Do you talk about sex with your children?

sex education (image by Babyccino)
The other day, Courtney and I were discussing the way parents talk about sex with their children. How difficult this subject sometimes seems to be, and how easy people shy away from discussing it. Why is it, that something so beautiful and special can be so controversial at the same time?

I don’t know if it is because I’m a child of the seventies or because I was born and raised in the progressive Netherlands, but growing up, my parents never locked the bathroom door and never covered their bodies in front of me. They were absolutely no nudists, but seeing them naked in the bathroom was as normal for me as seeing them dressed in the supermarket. Also, I was used to sometimes seeing them kiss each other — my dad being all flirty and my mum being all giggly. : )

I probably knew about the way babies are made before I knew how to tie my shoelaces. I’m talking about the technicalities of it — I wasn’t interested or curious about more than that at the time. I remember that the sexual and emotional aspects of intercourse were something that didn’t become relevant until much later.

Now, with our children, Tamar and I are equally relaxed about nudity and try to be open and straightforward about sex. We sometimes talk about it as a family but also make sure to discuss sex casually with them individually — just so it is an open subject and not something that they should be ashamed about. We were talking about the way babies are made the other day over dinner, and I thought it was so sweet and interesting to see how different our kids’ knowledge and interests are at each individual age.

Casper (3) is still very little, and at this point I think it is enough that he understands the difference between boys and girls. (He is fully aware, but the other day he was pointing out my penis to me — so there is still some explaining to do!) He also knows that babies grow in the mama’s belly, and he thinks that is super cool.
Ava (6) is aware how the baby actually technically gets into that belly, and knows that that process happens with lots of kissing and cuddling. She is not interested in more at the moment, which is perfect.
In Pim’s class (he is 9 now and sex is a hot topic) the kids are all being so big and cool about it. But at the same time they are giggly, and shy and insecure, so I try to calmly talk to him and explain everything he has questions about, so there is no need for him to feel awkward about things.
Sara (11) is already beyond that giggly and shy phase. Her body is now starting to change, and with her I am starting to talk about the changes her body will be going through, about positive self esteem, sexual attraction, falling in love, etc.

I am hoping that an open conversation about the way babies are made from an early age (and shying away from euphemisms like ‘a special cuddle’) can open up an easier situation to talk about sex a bit later in childhood, naturally evolving into talking about emotional bonding and sexual attraction in the pre-teens. There should be nothing strange or embarrassing about it!

I even think that if sexual education evolves naturally this way, the awkward ‘talk’ doesn’t even have to take place at all. (Because let’s face it — it can be so uncomfortable both for the parent and the child! I still remember mine, what an awkward moment!)

So tell me — do you talk about sex with your children? Did your parents have ‘the talk’ with you?

xxx Esther

PS Drawing of papa and mama by Ava


Comments (16)

Courtney in London
June 30, 2016

I have always been open and honest with my kids about sex. I remember Easton was around four when he started asking me how flowers were pollinated. He then started asking me how animals made babies. It was an easy way for me to open up the discussion of reproduction – from flowers and plants to animals to how people also make babies. We spoke about it for about 20 minutes on the sofa. It wasn’t one bit uncomfortable and I found that he was so fascinated by all of it. Because we’ve always been so open with our kids (our three older kids know how babies are made, but we haven’t talked about it with Marlow yet), there has never been any uncomfortable feelings about it, which is so nice.

I still remember so vividly being called down to the living room after my siblings and I all went to bed one summer evening. I was 10, and being called downstairs made me feel like I was in trouble. I was instantly uncomfortable and my mom’s nervous face and expressions made me feel even more awkward. She explained to me then how babies were made and I found it to be such shocking, uncomfortable news. (I even went to bed and cried.) I knew, after this, that I would never want this discussion to make my own children feel uncomfortable.
It is such a natural thing, a beautiful thing and not something that should make our children feel upset or fearful. I do think that starting early and discussing it casually and naturally is better than waiting until your child is at an age where he/she is becoming shy and insecure about this topic.

July 2, 2016

I have found this really helpful as my son turns 11 in two weeks time and we too have a very open, casual way about dressing and showering in front of them. However I have been nervous about broaching this subject as do not want to embarrass both of us by getting it wrong! Thanks x

June 30, 2016

Bravo for taking on this big topic!

Like both of you lovely ladies, our family tries to be open to talking about sex. When my older daughter was 4, many of our friends were having babies, and she asked a lot of questions which we honestly answered with pure mechanics. She’s a huge fan of books, so we bought the picture book “Where Did I Come From?” by Peter Mayle, which she often flipped through, curiosity satisfied. Aside from the (hilarious) 4-year-old moment when she explained the mechanics to a pregnant friend (“Your husband’s penis was in your vagina! His penis has sperm!”), it has never been uncomfortable. Actually, it felt much easier discussing it when she was so young when it was mere curiosity with no emotional baggage attached, making it a breeze the second time around. Living in a hot climate in a relaxed culture meant our younger daughter spent the bulk of her first four years naked, often running around naked with her friends (boys and girls) in the backyard. She never really got curious; rather, body differences have been a matter of course as far as she was concerned.

