Saturday, July 28, 2012

When Kids Ask About Sex

I chuckled as I read The Weed's post about his six-year-old daughter posing a question in her Primary class about sexual relations. I can identify, since my children have posed uncomfortable questions on this topic from time to time.

Over the years I have had "The Talk" with each of our four sons at what we figured were appropriate times. I asked my wife to take charge of this duty for our daughter. This initial foray has been followed up with multiple impromptu discussions, almost always precipitated by the children.

I am grateful that my children have felt somewhat comfortable discussing sex and other delicate subjects with me. From the beginning I have tried to handle these queries in a sensitive yet matter-of-fact and age appropriate manner. I have wanted each child to understand that the topic is not taboo; delicate, perhaps, but not untouchable.

One child that has been particularly inquisitive about sex has tested the limits of my candor by occasionally asking very personal questions. It's one thing to discuss the topic academically with some detachment and quite another to reveal details about my own intimate activities.

Despite my attempts at openness, I have noted that the boys have naturally turned somewhat reticent (even to the point of squeamishness) to discuss sex openly with me as they have advanced into their mid teen years and have lost some of their childhood innocence.

One time as I drove along with three of the boys in the car, the youngest of the trio (the aforementioned inquisitor) asked some rather specific questions about sex. His older brothers, who were mortified beyond description, bluntly told him to be quiet. They were even more horrified when I insisted on straightforwardly engaging the topic on the younger boy's level with no hint that it was improper. I was, however, grateful that the boys' little sister wasn't present, as this would have required reducing the vocabulary to her level, risking the loss of important understanding.

Our youngest child was born before the medical establishment's legal arm put a stop to capturing births on video. Thus, we have video of each of our five children's births. I shot the video from the head of the bed, so these home movies are fairly modest. Our daughter has watched all five of these episodes over and over.

One day my daughter confided in me that she was somewhat worried about giving birth. "It looks like it hurts," she said. Fortunately my wife was present to provide her view on the matter. My daughter seemed somewhat relieved. But later she asked me how the babies got inside of her Mom in the first place. That led to another chat.

Sex is a natural part of life. It can and should be a wonderful part of life. But due to its physical, psychological, and cultural implications, sex is also very complex. It can lead to great joy, sorrow, confusion, or some combination of these. I want my children to develop healthy attitudes and practices when it comes to sex. For that reason I try to be open and thoughtful in discussing this topic with them.

I believe that it's important for parents to be prepared to answer their children's questions about sex. After all, the kids will inevitably ask. But they will stop asking and could develop unhealthy ideas if the parent shuts them down or treats them like they've done something wrong.

Some innocently asked questions will make the parent uncomfortable. But that's part of life. It's not a reason to freak out. If handled appropriately these episodes will engender trust and stronger relationships. Good luck.

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