cracking me up. My 12 year old feels your 12 year old’s pain. He he. I am glad you grab your chances when you get them. I think that is what we need to do. Again it is about keeping the dialog open and for our kids to know that in our home they are safe talking about these things.

    Great Advice! Thank you!

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