I don’t remember my parents ever having “the talk” with us, but I do remember naked bodies being a source of shame in the home where I grew up. I also strongly remember the day my mom explained menstruation to me, because she was red in the face and wouldn’t make eye contact (leaving me feeling certain I should never bring it up again). She’s an intensely private person, so I’m sure she did the best she could…but it left me feeling a bit stranded and fretful. In my own home, it has always been normal for our kids to see us naked in the shower or while changing clothes, and it’s no big deal.

We recently had a much more intensive discussion with both girls (now 10 and 8) during family meeting, spurred by things I was overhearing on the school playground. While our younger daughter was squirming (her friends repeatedly tell her these discussions are “bad”), our older daughter seemed relieved to have us explain some of the dirty names and gestures she has been seeing this year. Given the prevalence of electronic devices among her friends, we also talked a bit about pornography. It makes me sad and worried how readily kids can access some very hard stuff without really even trying to find it (thankfully, neither they nor any of their friends have seen it thus far). All we can do is keep the discussion open and nonjudgemental, hoping they will come to us with questions or for clarification.

rita mendes
June 30, 2016

good morning beautiful talk and parents

I am very interesting in this topic not only because of my boy (5) but all childreen and society.
yesterday lucas (5) and his friend were playing in the garden naked, they were playing whith water… i was at home when i listen.
– uau lucas you have a big penis (pilinha in portuguese).
– yes but you know could be bigger! look…
– Uau how can you do that?
– Like this look…
I just listening wondering also to see but i left them in privacy:) I think playing and discovering by them self is very important, even if sometime is scary for me.

I started sexual education with lucas by given him almost every day a shantala (indian massage) since he was born- give him touch pleasure.
As parents we talk a lot about this topic… do you know a nice book, with nice ilustration for children?

with peace

June 30, 2016

Bravo, I believe in honesty and answering questions when they are asked. I have five boys and the baby making questions came early (I was pregnant a lot) we explained baby making as simply as possible without making a fuss. No question was taboo. I was guided by my boys questions and often after receiving a truthful answer and the questioning stopped. The next question might come randomly while in the car or cooking dinner. The only problem is certain parents at school didn’t want their children to know about sex but I believe truth wins everytime and the least amount of fuss the more likely my boys will feel comfortable coming to me to ask questions. The internet portrays sex in ways that can be confronting and unreal I want my children to have the knowledge to deferentiate between loving relationships and damaging ones. Only education and relaxed truthful discussion can help.

June 30, 2016

My oldest is 5 and has 2 younger siblings (age 2 and 11 weeks). When I was heavily pregnant in early April and my daughter was on Easter holidays, she wanted to go to a local soft play… But being that I was days away from giving birth and very very uncomfortable I told her it would not be possible because I was still waiting for the baby to come out. She said “well then mummy, can we go to the doctors first and tell him to pop the baby out of your belly button and then we can go to (soft play) later today?” It was then I realised we needed to get a few things straight, but I thought perhaps the topic of child birth might be a little too big to start with! I am sorry to say, I haven’t quite figured out a way to begin this discussion without it being shocking or too big for her to comprehend… Considering she still doesn’t understand the difference between today, yesterday and tomorrow… And my own experience with knowing was less than comfortable.

My mother was a single mother to 2 girls. So her reason for telling us came from a place of fear. She wanted to protect us from predators. Harsh, but true. I remember the talk. I remember thinking… Well that’s just destroyed my innocence… Rather like being told Father Christmas or the Easter bunny weren’t real.
When it came to telling us about child birth, again, it was from a place of fear. We were big babies and she had just left my father when she was having me so no emotional support. I believe the words were “It felt as close as you can get to wanting to die”.

I like the fact that you have approached a tricky topic. It gives me some ideas on how I can approach this topic in a natural and positive way.

June 30, 2016

Thank you! As always brilliant and thought-provoking.

June 30, 2016

My children are still very young (4 and 2), but we are open with them and try to create a sex positive environment. My husband’s family is very puritanical when it comes to sex so it’s been a bit of a struggle for him, but we don’t hide our bodies, and we kiss and hug in front of the children. We also are very careful to teach consent at this age so it hopefully becomes a natural part of their interactions (if someone doesn’t like what you’re doing to their body you must stop immediately, which at this age means wrestling, tickling, hugging, etc). My plan is to answer questions honestly as they come, but there haven’t been many yet.

My own parents were very positive. We didn’t have “the talk” but an ongoing conversation and it was still a bit uncomfortable but not so much so that it was traumatizing. They always answered questions honestly and directly. The best thing for me, I think, is that even though I grew up with only sisters my dad was very involved. He talked to us, he never seemed bothered by our changing bodies, he bought us tampons, and he trusted us to make good choices when we dated (none of that cleaning guns in front of our boyfriend business). They were also both very comfortable with nudity, so seeing them step out of the shower wasn’t a big deal. The one issue I had was that I went to an extremely religious school that taught us all kinds of terrible things about sex, so that was confusing to get mixed messages. I’ll definitely avoid that with my children!

