Have you had the–ugh–sex talk with your kids?

If so, when did you do it? How did you it? What message did you convey? If you haven’t, why not?

Apparently, many American parents are avoiding having that talk with their kids about how people make babies, how to stay safe from sexually transmitted diseases, why masturbation won’t make you go blind, and that, regardless of what Bill Clinton said, oral sex is sex.

Evidence that American parents are shirking this particular duty comes from a study published in Pediatrics (which you can read about in this issue of Time magazine).

These researchers found that 40 percent of adolescents had gone all the way to home base before their parents talked to them about birth control, safe sex, and STDs. Forty-two percent of girls reported that “they had not discussed the effectiveness of birth control and 40 percent admitted they had not talked with their parents about how to refuse sex before engaging in genital touching. Nearly 70 percent of boys said they had not discussed how to use a condom or other birth-control methods with their parents before having intercourse.”

I realize it’s not a comfortable topic for a lot of moms and dads—or their kids.

I’m not sure why, and I’m not saying my husband and I are the Great Communicators, but we haven’t had all that much trouble with the topic. Actually, we’ve never officially sat down to have The Talk with our son, now 11 and in middle school, where supposedly some precocious kids are trying out sexting, oral sex and, even, intercourse.

For our family, the topic of sex has just come up in the course of regular conversations. For example, one day, my son and I, while driving home from an errand, had the intercourse-as-pathway-to-procreation conversation. I really don’t remember how the subject came up, or how long ago this conversation took place. Maybe two years ago? Somehow, he asked what “sex” is, and I told him, in what felt like a simple, matter-of-fact way, that it basically involved the penis into the vagina, and so it goes…

Another time, on another car trip, he asked why he was an only child. After I told him that we were happy with just one kid, he asked me how his father and me kept ourselves from having another baby. I’m pretty sure condoms were mentioned in that conversation, as were a few other methods.

I’m also pretty sure I read somewhere that this is the best way to handle this topic, or any sensitive topic. Don’t make the sex talk into A Big Deal. Make it something that kids just feel like bringing up whenever. And don’t overwhelm them with too much information.

The summer between our son’s fourth and fifth grade, my husband and I presented him with a book, written for young males that deals with changes that will take place in his body as he enters puberty and adolescence. It also talks about different aspects of sexuality—wet dreams, masturbation, sexual orientation—in a straightforward, approachable, non-judgmental way.

We know he likes to read, and we figured giving him a book would let him choose when and how he’d like to study up on the mechanics of it all.

“If you have any questions, feel free to ask us,” my husband said, handing it to him. My son took the book, blushed just so slightly, and announced, “This is so corrupted!”

But a few minutes later, we saw him curled up in his room, reading it. I think he tore through the entire book in a day.

One question my son asked on one of our car drives gave me hope that as a teen or young adult, he won’t do anything reckless to make himself a father before he is anywhere near ready, financially or otherwise.

“Are babies expensive?” asked my boy, who can be very kind and loving but also extremely attached to the cash he saves in his wallet and its power to buy him the latest PS3 games.

“Oh yes!!!!” I said. “They are so expensive.”

4 thoughts on “Have you had the–ugh–sex talk with your kids?

  1. WOW! I think you did a great job of explaining this to him on his level at his timing. I have 4 girls so I do not know much about explaining boys. As each child became old enough to understand their personality and the situations at hand played a lot into what they were told and how. It was harder to talk to the 1st child because well you never know what is right the first time. The 2nd was more aggressive she had Bipolar and it became a need to explain things to her. I think Puberty was much harder for her. When Savanha was 5 they other 2 were in high school and able to watch movies she couldn't We bought a human body book to explain not every thing but that there are deference's. Katie Grace has had the opportunity to read the same book but finds it silly and really more interested in how cute boys are then what makes them different. Some people think that they should know it all right away. I think the child determines the timing if you know your child then you can feel their need. It also is what you allow your child to do and view. If you are going to let your child date you should have that talk with them at least a year before that, most studies would show kids are active at least a year before their parents let them date. If there's a will they will find a way. Weather it is just kissing or the part we do not want to think about when we look at our baby. Where were you the first time. Was it on a date, a ball game, a night out with the same sex friends, or a sleep over? But in the long run for them to understand their own bodies it the ultimate lesson. I had to actually take my 2nd daughter into the doctor to have the discussion because she thought I was lying 😦 But she needed to know and it was worth the copay if that is what satisfied her in understanding.

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  2. The little girl across the street filled in the whole third grade class on what sex is. (He was totally grossed out) Now my son makes comments, such as, “My teacher needs to wear a better bra, I can see her nipples.” He's more apt to talk to me than his father, so I guess I'll fill in the blanks.

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  3. Yikes – the “big talk”!

    We send our daughter to a local Christian school; she's 9 years old, and in 3rd grade. Although we're liberal Democrats (our reasons for choosing that school are a long and separate post), we were expecting, based on the teachers and curriculum, that these issues would come up at least a few years later.

    So when our little tomgirl came to me a few months ago asking very directly about sex, I was surprised. I don't remember my own parents' conversation with me re same, but am fairly sure it wasn't this early. And she hasn't shown much interest in boys other than as potential DS game playing buddies.

    Nevertheless, I tried not to cry, stopped myself from drawing a “helpful” diagram, and as matter-of-factly as possible (could she hear my voice shaking?) had The Talk.

    She listened closely as I named the body parts, explained the basics, and asked her if she had any questions.

    After all, I'd rather tell her now, since she asked, and have her see me as a source of information, rather than have a fit and frighten her off to find answers from others.

    I have to admit, I was greatly reassured when, at the end of the conversation, she looked up at me, all wide-eyed innocence and asked, “When I grow up, can I just adopt my kids?”

    Go figure. I will note, similarly to what momgroeb posted above, that we have another daughter, 4 years younger, and I am under no mistaken assumptions that the process will be the same with her as it was with her older sister.

    As a parent, I am surprised every day by their curiosity and resourcefulness, and I feel especially of late, that I learn as much from them and my parenting experience as they do from me.

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