“Mom, where do babies come from?”
If you are like me, this might be the holy-grail of nerve-wracking parenting questions you know you have to answer at some point. Right up there with questions like “Is there a God?” and “Did you ever smoke pot?” You just don’t want to screw up talking about sex!
As I was growing up, I got a lot of mixed messages regarding human sexuality. On the one hand, the message in the conservative community I grew up in was: “Don’t ask, don’t talk, don’t tell, don’t think, and definitely DON’T DO!” On the other hand the mainstream culture was sending very mysterious and objectifying messages about the female body. Certainly, there was not a lot of matter-of-fact, real-talk happening in between.
I think my parents did the best they could at the time they lived in, and today there are more resources and just general openness about this topic than when I was growing up. I also think that talking about human sexuality is a complex subject, no matter what! Here are a few things, though, that I am doing for my own kids. Hopefully, these will make it an easier topic for them to navigate.
Reconnect Sex to the Human Life-Cycle
Sex isn’t just about that one, physical act. It’s about biology, and the human life-cycle. It’s fundamental “I’m a Human 101.” I am a doula, and so regular conversations about babies and birth and breastfeeding happen naturally. I would hope they would happen anyway, though.
All of my kids have been a part of conversations about and/or witnessed anatomy, birth, and breastfeeding from… well, birth! It doesn’t freak them out; it’s just a part of normal life to them. It’s what bodies do, just like eating, pooping, peeing, and like everything else that comes along with living in a human body, there is also an appropriate time and place.
Make it a Dialogue
There will be no sweating bullets about having “The Talk” when my kids turn some magical age. Well, ok, maybe some sweating, because it’s still a pretty intense topic! However, sex will not be some scary mystery that no one seems to want to discuss, because it will have been a part of the dialogue all along. As they think about growing up, birth, and babies, they will also know that sex is one small, and oh-so-important piece of that development puzzle. The trick here is giving honest information, at an age-appropriate level. Here’s where my next tip comes in.
Find a Solid Resource
You don’t have to figure this out alone. We live in a day and age where so many helpful resources are available that just didn’t exist a generation ago! I started asking some friends with kids around the same age or one stage ahead how they were handling conversations about human sexuality, and got a really good recommendation for a book series.
I have personally found the “It’s NOT the Stork” book, and its two follow-up books, to be a great way to begin these conversations, starting at age 4. Each one layers on real-talk about anatomy, gender constructs, growing-up, sex, pregnancy, birth, babies, and family structure in a really non-freaked out and honest way, that children at various age levels can digest.
If you are worried about blushing, these books are a really great ice-breaker. Even if you aren’t, they are laid out perfectly well to help make sure you are giving accurate and age-appropriate info. The important thing, I think, is to also make yourself available for questions and dialogue, no matter how uncomfortable it may make you. It is important for kids to know that they can trust you when it comes to those questions, and for them to know that really, it is all normal.