Sex has been a taboo topic for generations, so what do you do when your seven year old starts asking questions about the birds and the bees? Every parent has to go through this, often times with several children and it just never seems to get any easier.
So, how should you teach your seven year old about sex? Well, it’s best to have started introducing this sort of material as your child grows so that both parties are already comfortable talking about sex when the “where do babies come from” question pops up. After that, just remain calm and professional, and let your child know how you feel about sex.
Of course, this is all easier said than done. It’s hard to feel comfortable about sex when society has spent decades keeping this subject behind closed doors. So to help out, I’m going to give you a few tips on how to explain sex to your child throughout their entire development and how to make your home a comfortable environment while doing so. I’m going to be pulling from a variety of doctors’ advice, my own experience, and of course the all omnipotent Google.
Start Before They’re Seven
As with most things, we get more comfortable with talking about sex over time. It’s called desensitization, and it’s not always a bad thing. The more you introduce sex into your conversations with your child, the more they are going to trust you and be comfortable talking about it. It will also help you be less anxious as well.
We want this talk to go as smoothly as possible. It’s important to realize that sex is not a bad thing, but it is just often portrayed incorrectly through the prevading media of our society.
Sex is often separated from intimacy and love and so often regarded as a carnal desire to satisfy the primitive urge to reproduce. With all of this stigma in place, sex becomes a taboo topic, and people are often tentative to broach the subject. When sex is talked about, it is usually done in a crude way that further emphasizes the incorrect view we have of it.
The more often we bring up sex with our children in a safe environment at appropriate times, the more they will come to understand it. The last thing you want is your child having misconceptions about sex. Because if they don’t understand it when you talk to them, you know they are going to find other sources (i.e. their friends or the internet) that are not going to help.
So, start young. If your toddler starts having a tendency to touch his genitals (which is actually more common than you think), explain simply when and where it is appropriate to do that.
When your child begins to learn the parts of the body like “eyes” and “toes,” include terms for the more private parts of the body.
These body parts are just as important- perhaps arguably even more so- than the rest, so it is equally important to educate your child about them early.
The more a child knows (within reason) at a young age, the more they are going to be able to comprehend when “the talk” finally does come around in all of its glory.
Throughout the Ages
If you begin your child’s sex education early, it is important to keep the details age appropriate.
Your child might ask probing questions very early on, especially if there is a pregnant mother in the house, or if they spend time with a child more educated than they in this particular subject. If your child does begin to ask questions, don’t immediately take that as the sign to jump right in. Don’t overshare.
For example, if your three year old asks where babies come from or why their mommy’s tummy is so big, simply explain that babies grow in a very special place in a mommy’s tummy, and when the baby is grown enough, they come out. You don’t have to go into the full mechanics of sex because a three year old is likely not ready for that sort of material.
Now I’m going to go age group by age group and give some suggestions for how you might broach the subject of sex as your child grows up.
Ages Two to Five
These ages are when children are beginning to discover their body and that other people also have bodies. They start realizing that there are differences between boys and girls. This brings up some questions.
Explain to your child when and where it is appropriate to be naked and/or touch themselves. Humans are naturally curious, and so as your child grows, they will begin to explore. Remain calm and just teach them right from wrong. Like I mentioned before, we don’t want to add to society’s negative stigma about sex.
Around five years old is when you should think about explaining boundaries. Explain that nobody should touch or ask to touch them (except for you and their doctor). Explain consent. You can start simple by teaching them when it is appropriate to climb onto your lap, for example.
Ages Six to Eight
You can begin to be a little more blunt now with your child. They know a lot of the terms and you can teach explicitly (for lack of a better term).
Explain more about sexual abuse. Your child should be old enough to understand the basics like non-consensual touching and what is and isn’t appropriate. If they haven’t been doing this already, encourage them to use proper terms when referring to the body parts included in the reproductive cycle.
You might also want to take this time to actually explain the mechanics of sex to your child. They will able to understand at least the medical side of things even if they are not quite ready for the emotional side.
Ages Nine to Twelve
This is a great developmental stage to start talking about puberty, as this is about the age where your child’s body begins to change. It can be a confusing and sometimes frightening time, so make sure to be gentle but direct. The more your child understands, they easier it will be for them.
As you talk about puberty, explain to them what happens in the opposite gender’s body too. This will help them when they eventually get married and will help them be more considerate towards the other gender.
