Let’s face facts: not all of parenting is fun.
Whilst we’d all love for our children to stay sweet and innocent forever, they do grow up and they will be exposed to things you may not want them to see or hear – most likely sooner than later.
It’s important for us as parents to take control so that our children find out all the stuff they need to know in the right way. But how do we achieve that?
Why those awkward conversations should come from you
It’s much better for your children to find out about the birds and the bees from you than from elsewhere. I know it’s uncomfortable raising the topic, but your children will hear things and want to know more. If you don’t have ‘that conversation’ with them directly, then your inquisitive children will find the answers they’re looking for elsewhere.
Whether they turn to their friends, other adults or most likely the internet, you can be fairly sure they’ll be exposed to more than you’d like. Just type the word ‘sex’ into google’s search engine – how many clicks are you away from porn and other unsavoury sites?
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When to approach the topic
So when are you supposed to start these awkward conversations?
Obviously all children are different, and some may be more curious at an earlier age than others. If your children have already started asking questions then you can safely say that the time to start the conversation is now!
One of the challenges of the digital world we all live in is that information is so freely available online. And children are smart enough to find it at a very young age. If your children are able to read they’re able to find out information for themselves.
I got into this topic with my older son when he was 8 years old, and he was definitely ready for it. Anything older is really missing the boat, and your children may start rolling their eyes at you as they’ve already heard it all before. If your child is asking you questions at 6 or 7 years of age, I’d be having the conversation then.
What language to use
It’s important when you approach the topic of sex and related topics that you use correct terms. This makes the conversation more factual in nature, rather than something that either of you should be embarrassed about.
If you don’t use accurate terminology, your children may think the correct words are ‘rude’ or something to be ashamed of. You don’t want them to be ashamed of their body – even the sensitive parts. Children need to understand that there’s nothing wrong with them or with the way their body works.
How much to share
This will really depend on how ready your child is to learn and to listen. They certainly don’t need to know every detail about sex at the age of six! But you want to tell them enough so that they have a basic understanding of how babies are made and how their private parts work.
Safety is key when having these awkward conversations with your children. They need to understand several things including:
- Why their private parts are private
- Who it’s OK for them to show their private parts to (or not!)
- That sex is a normal and natural activity that all animals participate in for the purposes of creating children as well as pleasure
- Why they need to respect other people’s bodies
- What porn is, and why it’s NOT ‘normal’ behaviour
Why mention porn?
Unfortunately these days there is a huge amount of porn available online. Children can very easily stumble across it by accident, and often do so while they’re doing their homework. The first time they see it they’re usually disturbed and upset by it. This happens on average by the time they’re 10 or 11 years old, but could be closer to 8 years old for some.
The ideal scenario is that you’ve already warned them about what they might see before they see it. You’ll have also discussed with them what to do if it happens. This is effectively ‘porn-proofing’ them.
In the absence of this conversation, for some children the first viewing of porn sparks some curiosity within them, and they’ll look for more. Both boys and girls can become desensitised to it in time, so that boys think it’s OK and in fact normal to treat girls like that, and girls believe that’s how they are expected to behave. This phenomenon is causing all sorts of social problems, with some children perpetrating the behaviour they’ve seen online with even younger children.
The easy way out
If you’ve come to the point where you know you have to raise this topic with your children but you just don’t know how to start, it may be helpful to use a book to help. There are plenty of books available for this purpose that are age appropriate and include great pictures. It doesn’t get much easier than reading a book together – and who knows, you might even learn something new yourself!
The good news is that the idea of having these awkward conversations with your children is actually much worse than the conversations themselves.
I took my son to an information night at his primary school on how babies are made when he was in year 3, and we purchased a book on the night with more information. Reading through that book with my son was a very positive experience, and we had many very open conversations that strengthened the bond between us.
I highly recommend you get past the discomfort in your mind and build up the courage to openly chat about sex, porn and other related topics with your children. Just think of the weight that will be lifted off your shoulders, and trust me – it’s not that bad!
How did you have these conversations with your kids? share with us in the comments.