I’ll never forget the day our firstborn came home in the fall of second grade with his right index finger moving back and forth through the circle he’d made with his left thumb and forefinger. “What’s this mean, Daddy? The boys on the bus were laughing about it.”
I couldn’t believe I was already facing this. He was only seven years old! I had given some thought to how I’d discuss the specifics, but never dreamed it would be so soon. But I knew if he didn’t learn the basic facts of life accurately now, he would soon get the warped picture from his peers. So this was the day.
I was pretty matter of fact about it. “Kids are uncomfortable, and parents don’t usually talk much about the very special way God made men and women differently. So kids often laugh and make jokes about it. They’re uncomfortable because they haven’t been taught about how cool it really is. So let’s talk about it now. You know how we’ve said that our very close snuggling and loving each other is how God made you kids? Well I’ll be clearer about it. When a man and woman are snuggling that way, the man’s penis gets firm so that he can put it in his wife’s vagina, the tube babies come out of. They snuggle in private and then some very small little swimmy things like tadpoles called sperm from the man pass into the woman and swim to find a small egg inside her. One of the sperm attaches to the egg and a baby starts to grow — like a seed grows when it is watered. Does that make sense?”
My son nodded, but said nothing. He was uncomfortable but listening. So I continued, knowing this would be short, but feeling satisfied that he was absorbing the information. “It’s important to talk respectfully about all this and not laugh because it’s a very special way of loving. God made this kind of love to be treated with honour and respect. So if you see people talking like that again you can just walk away, or you can ask them to be more respectful. Then you can talk more with mom or me about it.”
It took some preparation to get to a place where I could talk comfortably like that. I had given it some thought and prayer. We had already talked matter of factly about anatomy so our kids were already comfortable with the words. We had talked through plans for being intentional about teaching the values on which we wanted to build our family (like we had regarding many of the charged topics of the day). Lynne and I made a point to talk numerous times with the kids about “power snuggling” so that when the kids started getting more curious, we had set a context for discussing more facts.
Over time, this foundation of safety to talk about sex and sexuality made it easy to respond to questions, ask occasional questions of our kids, and have authentic discussions. These important conversations with us empowered our kids to stand strong and even be a positive voice in conversations with their peers.
So, whatever the age and knowledge level of your kids, it’s important to thoughtfully build accuracy, authenticity, and a sense of safety into your conversations about sexuality with them. Pretty much guaranteed — someday you’ll be glad you did!
Apply It Now
- If your children are too young to hear about sexuality from their peers, how do you want to lay the foundation to prepare for those conversations?
- If your children are older, how could you find out what they know and clarify/build on that to be sure you are the clearest voice of all the “voices” they will listen to? Think now about an opportune time for that conversation.