At this stage, your child is going to start getting a little hormonal. Talk to them frankly about what these hormones are doing and explain to them that what they are feeling is normal. We want them to be able to control their body, not feel ashamed.
Check in with your child regularly. They are going to be changing fast and are going to start being introduced to a lot of new ideas. If you have a daughter, she’s going to start having body image issues. Both genders are going to start having intense crushes. You want to make sure that your child is okay and that all of their questions are being answered.
You might also want to broach the topic of safe sex. Your child needs to understand what is okay and what is not when it comes time to having sex. Your child needs to understand how to make educated sexual choices and what consequences come from these choices.
In Their Teens
If you’ve been talking with your child about sex as they’ve been growing up, then they probably have a pretty good foundation of knowledge when they reach their teens. This is going to be extremely helpful at this point in their lives because this is where they start becoming sexually active (I know, scary thoughts for the parents!).
Reemphasize consent! This cannot be more important. You want your child to have a safe and fun sexual experience, so teach them the best you know how. I promise if you do your best, it’s going to be enough.
Of course, your child is a free agent, and they get to make their own decisions. If they mess up or have a misconception, don’t get angry at them. Teenagers are insecure, and it’s important for them to feel comfortable in this subject. That doesn’t mean that should go have sex with everyone, nor that you have no right to be upset if they royally screw up. Just make sure that there is an understanding that you love your child and are there for them.
Also talk about birth control and healthy relationships. Your child is going to learn from your example. If you have a less than ideal situation when it comes to relationships, be honest with your child and still teach them about what a healthy relationship looks and feels like.
Explain condoms, birth control pills, and abortion. Your child will probably be getting some of this education through their peers, the internet, the news, and the school system. Just make sure their information is reliable and correct. Alongside this, make sure to talk about STD’s and make sure your child knows the risks.
Teens become hormonal and reclusive sometimes. It’s important that you have a good relationship with your child so that they still feel comfortable coming to your for information and advice.
Try to avoid simplifying it too much or making it “cutesy.” Euphemisms might just be your enemy in this fight.
One of the worst ways I’ve seen sex explained was when my aunt kept talking about “magic.” Magic has nothing to do with sex. Don’t give your child misconceptions.
Use correct terms and be straight forward. Talk about the love that accompanies the act and how it works. Depending on how old your child is, you might have to simplify a little bit, but you shouldn’t try to use euphemisms to avoid awkwardness.
…But Don’t be Afraid to be Personal
You are their parent and they are your child. There is a special bond there, and a personal one. Parents often try to keep sex talk as cold and medical as possible in order to avoid the awkwardness of the subject. But with your child, it doesn’t have to be that way.
One way to help personalize “the talk” is to include the story of your child’s birth. Explain how they were born and the steps included in that. It will feel safer for your child and they might understand it better.
It’s important to include your own values when talking to your child about sex. Let them know where you stand and how you view sex. They learn from example, and so your values will likely become their values. You don’t want your child drifting around, unsure of how to feel. Be blunt and honest.
It’s often beneficial to include your religion in your discussion, if you have one. If a child grows up in a God-centered home, they might be able to understand sex a little better if you include God in it. Simple things like, “God created your spirit and then Mommy and Daddy made a body for your spirit to live in.
It’s also important, if you have a religion, to teach the values your church when it comes to sex. Like I said, if your religion is very central to your child’s life, they might understand sex better if taught in context with their religion.
If there are two parents in the equation, think about including the both of you in the conversation. Your child will see your unity when it comes to educating them, and that goes a long way. Plus, it gives the both of you an opportunity to be involved in your child’s upbringing.
Where to Talk
Because this talk is likely going to be awkward no matter how hard you try to make it otherwise, have the conversation in a setting where both you and your child can relax a little bit.
Boys in particular are more receptive when participating in something active like taking a walk or playing with a Frisbee. This helps build trust and make “the talk” more inviting.
Try to talk about sex in a less formal setting. If the talk looks like a job interview, with the two of you sitting face to face over a coffee table or desk, it’s going to be awkward.
Maybe try talking about it in a car, where there’s no forced eye contact. It might make both of you feel comfortable and it gives a time limit to the talk.
My family always ended up broaching the subject at the dinner table of all places. It was an informal conversation where everybody felt comfortable and it helped us realize that sex wasn’t a taboo topic. Plus, we got food out of the conversation.
