Q: My daughter is 11, and I haven’t talked to her about the “birds and the bees” yet. What cues should I look for to know when it’s okay to have the talk? And how do I approach her?
A: If initiating “the talk” makes you nervous, many resources are available to guide you.
A book series by Stan Jones, God’s Design for Sex: How and When to Talk to Your Kids About Sex, provides age-appropriate ways to teach kids about sex from a Christian perspective. If you don’t adhere to the Christian values, you can input your own values in your discussions. Passport2Purity, a weekend retreat approach to teaching pre-teens about sex, offers many supplemental materials. The Care and Keeping of You (age 8+) and The Care and Keeping of You 2 (age 10+) are great books about puberty and body changes, presented in a straightforward way that is easy to understand.
Some parents like to go through the book with their kids; others let their kids read them and then talk about it together afterward. Read through it first so you know what they’re reading and are sure you’re comfortable with the way things are being presented.
There isn’t a “magic age” for talking to your kids about sex, but there are some things to clue you in that your kids might be ready:
- What are your kids and their friends talking about?
- What lyrics are in the music they listen to?
- Is there any interest in dating?
- Do they pay closer attention to commercials for tampons, birth control, or condoms?
Curiosity is natural, and it’s better for you to address sex before they decide to go online to find out about it—even innocent internet searches open up a slew of inappropriate sites.
It is important to set aside some uninterrupted time for a longer discussion. Offer plenty of time for questions and be honest with your answers. Be aware of your own attitude, because guilt, shame, and embarrassment are not good emotions for your kids to associate with sex.
Don’t be shocked if they ask a question out of the blue. Watch your reaction, and if it’s not a good time, just let her know it’s a good question but one that you want to talk about later. And keep in mind that girls will respond differently to the topic of sex and development.
My 7-year-old daughter just asked me last week what “sexy” means, thanks to a song lyric she heard. She didn’t need elaborate details—just an answer that satisfied her curiosity, and then she bounced out the door to go play with her friend. My 9-year-old daughter heard the question and was mortified. She needed a little more of an explanation but never would have asked.
Be relaxed and talk about sex like any other topic. If you’re uncomfortable, your kids will be, too. Take advantage of the little opportunities that present themselves because even if a statement or question from you doesn’t initiate a conversation, they will hear you. Sometimes, these situations are your kids’ way of “testing the waters” to see how you will react. They need to feel comfortable enough to approach you with questions, especially if you want them to learn your morals and values about sex.
In summary, act relaxed (even if you aren’t), and bring up the sex talk before it’s needed. You’ll both be glad you did.