Here's how to talk to your kids about sex
I did a double take when my editor e-mailed me the task of writing about “Teaching your kids about the birds and the bees.” It stumped me. “You got me in this one, Boss,” I thought bemused.
Oh, how easy it was writing my experience when my wife was pregnant, or about what goes on in my mind on the day I got a first glimpse of my first-born, or my power struggles with my child, or my ways of raising them.
However, teaching my kids about the more “adult-sensitive” facts of life is something that I am having some difficulties with.
Don’t deny it. We, parents, value our children’s innocence that talking about “adult” matters is simply like shattering their angelic “pureness,” at least that’s how it appears to me. And I admit it is one weak point that I have as a parent, and I have to correct myself on this.
I’m not sure about how parents from Western cultures handle the unenviable responsibility of teaching their kids about sexuality, but a lot of Asian friends share the same helplessness on the subject. It’s like knowing you have to go to the dentist to have a tooth pulled, but you keep on delaying it, or even denying it – even when you’re already rolling on the floor with pain.
Unlike in my previous posts, in this one, you’ll have the confessions of a fumbling father awkwardly trying to maneuver one sticky responsibility. I am talking about my 15 year-old son. I haven’t talked to him even about the flowers—much more about the birds and the bees. Anyone watched the movie “American Pie”?
The father in the movie was so into his fatherly responsibilities, but he does his father-to-son talks about sexuality and manhood too awkwardly embarrassing. The result was disastrous, at best, embarrassing. He must have made such an impression on me that I shiver at the thought of being in his shoes.
It is such a walk in the park calling your son to give him advice like, “Marron, it’s ok for a man to cry. It doesn’t mean you are weak. It simply means you are in touch with your emotions. Just don’t forget, whenever you need me, I’m always here for you.” Oh, how fatherly it sounds.
Or sometimes scold your son like, “Marron, your behavior this morning was quite disappointing. You better shape up, or else!” Oh, how manly it sounds. But talking about sex.... “You got me in this one, Boss.”
The root cause of my difficulty talking about sexuality to my son is communication gap. But it still falls on the issue of “starting late.” My earlier job kept me “out of reach” of my eldest son until he reached puberty (this is the worst any parent could allow to happen—learn from this fellow parents!) and I just started to try to reach out to him now.
Open communication is the key. And there is no better time to start as when your child starts to say, “Da-da.” My experience with my first son taught me that.
Thankfully, I don’t have this same problem with my little girls. I started early. I am now always around and I can talk to them about anything that could range from the most important to the most mundane (can you imagine what outlandish things little girls ask nowadays?)
When you frequently talk to your child, you talk about practically anything in the world. When you can talk about practically anything, you can talk about sex freely.
When you bathe your baby or toddler, you can matter-of-factly point to his genitals and call it by its actual, and definitely the least used name—penis. Don’t give it any cute nicknames like “birdie” or “weenie.” You can then continue by saying boys and girls are made differently and that girls have a vagina.
If they ask more questions, give them concise answers, using exact words. You will be surprised to find out that you won’t even have to use the word “sex.”
However, I am careful that my kids don’t go around pointing at other people’s crotches and shouting, “That’s your vagina!” I make sure to have them understand that other people may be offended because genitals are private and not meant to be discussed aloud in public, much least proclaimed loudly!
I always follow up with a “and you know what private means? It means you don’t talk about it in public.” That always does the trick. They get their sexual education and I still save myself the trouble of facing parents who might knock on my door questioning the cleanliness of the matter between my ears.
My girls are aged 3 and 6. I don’t have a problem talking about their sexuality and about making them understand how different girls from boys are. I already told them babies are made in a special place in their mummy’s tummy.
Any day from now, I would expect them to ask me about how babies are made. When they do, I’d tell them, “When a man and a woman are in love, they get married. And they love and sleep together. Their love would make a baby grow inside the mummy’s tummy.” That would suffice for now... phew.
As they grow older, you can give them more detailed answers. If you started early, it would be less difficult (no matter how uncomfortable it may sound now). Just don’t forget that like a trip to the dentist, you may grimace at the idea now, but you have to face it.
It is better for your child to understand this fact of life from you than from someone or worse, something else. With today’s technology, you will be surprised how easily accessible these sexual materials are for the children.
Now, coming back to my 15 year-old boy... I still believe I haven’t lost by default yet. I’m still hoping for that father-and-son moment. Reluctant yes, but its something that needs to be done and I don't trust anyone else to talk to him than his own father.