Be the Parent
Don’t rely on the school system to be the parent. Although schools do an excellent job at keeping the “sex talk” professional and strictly medical, your child needs to hear about this from someone that they love and that they know loves them.
Know your child. If your child isn’t ready to hear the material listed in “Ages Six to Eight” even if they’re seven, then hold off. Teach your child when they are ready. This will increase how comfortable they are with the subject and help them mature at the right pace.
Be available and make sure your child knows that you are available. Be open to any questions that they may have. And be educated yourself. If you are unsure of a definition, the proper use of stem cells, or an innuendo, do some (guided) research so that you can provide the safest, most accurate education for your child.
How much you are available directly correlates to how, where, and when you teach. If you turn “the talk” into a comedy show, your child will not be able to come to you with a serious question. If you are awkward, your child will in turn feel too awkward to ask questions. If you are stern or uptight, your child might feel scared. If you don’t address the subject often, your child might not know when they can ask questions.
For example, because we talked about sex maturely, often, and in a comfortable setting, my siblings and I always knew that we could ask questions anywhere, any time, and not be shut down.
Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. If your child is asking some pretty explicit questions, you might ask them how or where they are getting this information. Maybe it’s time for them to avoid certain websites or make new friends.
When you ask them questions, you encourage them to keep on learning. If you ask, “what make you think of that question?” then they will have to evaluate their own learning. More knowledge is not a bad thing.
The Other Siblings
If you have multiple children, the sex talk might be quite easier. In my house, both boys and girls learned about both genders and how sex and puberty affected them. It helped the boys understand how to treat the girls when they got extra cranky, and it helped all of us realized we didn’t have to be ashamed about anything.
There was a strict “no teasing” policy. If any of the boys made fun of the girls’ tampons, they were in big trouble. And the girls never joked about boys getting kicked between the legs. It fostered compassion and when the siblings started getting married, it made the transition a lot easier.
If your child has siblings of the opposite gender, it might make it easier to understand the mechanics of sex. Chances are, all the kids bathed together, so there’s some familiarity with gender differences.
Some Concerns You Might Have
The internet is, like many things, both helpful and hurtful. Too much of it is unarguable unhealthy, yet it has access to so much information. I’ve done my fair share of YouTube tutorials, and the words “Google it” have become common place in modern day conversation.
Of course, with all of this access to information, your kids can end up in some dirty water. Adult sites are notoriously easy to gain access to, and they might end up exposing your child to some material they are not ready for.
You might want to consider adding a filter to your computer with parental locks on certain websites. Or you might require your child to use the computer in a room where you can see what they are doing (as opposed to the privacy of their room). Or you might just limit their computer usage.
I’m not advocating becoming a dictator, but if you want your child to get the information the right way, you might want to consider taking a few steps. You could also just explain to them the dangers of some adult websites.
Alongside the danger of adult websites, there is the danger of sharing personal information with strangers online. This can be in the form of a dating app, creating online accounts, or sending nude pictures. Explain to your child the dangers of sharing personal information.
As your child gets older, especially into their teens, they are going to start dating. Once they start developing feelings for another person, they are going to eventually start thinking about sex. That’s just the way hormones work.
Get to know your child’s significant other. Develop a trust and be explicit about your expectations. You want your child to fall in love, just like you did, so don’t be abrasive, but make sure both realize what you require when it comes to treating the other right.
Discuss your rules on dating with your child. Explain to them why you want them to date that certain way. Talk about healthy relationships and be open to any of their concerns or questions.
If Your Child is Sexually Active
If you are okay with your child being sexually active, let them know that. If you are not okay with them being sexually active, let them know that too. Be clear, reasonable, and kind.
Explain birth control and safe sex. Be present at doctor’s appointments (if your child is okay with that of if it is applicable). Make sure your child knows all the consequences of their choices. Spend some time educating them on STD’s.
Talk to your adopted child about sex won’t really be all that different. When they want to know how they were born, you might have to explain that their mother had them and then gave them to you. This is just something extra that your child will have to understand.
Should children be given sex education in schools? 80% of people support sex education in schools. Most schools require parental consent before a child is allowed to attend sex-ed, and often, the kids are split up by gender to make it less awkward. Most of the time, sex-ed begins in middle school, where the kids are more ready for the material.