June 30, 2016

My kids are still preschool age, but two years ago, we started reading “It’s Not the Stork,” to our oldest. It is a fantastic book that talks about the differences between boys and girls, the differences in families, and how babies are made–and while it does focus on the sex aspect, it also talks about babies coming through in vitro and into families through adoption. There are two subsequent books in that series for 7 and older and then one for teenagers. I plan to buy those when my kids hit those milestones. I highly recommend the book!

Isadora g
June 30, 2016

I loved and learned so much from this and all the comments, thank you! I only speak about inappropriate touching with my daughter, I do so about twice a year or more and have been doing so since she was 3. I basically just remind her to always talk to me about anything that makes her uncomfortable, I’m a stay at home mom and am always with her so child abuse is not a big concern for me but I still want her to be informed and prepared.

My daughter just turned 7 and we collect art and often take her to museums and that’s how we introduced sex to her. Watching a sculpture of 2 people holding each other nude is not as uncomfortable as having to explain it and art is usually sexually subtle. The rest will come with time.

kelly rae
June 30, 2016

great topic! I’m a bit paranoid about my kids being sexually abused so I have talks about what is ok and not ok touch every once and awhile. We also use proper terms for our private parts. I’m a fan of it always being a subject we can talk about and that there shouldn’t be secrets between us. Not always easy but I’m trying.

July 1, 2016

I just love babyccino and the topics you discuss. It is so interesting and important. Thank you. I also try to be relaxed and speak positively about sex but I have also told my children that no one is ever allowed to touch their bodies; until they’re older and can decide that that’s what they want. What do you think. Am I instilling fear? I hope not. I just always use the proper words like penis and vagina; I try to be honest but I also want my children to never feel that their body is for other people’s pleasure or to get what they want. I am scared by young girls posting sexual photos on their insta grams. I am terrified when I hear of rapes at colleges. I hope my children always decide for themselves and never feel forced into sending naked photos or posing sexually etc. Another conversation maybe sorry I have gone off Topic!

July 1, 2016

I believe strongly in being open about all topics with your kids. This one can be tricky to navigate. Our children have known about sex since they first became curious about where babies come from. We also know our kids have all gone through phases of playing ‘doctors and nurses’ with their friends – this is also, in my opinion, a normal part of self discovery and I think it’s important to not “sexulise” kids and make them feel embarrassed for being naked or exploring their bodies. In my experience they start to self-censor at some point – so my 9 year old used to get naked with his friends within about 2 minutes when he was 3 or 4 – he went through a phase of just loving to run around rudey-nudey (expression I picked up from Courtney!). It was s phase, he grew out of it. Most of my friends had kids who also enjoyed that and they felt similar to me about it. That it was just lovely that they held no inhibitions. But there were parents who would get nervous and ask their children to please put their clothes on. I always felt a bit sad about this. I think it’s very important to have these kind of discussions with your kids friends parents too – different parents have different approaches and therefore their children may be different. So what I may feel is quite normal play another parent could be uncomfortable with. You need to respect how another family may approach these things, even if you wouldn’t be the same for your own family. It’s touchy and sensitive but talking is always good – with your kids of course but also each other.

Lauren Wood
July 14, 2016

Such a brilliant conversion and one very relevant to me at the moment with an 8 and 9 year old. I remember being so painfully shy and embarrassed to talk about anything to do with S E X (!!) or B O Y S (!!!) as a pre-teen and teen with my mum that I vowed to try and make it all a much more natural and open subject with my 2 kids. We have lots of animals at home so I agree with Courtney on this, it really is a great way to get talking on the subject of how babies are made with children (my 2 were curious as to why their rabbits kept trying to climb on each others backs and jiggle about!). My children know it is something that can be talked about just like how we talk about the weather, the seasons, evolution, or space, just another normal part of life. We have covered the practical side of how babies are made and how they are born, we are just starting to talk about feelings and the changes that will happen in puberty ( I bought a really lovely book for them each on the subject aimed at the perfect level for pre-teens, covers all the big stuff just not in too much detail – there is a boys and girls version. We read it together sometimes and it is a good conversation starter –

A couple of friends with similar age childen to me seem horrified that we have talked about it already so it is nice to know that there are others who do the same xxx

August 20, 2016

I grew up in Northern California in the 1970s. Not only did I see my parents naked I even saw friends’ parents naked at times. (Hot tubs.) I remember kayaking and seeing my teacher at a nude beach.

I know some children might have responded to this by feeling relaxed about nudity and human sexuality, this actually made me feel inhibited and shy.

For this reason, I think it is important to observe your children and their reactions. Some may not bat an eye, but others may be shy and embarrassed by nudity. I think number one is knowing what your child is comfortable and ready for.

February 7, 2019

That drawing is incredible 🤣

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