How to talk to your kids about the Birds and the Bees: Part 1 (Episode 182)
When do you have "the talk" with your kids? For many families, discussing the "birds and the bees" is something that sparks dread and discomfort for parents as they try to navigate how to cover it all when it's so complex and...adult.
*This is the first in a 3-part podcast series on "The Birds and the Bees: Navigating Powerful Conversations for Lasting Legacies with Our Children"
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The "Sex Talk" Homerun
We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves as parents to get this right. How - and when - do you have the birds and the bees talk with your child? There are some who really load the pressure on - parents who research to find the "right" book, the "perfect" way to discuss it, and they bank on this home-run shot where, in one beautiful conversation, you can knock it out of the park and your child will be able to navigate sex and sexuality just fine after that. Right? Right?
Yeah, we parents put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get the birds and the bees right for our kids, yet this is as complex as explaining love and all that means in one conversation.
There isn't a home-run talk. There never has been. This isn't a baseball game with a score to be gained, but life that unfolds as we live it.
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Normalizing the Conversation
This is key. It's not a simple birds and bees talk; but an ongoing conversation as we learn and grow together. It's not about dumping all the information you know on a child who may not be ready for it, but making this an accepted topic of conversation in your home.
I love how Cassidy lays it out here:
I’ve read my boys the book “My Body! What I Say Goes!: A book to empower and teach children about personal body safety, feelings, safe and unsafe touch, private parts, secrets and surprises, consent, and respectful relationships” to talk about body boundaries, consent, and respect.
They are still pretty young (11 & 6), so as far as sex and sexuality goes, we have let their curiosity lead and offered age appropriate (but accurate) answers to questions like “why is the baby in that lady’s tummy?” And “Do people have babies like animals do?”
They know the correct names for their body parts. They know that men and women have different body parts, and they know that not all couples/families are heterosexual. They know that as they grow they get hormones that are used for sex.
We’ve taught them about what their body parts are for and tried to prepare them what to expect as they get older and mostly tried to create an environment where all of these things are normal, ordinary, even boring.
I hope to help them know that having questions and seeking answers is good, and responsible. We are proud of them for asking, like when they asked why I have breasts. My then 5-year-old pointed to them and said “What are those?” And instead of laughing or acting embarrassed I just answered him in the same way as if he’d asked me about a new pair of shoes. “They are breasts. Women have them.” And that’s all that was needed then. Later he asked what they are for and I told him women use them to feed babies.
They found tampons in the bathroom and I explained what a uterus is, why it bleeds, and that women have a period monthly. A tampon helps women deal with that. It’s another bathroom item you don’t talk about at the grocery store but it’s a normal private thing like burping, pooping, or erections. It happens. Again, straight answer, no fuss, totally normal things.
We try to honor their questions with objective answers appropriate to their ages. I’m sure we aren’t doing everything we could do but this approach grows well with them since their questions get older as they do.
Host of "That Shakespeare Life"
Nathan experienced more about learning the mechanics of sex. It was "the talk" - the standard birds and the bees, explained with sugar packets. It wasn't on his radar - he didn't really have questions, so it came up more out of the desire to cover it because "everyone else will be talking about it."
For me, however, I was introduced to it way before I really had any interest/curiosity about it by a missionary girl (interesting mission, huh) when I was about five. She clearly had some trauma in her life, and her knowledge was pretty extreme for our young ages. So I approached my father and asked more.
Yet I don't remember an official talk with my dad, or my mother. I just know the conversations started, and they didn't stop. Instead of the pressure of finding the perfect time, recognize that there are opportunities all through life to have this conversation with our kids.
When is the Right Time
Is there really a right time? Nope! Nathan may not have heard about it young, but I did! The instant we open the door to interaction with others - through media, social experiences, etc - the topic of sex and sexuality can crop up.
Start having the conversations, knowing they will be built on and grow as your child matures. It's just like the concept of strewing in unschooling - you can open the door to the conversation by just adding in those little things into their awareness.
Especially if it is taboo in your home, know that at some point, your child is likely to explore, hear from others, and get all kinds of information - this is too much a part of our lives. Every family is unique in their approach for discussing this, yet it's critical that it happens. The conversations are happening regardless of whether you're comfortable with it, so the more you can build your own confidence and openness to discuss this, the better.
Birds and the Bees Resources
These are the books I have a personal opinion/experience on, along with my thoughts. There are many, many books out there to help support you as you open the door to discussion with your kids. I recommend you look through the book first, even if your child is going to do some reading on their own.
We keep these books reserved for going through with me first so I'm there for questions, and then keeping them available for them to go back through at any time after that. And, we don't keep them in with the stash of other books so no other kids stumble on something they may not be ready for!
Use discernment - this is a dicey topic that can be influenced based on your own trauma, your family story, your belief systems, and more. You may not agree with everything in a book, which is exactly why you don't need to rely on THAT to do the talking for you. Use books as a supplement and door-opener to the conversations you are having, and ensure you are a part of this topic in your household.
It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends (The Family Library)
This is the first of this series, and I love how each one just builds on the other to reinforce the concepts as well as open the door for conversation.
Here is a quick insight - "It's Not the Stork! helps answer the endless and perfectly normal questions that preschool, kindergarten, and early elementary school children ask about how they began. Through lively, comfortable language and sensitive, engaging artwork, Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley address readers in a reassuring way, mindful of a child's healthy desire for straightforward information."
It's So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families (The Family Library)
If I were to get one of these books, this one is a good one to open the door, cover the bases, and give a bit more content without going too intense.
