Family eating at dinner table

“Mom, do people have sex when they’re not wanting to have a baby?”

And there it is. The opening for me to have a great conversation about sex with my 10-year-old daughter. I know a lot of people who have a really, really hard time talking with their kids about all things sex-related, but I’m not one of them. I love to talk about sex with my kids. There’s nothing off-limits or taboo in our family.

Sex is everywhere in our society and it gets thrown in our children’s faces from such an early age, it’s no wonder they have questions – and lots of them. What’s supposedly “sexy” is on display everywhere: the sides of buses, magazines, billboards. Nearly every commercial that tries to sell us something, sells it through sex. And the internet offers up lots of versions of “sex” that I don’t want my kids exposed to – at any age.

My kids are fairly sheltered when it comes to what type of media we let them engage in at home. We don’t let them watch PG-13 movies until they’re at least 12 years old (the latest Star Wars being the exception, not the rule), and SNL has to wait until High School. My 16-year-old watches just about everything now, but that’s only happened recently. We try to keep the stuff they have access to in our home pretty PG.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have access to it just about everywhere else! I know there are lots of parents who are more permissive than we are and that my kids are consuming media we’d prefer them not to when they’re away from us (or maybe they’re sneaking it on their own from time to time! That’s what I did when I was a kid.)

But on the playground nothing has changed since I was in first grade. Kids are still trying to identify private body parts with names that don’t match their anatomical description or definition, and they continue trying to figure out what the “p” word, the “a” word, and the “s” word are all about – even in Kindergarten! (Although, I won’t lie about being relieved to hear that the “c” word still means “crap” to a first-grader. Phew!)

So, when my kids are very small (like, two or three years old) I start talking to them about their bodies in a very no-nonsense, no-need-to-laugh-or-smirk- about-this, kind of way. I don’t push it too far. I keep it short and simple and in words that I know they’ll understand.

I’ve found that kids are really self-aware and when they’ve had enough talk about sex, they’ll let you know by suddenly getting very distracted about something they see outside. This means that this particular session has ended. But this is what I know will never change:

Kids are curious about their bodies.

Why shouldn’t they be? They’re pretty amazing in all their uniqueness and differences, one from the next. And from an early age, kids want to know the whys and hows of this whole baby-making thing. And they want to hear it from us, their parents.

Today, my daughter wanted to follow-up her original question she’d asked a few months back. We had the rare opportunity to be alone, siblings all gone in different directions, so she felt safe to bring it up.

“Mom, you said before that people have sex when they’re not trying to have a baby because it feels good. How exactly does it ‘feel good?’”

And with that, another 30-minute sex ed class was conducted while we sat in the car parked in the driveway. At one point, I called on Siri for a little help. “Ok Google – Illustration of a vulva” and then we talked about the various anatomical structures of the vulva and where and why there might be pleasure sensations happening when engaging in sexual activity.

There are lots of other topics to discuss in these impromptu sex ed sessions. I hope that no matter what, my girl knows that I’m a practical, info-heavy resource on a topic that she’ll probably always have questions about. I hope she realizes that I’ll never freak out about having these kinds of discussions. And I hope she’ll keep asking me questions, so we keep having discussions about sex, love, life, death – all the big stuff.

Because I want my kids to feel comfortable asking questions about the big stuff from someone they know only wants the best for them, I’ll continue to have these discussions on their terms, when they want the information – a little bit at a time. I’m happy that this allows me to talk about how our family values fit in with all the big stuff.

Our kids may be growing up in a time when sex is being discussed in the classroom and on the playground and for sure, it’s never going to stop being plastered all over the media. But in our home, sex will also be discussed as a family at the dinner table – and when more privacy is needed – in the car parked in our driveway.

I may not be able to control all the messages they’re exposed to, but I’m grateful I can contribute to the conversation.

Previously published on Birth Happens.

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Barb Buckner Suárez is a Health Educator from Portland, OR who spends a lot of time teaching realistic expectations about pregnancy, birth and new parenting through her Childbirth Preparation and Becoming Us classes. She has four children of her own and tries to find the balance between getting ready to send the oldest off to college while chairing the 2nd grader's School Auction! When she's not working or parenting, she writes about all things bellies, birth and babies on her blog Birth Happens and she's currently tracking the North Star of her book about the gifts of vulnerability that come with the huge transformation of becoming a parent.

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2 Comments

  1. My kids (both boys) NEVER wanted to have a sex conversation, especially not with Mom. I used to ambush them on the way to school with various discussions. They were in the back seat so we didn’t have to make eye contact. Occasionally the topic was sex but I also covered topics such as how to fight fair in an adult relationship, the power of saying “I’m sorry” when you need to man up, and how to choose a good mate (look at the baggage they’re carrying and make sure they make you feel like a better version of yourself every day).

  2. Jill:

    The lack of eye contact is SO important with boys (and grown men, too! HAH!) when discussing topics that cause feelings of vulnerability. The side by side, or front seat/back seat set-up is ideal. Love all of the other topics you’ve discussed with your boys over the years. I’ve told my kids that when it comes time to choose a life partner, you want to be prepared to be the mirror for one another in order to become better versions throughout the years. Great minds think alike! :O) Thanks for reading and commenting and I’m so sorry that it took me this long to respond… Keep teaching your kids great stuff!

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