4 Sexuality-Related Conversations You Must Have With Your Kids and Tweens
In Julie and my case, sex has had five amazing effects.
When my wife was pregnant with twins (kid number 4 and 5), I bumped into an old friend who slapped me on the arm with a, ‘Well done, you horny bugger, you!’
At that point I realized that my reproductive abilities had been noted by some as a form of my, how do I say this, um … sexual prowess.
So just in case you’re thinking, ‘Talk to us oh Sage about all things sexual’, I’d like to de-pedestalize myself up front and get honest.
My sex life with Julie has of late been at a low ebb.
The reason: it may have taken lots of sex to create kids, but having five kids has worked against the amount of sex we get to gave. When we are trying to make some magic happen, it’s remarkable how often some kid will cry, ‘Mommy!’
But it’s not only that. The exhaustion of parenting causes Julie and I to neglect our relationship, as well as leaving us bone tired most nights. (Double-meaning not intended.)
In fact, somebody advised me two weeks ago that I needed to touch my wife non-sexually 12 times throughout the day to realistically warm her up. Once they explained this foreign concept of “non-sexual” touch, I eagerly worked at it the next day.
Unfortunately, by bed time, I’d only managed to get in five strokes (the last three while she brushed her teeth before bed).
Surely five counts for a little something-something, I thought to myself, while I unthinkingly put my mouth plate it. (Yeah, I grind my night away.) Lying alongside Julie, I secretly took out my mouth plate and softly put it on the side-table, ready to make my move.
But the tiny ‘tick’ as I put it down sabotaged me, as it triggered Julie’s defences: ‘No baby! Not tonight. Just too tired.’
Anyway, enough about me talking about my sex life.
Let’s talk about you talking to your kids about sex.
5 Guidelines for having birds-and-bees conversations.
1. Aim at having 10 or 20 conversations, not just one or two.
Gone are the days of having the birds-and-bees talk with your 14 year old. Not only is to way to late, but it’s far too little.
There’s just too much ground to cover. One convo (conversation for short) can’t do it justice. Besides, the multi-faceted subject needs to be broached rudimentarily in young kids, and in more and more detail as they get older.
2. Keep it natural.
Most of these convos happen unplanned. Your kid mentions something that happened at school or something a friend said, and before you know it you’re in one.
Try keep these convo’s non-intense. Eye contact can make it more hectic, so have the chat while you both lie on your back staring at the ceiling, or while you drive.
3. Keep it shame-free.
Many of us grew up feeling that our sexuality, at a deep gut level, is something dirty or base. Sometimes it was because of something our parents said when we were still kids — ‘that’s bad!’ Or something they didn’t say — taboo communicates more shame than we realize. Or something they did, like slapping our hands as we fiddled with our genitalia in our nappy.
We might dismiss the Victorian age as a kind of repressed sexual neurosis, even while we unwittingly load shame into our children’s basic feelings about sexuality.
4. Let them determine the pace.
Don’t tell kids more than they’re ready or want to hear. As I’ll soon show you, explaining where babies come from should be answered in stages, each convo sensitive to the developmental readiness of your child.
That said, sometimes kids just don’t ask. Perhaps they feel too embarrassed to ask. Or worse yet they’ve received (mis)information from a sibling or a friend at school. In that case, take the initiative and say, ‘If you’ve ever wondered how babies are made, I’d be very happy to tell you.’
5. Establish yourself as their go-to person.
The cool thing about having 10–20 convos with your child is that you set yourself up as the person they can safely talk about sexuality to.
At the end of each conversation say, ‘Anytime you have questions like these, I’d be glad to answer.’
One key to maintaining this role is to pretend to be unshocked by their question, comment or behaviour even though you actually are. You might admit, ‘I am a little surprised’, but do your best to keep cool. They will likely keep asking you in the future.
In the late tween or early teen years they may stop talking to you about sex, but they’re still too susceptible to misinformation and whacked influences for you to back off. So lean in and say, ‘As your parent, I want us to talk what you need to know to thrive in this world.’
Also, remind teens that every time they’re considering a new life-stage behavior (e.g. dating) that they must be open to having a conversation or two with you about the new territory they’ll be charting — explain that this is a parental prerogative until they’re an adult.
As a two-parent family, I’m happy for Julie to be the usual go-to person. She is great at telling me when I need to join in the convo, or have a follow-up chat with whichever kid if she feels I can add something more to, or simply reinforce, what Julie said.