This builds on the previous one with a bit more info for some great conversations.
Caveat for all three of these books in the series - it addresses all forms of gender identity and sexual preferences. If that doesn't align with you, another book may be better. That being said, regardless of your comfort discussing it, these are topics and issues your child will face.
It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health (The Family Library)
Now...I believe in an "open door" policy for questioning in our home. We are very open about sharing any information our kids ask about, and we share based on what they are capable of understanding. That being said, this book even made me a tad uncomfortable! It discusses SO MUCH about sex and sexuality, including all the ways you can have sex and all the ways you can prevent pregnancy. Plus diving deep into the LGBTQ gender identities.
I actually stopped and told my daughter how it was a bit awkward for me to talk about some of it, not because it was shameful, but because, as much as I want her to know about sex, I'm not inviting her into our bedroom to watch! And this covers a ton. That being said, I would so much rather get through my own discomfort and be the first to talk to her about this - before she hears about it from a friend, or worse, is thrown into a situation where she discovers something new in the heat of the moment and isn't sure how to respond.
I love this sweet little book just showing the different varieties of babies and families - it's a great first intro into talking about all the different types of families that are out there and seeing the diversity that is our humanity.
Beautiful Girl: Celebrating the Wonders of Your Body
This is a beautiful little book with a clear message that starts to lay the foundation for girls about their bodies, changes, and the wonder of being a woman.
The illustrations are gorgeous - I felt like this was a sweet little book of beauty and poetry when the girls were little!
Sex is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and YOU
I stumbled on this book and am glad I did! This doesn't go into the intricacies of sex, but instead, helps kids learn about how to have respect for sex and sexuality, ensuring it always includes respect, trust, joy and justice. They talk about crushes, discernment and awareness for others, and was a great one for even young children to grasp as a first intro into the sex talks, and learning more about that crazy word "sexy".
Now this one I haven't read, but it's by the same authors as above, and, knowing what they cover in that one, I have a feeling this will be a pretty great companion to it!
Vaginas and Periods 101: A Pop-up Book
This book is a great way to normalize what all is going on with a female body, and lays it all out with accurate labels, showing you what all the anatomy is, exactly how menstruation works, and also showing all the options you can use, from pads and tampons to reusable items like cups and sponges.
This isn't on Amazon, but you can get even more resources on their website, and the back of the book is full of additional recommended reads for both parents and kids.
Guy Stuff (The Body Book for Boys)
Okay. I just grabbed this book and skimmed through it on Kindle. I have all of these girl resources and wanted to find something for guys. I love what all this book covers - it really lays out all the changes a male body goes through while encouraging guys to embrace who they are - their feelings, how fast (or slow) they develop, and how to build positive confidence without the macho aspect.
Healthy Bodies; Teaching Kids What They Need to Know: A Comprehensive Curriculum to Address Body Image, Eating, Fitness and Weight Concerns in Today's Challenging Environment (Volume 3)
I have to admit - this is NOT one I have read through personally. However, it was highly recommended by a friend who is a researcher as a very robust textbook to go through.
Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing (Newly Updated and Revised 5th Edition)
This isn't one for the kids. This is the doozy for every mama to read, simply to get in touch with your own body. It was a total game-changer for me in stepping up and taking ownership of my body and understanding it.
Courses, Videos and Posts
Here are the links to the courses, blogs and videos that are also super helpful:
- Cycle Wisdom for Mothers and Daughters - I highly, highly recommend Moon Daughters - this is a powerful program for mamas of daughters to go through, and I went through a lot of it with my teen daughter. You'll hear ALL about this course in next week's podcast episode - part 2 of this series!
- Additionally, check out this site for girls: https://www.deannalam.com/mother-daughter/
- How about an impressive "Sex Talk" from a Mennonite who gets it!
- Help! My teen is sexually active - what do I do? Take everything with a grain of salt in what aligns with your values (for example, I personally am not an advocate for the Gardisil vaccine) - this Dr. has some great nuggets of advice.
- Check out this scientific video on how the teenage brain works
- Let's go ahead and watch this one on empathy as well - very powerful.
Some additional resources for you
- No Secrets In Our Home
- Learning from Home the Socratic Way with Samantha Jansky (Episode 158)
- How Do I Bond With My Child? (Episode 167
- How do I equip my kid to “adult”? (Episode 89)
- Letting Go Of The Agenda…and Managing Expectations (Episode 148)
- Parent Styles – Are they helpful or harmful? (Episode 102)
- 7 Seconds will change your communication and connection (Episode 62)
- Juliet Talks Feelings: Wisdom From A 7-year-old (Episode 165)
- What Are You In Control Of?
- Feeling Angry Today?
- What Are Your Non-Negotiables In Your Family? (Episode 73)
Your Weekly Challenge:
Check in with where you are and what your comfort level is on navigating this topic within your home.
Remember the next two weeks will be the next two parts in this series, addressing our connection to this earth and the sexual legacy we are passing on to our children
This is an essential part of who we are. It's a beautiful aspect of ourselves, and, first and foremost, sex and sexuality starts with you...from within. It's your own relationship with yourself and your own body and the example you are modeling for your children.
Know and be open to exploring this aspect of who we are - for your children, and for yourself. The more you can gain that insight and respect for the beautiful person you are, the more you can also see how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
Questions or comments?
Personality styles, marriage/intimacy, parenting, education, minimalism or travel - what is pressing on your mind?
Or, hop on over to the Mama Says Namaste or Unschooling Families FB groups and ask your question there!