How young is too young to talk with your children about sex
The question of how young is too young to talk about sex has long baffled many parents. The answer is still a challenge today.
Families will tackle the question in ways unique to them and their circumstance. For some, the response will be dependent on culture and how their parents addressed the subject.
This article is not an attempt to tell you how to tackle this delicate topic. Instead, I will share some reasons people have discomfort with the issue and share how I resolved the matter with my children.
A text received from a friend influenced this article, she wanted to know what age I started talking with my children about sex, and when I did, I tell my children how babies came. I think every child is curious about this, and they deserve an age-appropriate answer.
How young is too young?
I heard this question in my head the morning after my son spent the night at a friend’s house and bound home to ask ‘mommy what is sex’; I remember where I was standing and what I was doing when he asked. I froze broom in hand, and time seemed to stop. I wanted a few more years before I began this conversation, but here he was not as old as I thought he would be when we finally talked. I wasn’t ready.
All the older people’s voices rose in my head, the fear of sex that they put into me came rushing to the surface, and I catch my breath, but my rational brain kicked in just before I scolded him for saying the word. I took a deep breath, and we talked. I don’t remember what I said at that time, but I knew he was comforted; he asked some follow-up questions, and we talked some more.
I made the decision early in their lives to talk with them about anything. I wanted to foster an atmosphere of open conversations because I wanted them to get information from me and not anyone else. I knew the world would gladly fill in gaps in areas that we, the parents, had neglected to fill. I wanted to guard against that. I also wanted them to have a different experience than me.
Over the years, the conversation with all three children continued as we work through our discomfort and tries to be honest and open. We operate under the principle that the children should get the information from us and not from anyone else. As they get older, I am sure they will have conversations with friends, but I am glad to influence the discussion. They can approach these conversations equipped with knowledge glean from us.
In the culture where I am from, children are perceived as rude if they ask a question about sex too early.
Too early could be anything between 7–18, maybe beyond depending on who you ask.
I sometimes wonder whether the adults believed that if we talk about sex, it will be a license for children to start having sex.
These adults aren’t aware that children will find the information if the curiosity arises; therefore, we should have the conversations to influence the narrative as parents.
Responsible parenting makes room to challenge the culture you have and the fears you have around sex. It means addressing any discomfort you fear when talking about sex with your child. Peer support or counselling could help fix any embarrassment and worries about having the ‘talk’.
During that impromptu conversation with my son, I promised him that I would tell him more when the time was right but assured him that he could always come to me with any questions. Over the years, we have had numerous conversations about sex and development.
As he grows into a teen, these conversations are more in-depth, helping him understand his body and hormones and what might be happening with him at different times.
Sure having some of these talks are challenging for me since he is a boy, and I have no idea about some of his issues. But I understand biological development and the need to teach him about his body to develop self-control and self-protection.
I remember being at an event where the host intimated that their child was not curious about sex until they were in their teens. I remember squirming in my seat, thinking we were having that conversation long before the teen years.
I struggled for a brief moment with shame before I catch myself. Talking about sex doesn’t mean the children are having sex, and avoiding the subject doesn’t mean that they won’t have questions and go in search of answers. I always want to be the place that they came first for explanations.
Growing up, all adults seemed to have one voice around the area of sex. They told us one thing about sex, well they didn’t tell us as in a conversation, but rather suggest it in many roundabout ways. The message was clear, don’t have sex.
There were no follow up conversations around the topic or teaching on handling body changes or development as they happen.
When I was young, they treated sex like a dirty word, and ‘good’ girls or polished people wouldn’t use that term. However, raising children in a world where the internet is accessible to everyone and information is at their fingertips, parents should be prepared to educate themselves around sex and how to have the conversation.
We are also living when predators are lurking in places we least expect, trying to gain the attention of our children. As parents, it is vitally important that we develop the relationship and create a space where our children can talk with us about anything.
If we fail to talk with them about sex, they will struggle to come to us about anything else. If one subject is taboo and off bounds, how will they tell us when a predator has approached them or someone is trying to proposition them online.
The idea is to develop the relationship where the space is safe enough to talk, ask questions, and grapple together with the hard questions.
When is a good time to talk about sex? As early as your child can understand.