Now, for the rest of this post let me speak about the first four of six sets of sexuality-related conversations you must have. (The other two will come in future posts.)
1st Set of convo’s: Body parts (ages 2–4)
It’s unlikely kids will actually ask the questions as I will state them, but imagining they will, will help us get us clear on what we’re trying to teach our kids.
What do I call these appendages?
We tell our kids that they’re properly called testicles, penises, vaginas and breasts. But having created our own factory-line of human beings with genitals, we can’t bear the formality of always using those words. We generally call them balls, willies, vajayjays, boobs and private parts.
On that note, as the Williams family, we like to be called ‘the Williams’ not ‘the Willies’ as some of our once-friends tried to call us.
Can I touch my own private part?
Sure you can. Some of my kids have relished finally getting their hand into their chastity-belt of a nappy, and discovering their very own apparatus. They also discover that it feels nice to fiddle with. Some parenting books will call this masturbation, but please, this is not for orgasmic purposes.
Can I do so in public?
No. But we make it clear to our kids that it is not a matter of morals, but manners. The same as nose-picking — it might feel nice, but shouldn’t be done in public. We gently correct this so as not to shame them.
Can I look at someone’s private parts?
Yeah, sure, if they’re your parent or sibling. And then take one good look, and get on with other stuff. By the way, my kids, if they’re mine, please don’t tell me what you think they look like. (My poor buddy was chided bu a toddler daughter for keeping his chicken drum sticks in his pants!)
Can I talk about someone’s private parts?
Yeah, sure, if they’re your parent or sibling. But we don’t talk about any one else’s.
We got to Eli too late. When he was four, a friend and her four-year old girl came over. Eli’s first question to his peer was, ‘Do you have a vajayjay?’ She answered in style: ‘No. But I can whistle.’
Oh yes, also tell your kids to not comment on boobs either. I am still mortified about one of my boys who, at age 3, pointed to the only teenager amidst 15 people at our dinner table, and exclaimed, ‘You’ve got very big boobs!’
Can I touch someone’s private parts?
No, you can’t. Not even if they ask you to. When you’re an adult you can.
Can I let someone touch my private parts?
Nope. The only person who can is your mom or dad when we wash you, and as soon as you’re old enough to wash yourself properly, not even we need to.
I’m not saying these conversations don’t get tricky sometimes. I still think of Julie with one of our small kids…
Julie: You’re not allowed to touch anyone’s private parts. It’s private.
Child: But they told me to.
Julie: Not even if they ask you to touch it. Never.
Julie: I suppose, one day you can. You can touch your wife’s private parts one day.
Child: What? Do you touch daddy’s willy?
Julie: Er, sometimes. But only when he wants me to.
2nd Set of convo’s: Where do babies come from? (Ages 3–6)
This question can be answered in greater detail as kids knotch up in the early years…
To a three-year old: ‘Daddy has some tiny swimmers in his body. They look like tadpoles. And mommy has a nice tiny jacuzzi in her body. And when one of daddy’s swimmers get into that jacuzzi, a tiny baby starts to grow in mommy’s tummy.’
To a four-to-five year old: ‘Daddy’s swimmers are called sperm cells. Mommy’s tiny jacuzzi is called an egg cell. In fact when we made you, daddy sent 100s of them into mommy’s tummy. And guess what — you won!’ (In our home this little side-story usually has led to us telling them a bed-time of how they uniquely overcame all odds in doing so and that ever since then we have known that they have what it takes to meet life’s challenges.)
To a five-to-six year old: ‘Daddy’s sperm cells are in his balls. He put them in mommy’s tummy.’ (This detail has usually surprised our kids so much that they hang back for a few months before finally asking the follow-on question: ‘How?’)
To a five-to-seven year old: ‘Daddy and mommy, while they were hugging and loving each other, used their willy and vayjayjay to get this done. They fit together nicely like two pieces of a puzzle.
In my house, this once led to an amusing related conversation…
Fynn: Daddy, I’ve worked out that I am going to have 2 kids.
Me: How so?
Fynn: Because I have two seeds. They’re here. (He points to his two ‘nuts’.)
Me, unable to resist: ‘Ha ha.’
Fynn: You used to have seven, hey, dad?
Me: You’re going to do well at maths!
Finally, to a seven-to-eight year old: ‘We call this sex. Sex is how a mommy and a daddy make babies.’
It’s all technical so far, the next level of conversation is the real blusher.
