Everyday Parenting: The Sex Talk
“Mum, can you have another baby?”
“I don’t think we’re going to have any more babies”
“But why not? What if one just grows in your tummy?”
“Well it won’t because we’re not going to make one”
“But Mum, how can you decide to not have a baby if you have Daddy?”
You can tell where this is headed. I’ve been wondering when this conversation would come up! Many siblings have grown in this belly and still no one has asked the question ‘but how did you make the baby?’
The dreaded sex talk.
Except that it’s actually kinda simple, it really wasn’t embarrassing, and I didn’t scar them for life.
We discussed the facts openly and honestly, and now everyone knows the details. So how did it go down?
The thing is, it’s not one single conversation, or at least it shouldn’t be. They’ve been gradually gathering more information about all things bodies, puberty, and reproduction for years now. Through conversations and questions answered honestly, they began to figure out how things worked.
We talk about the parts of our bodies, their correct names, and the differences between males and females. They watch nature documentaries and know that most living things need a male and a female to make a baby. They recently watched an episode of one of their favourite shows, Operation Ouch, that was all about puberty and were fascinated with how bodies change as they grow.
We have always answered their questions simply, but honestly. Starting with a little information and then adding more if it was requested. Up until now they had been satisfied with knowing that a sperm and an egg come together to make a baby. They hadn’t asked for any more details than that. I really think, with any topic, children know how much information they are ready for. If they are asking for more details, then they are ready for answers.
Giving them answers
I had no plans of exactly what I would say. I only knew that I wanted to remain calm, honest, open, and factual. I hoped to talk to them just as I would any other topic so that they wouldn’t get the impression that this was a ‘big deal’ or something to feel uncomfortable about. I wanted to convey that they could depend on honest answers from me and that I would never be embarrassed or dismissive of their questions or thoughts.
I approached it like I would with anything else they are learning, by encouraging them to discover the answers themselves and providing more information when needed.
“But Mum, how can you decide to not have a baby if you have Daddy?”
“Well we just don’t make one”
“But Mum, how do you actually make a baby?”
“Remember a baby is made with part of the Mum and part of the Dad?”
“Yes Mum’s have eggs, and Dad’s have… what’s it called that Dad’s have?”
“Yeah, but how do they actually make a baby?”
“Well they join together”
“Oh, so how do they get together though?”
“How do you think they get together?”
“Maybe if you’re close to each other they jump across to your tummy?”
“Hmm…that wouldn’t work because then I could accidentally make a baby with anyone I got too close to, couldn’t I?”
“Oh yeah… maybe kissing? Maybe it can go through your mouth and then down into your tummy?”
“Where does food go when you swallow it?”
“Into your stomach”
“And where do babies grow?”
“Oh, in your uterus, so that won’t work. So how then Mum?”
“Well let’s see, where do the egg and sperm grow?”
“The egg is inside the girl, lots of eggs, even we have eggs now! And then one comes out every month and travels down into the uterus”
“That’s right, and the sperm?”
“Um, is it in the penis?”
“Close! In the testicles, but they can come out of the penis.”
“What? That’s weird. Ok so the sperm goes out of the penis and it has to get into the girls tummy. How can it get in there?”
“I wonder if you have any ideas?”
“I think I know”
“Oh man, I think I know too. You say it.”
“No, I don’t want to.”
“You don’t want to say?”
“I don’t want to, haha, I think that can’t be right!”
“I think you might be right! I can tell you if you like and you can see if you’re right?”
“Yes, tell us”
“The man has to put his penis into the woman’s vagina so that the sperm can swim out and up into the uterus to find the egg”
“Oh haha that’s what I thought! So the baby gets in there the same way it comes out?”
“Yeah, I guess it does.”
“Ok well I wasn’t expecting that.”
The conversation continued on from there, covering other things such as how animals are doing the same kind of thing when they mate, the different names we call it such as ‘sex’ or ‘making love’, how it’s something adults do (not children), how you can only have sex if both people want to, how you don’t get pregnant every time you have sex, and other ways that people might make a baby such as IVF, etc.
Miss 8 continued asking questions as they came into her mind for the next couple of days, fascinated with how it all works just like she is when learning about animals and their behaviour. She also read this book and watched this video a few times.
Miss 6 was not as interested in hearing more details. She got the answer to her question and then drifted away from the conversation, playing elsewhere. It was tricky working out how much information they each wanted at different ages, but I think going slowly and allowing them to discover the answers meant that they got the level of information they were ready for.
Talking about sex with your kids seems like an awkward concept, but it really doesn’t have to be. It’s an opportunity to set the tone for future conversations! If we start out with honesty and openness, things are likely to continue that way and hopefully our children will be able to come to us with any questions or concerns they might have in the future, without embarrassment.
This post is part of a series documenting everyday respectful parenting moments. Reading real life parenting examples inspires me. I also find it helpful to look back on situations and think about what went well or what didn’t. Maybe you will too!
That made me laugh, and I think you (and they!) did fantastic!
Perfectly timed article as I just discovered I was pregnant with number 3, and my 4.5 year old asked how the sperm and egg get together. I didn’t know how to respond so I told her I needed to think about my answer and she could ask me again sometime. She hasn’t asked me yet, but I know will. I was wondering if there was an age of your child that you wouldn’t have shared that information with?
Oh man, you’re lucky yours were satisfied with simple answers for so long….my 3 year old just kept going with questions until he knew the whole shebang. I didn’t want to answer dishonestly, but it did make for some slightly awkward public conversations. Notably, when he then declared to my mother-in-law “Daddy put Zach in mummy’s tummy with his PENIS!”
That just gave me a chuckle!
It’s a little more tricky when mommy and daddy are not together and there is a new step mom (who we love).
My parents told us so early I don’t remember the conversation, I just always knew how babies are made. I can’t have been older then 4 or 5?
I love when my son asks me about his, mine or his dad’s body and the fact that no matter what or where I wouldn’t flinch for a second to tell him exactly what he wants to know. I love the fact that my parents never made it uncomfortable talking about it and therefore I have no issues talking about penis or vagina or breast and other perfectly natural body parts. I know at some point kids might be less comfortable talking about it so why not use and enjoy a naturally inquisitive child without the worry of being embaressed and tell them all they want to know. I can still talk to my parents about any physical issues without using pretend names for my body. Our body’s is such a great thing and it is such a shame to be embarrassed about any part of it. Especially of those that can create life! X