Parenting Guides – Talking to Kids About Sex
The “birds and the bees” talk is one that parents often put off as long as possible. But learning about sexuality is a normal part of child development, and answering your child’s questions in an honest, age-appropriate way is the best strategy. Read on for tips on what to say, and when.
What kids can understand, age by age
Ages 2 to 3: The right words for private body parts, such as “penis” and “vagina”
Ages 3 to 4: Where a baby comes from. But they won’t understand all the details of reproduction — so a simple “Mom has a uterus inside her tummy, where you lived until you were big enough to be born” is fine.
Ages 4 to 5: How a baby is born. Stick with the literal response: “When you were ready to be born, the uterus pushed you out through Mommy’s vagina.”
Ages 5 to 6: A general idea of how babies are made. (“Mom and Dad made you.”) Or if your child demands more details: “A tiny cell inside Dad called a sperm joined together with a tiny cell inside Mom called an egg.”
Ages 6 to 7: A basic understanding of intercourse. You can say, “Nature [or God] created male and female bodies to fit together like puzzle pieces. When the penis and the vagina fit together, sperm, like tadpoles, swim through the penis and up to the egg.” Explain what you think about sex and relationships. For instance: “Sex is one of the ways people show love for each other.”
Ages 8 to 9: That sex is important, which your child has probably picked up from the media and her peers. A child this age can handle a basic explanation on just about any topic, including rape. (“Remember when we talked about sex being part of a loving relationship? Rape is when someone forces another person to have sex, and that’s wrong.”)
Ages 9 to 11: Which changes happen during puberty. Also be ready to discuss sex-related topics your child sees in the news.
Age 12: By now, kids are formulating their own values, so check in every so often to provide a better context for the information your child’s getting. But avoid overkill or you’ll be tuned out.
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