3rd Set of convo’s: Do mommy and daddy still have sex? (Age 8–10)
My answer is always, ‘That’s it. You’re grounded for even asking that!’
Seriously, there comes a stage when your kid may ask this. And if they don’t they will work it out any way.
(Worse yet, they will catch you at it. So parents, lock that freaking door, and shut the windows and curtains! Else, your kids will be telling their shock-experience at dinner-conversations-with-friends for decades on!)
I think it’s much better to come out the closet when they’re ready and say that mommy and daddy still sometimes have sex because we love each other, and because it’s fun.
This new level of datum is a mind-jump for kids. All this time they have thought of sex as an almost medical procedure of procreation. When they hear that it’s also a form of recreation, it can throw them.
Like it did my boy, who refused to look in our eyes for two days. When I tried to talk to him, he simply closed his eyes, shook his head, smacking the side of it, and said, ‘I can’t look at you! I’m having yucky thoughts!’
In fact he even told his best friend the next day at school, and came back, passing on a message from his friend: ‘Groce and disgusting!’
They don’t always respond that badly. I think of another friend who picked his 9 year old kid up from school, and was soon in an interesting conversation….
Son: Daddy, my friends told me what you and mommy get up to when we go to sleep. Is it fun?
Dad: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Son: And I heard that seed comes out of your willy after a while.
Dad: Yeah, that’s true.
A minute of silence.
Son: How long does it take, dad?
Dad: Oh, um, I don’t know. I’ve never really measured the time.
Son: Daddy, do me a favour. Time yourself tonight and tell me tomorrow.
My friend: No. No, I won’t.
4th Set of convo’s: Puberty is coming (ages 8–12)
When your kids are tweens, it’s time to speak to them about puberty. So many of Julie and my friends tell us that when they were tweens their parents may have said something about sex to them, but forgot to explain puberty to them sufficiently.
Julie has been masterful in these conversations with my only tween. After our family had interacted with a teenager in all of his/her awkward adolescence, Julie has taken the gap to tell our tween about puberty for both genders. This is what I remember her saying…
‘Puberty is coming. Suddenly your body is going to start pumping with new hormones. And your body will change. Both boys and girls often get pimples, and they start to grow hair under their arms and between their legs. They become more moody — and they roll their eyes a lot, thinking they know everything. And they’re up up one minute and down-down the next. It’s all hormones. Girls usually reach puberty between 9–13. And boys, later, between 11–15. There’s nothing wrong with you if it arrives earlier or later than others.
‘Girls also get a monthly period. Their body starts placing an egg cell in a tube in her body every month. After 28 days, the body gets rid of the egg cell with some blood through their vajayjay. It’s all normal. And you must never ever tease a girl for this, even if a girl accidentally shows blood at school. Also, girls boobs start to get bigger.’
‘Boys get swimmers in their balls. Their voices get deeper. Their willies, shoulders and chest also get a little bigger.’
Then Julie tells them the juicy bit…
‘When they reach puberty, girls and boys start looking yummy to each other. When you were small kids maybe you were irritated by each other, but that will change to a new kind of physical attraction.
This aspect of puberty leads to the fifth crucial convo: How do I navigate the sexual desires, pressures and opportunities that will come my way in high school?
Answering that when they’re already teens is just way too late! It’s such an important parent-tween convo that I’ll devote my entire next blog to it.
How to end my post. Hm. Let me go back to where I started it…
Getting jiggy with Julie
I’m glad to tell you that Julie and I got back on the horse a few days ago.
Let me tell you how it unfolded.
We went away for a night away, leaving our kids in the able care of grandparents. When we prepared our kids for our going away, our tween disapprovingly shook his head and said, ‘Is this one of those sex camps?’
‘Of course not’, I lied.
That first evening, I gave me wife enough Pinot Noir to warm her up. But instead it just put her (and me) to sleep. In fact we slept for 9 hours (a record of sorts!!!) trying to recover 9 years of sleep deficit.
When morning came, ah, nothing was going to stop us. For starters, I’d touched her at least 12 times in the previous day, and also I’d purposely left my mouth plate back at home.
Maybe that can lead on to my last bit of advice:
If you’re going to convey a positive tone about sexuality to your kids, it will best emanate out of a sexually celebrated marriage. And don’t let your kids get in the way of the very thing that brought them about in the first place. Because, as I’ll highlight in my next blog, as teens need to know, sex is more than body on body, it’s soul on soul. And soul-to-soul is what a marriage is meant to be.
Originally published at The Dad Dude.