As a parent, most of us know that at some stage, that we’ll need to start explaining the facts of life to our kids. But when do we start, and what do we tell them?
This article will help explain why it is so important to start talking when our kids are young! As well as help you to get started!
Before we get started, we had better clarify what exactly we are talking about. Explaining the facts of life is when we explain to kids where babies come from and how they are made ie sex.
You’ll find more information about sex education in my Sex Education 101 page.
The times have changed from when we were growing up, and today, we talk to our kids about a lot more than just the facts of life. We talk about sexuality and not just sex (or sexual intercourse). As you would know, there is a lot more to a successful marriage than sex. So sex education includes all the things that will help kids to grow up and to foster strong friendships and to have healthy loving relationships.
So we should start explaining the facts of life to children when they are young ie from very early on in their childhood. We shouldn’t be leaving it until puberty, when the need to start talking becomes more obvious, as your child begins to grow pubic hair!
But my child is too young and doesn’t need to know about sex!
I agree, no child needs to know about sex at this age! But as I have said, there is a lot more to sex education than just sex, especially in the early years. You see, sex education is really about sexuality, which is a much bigger thing! Sexuality is more about how we see ourselves, than what we do with our bodies.
So sexuality for young children, is about bodies (their own and others), gender (what it means to be a boy or a girl), relationships (how people get along with each other) and social etiquette (what behaviours are appropriate in different situations).
This helps children develop a better understanding of themselves and of the world around them. And this is the stuff that helps our children grow up capable of having healthy and caring adult relationships.
Well, guess what? You’ve already started!
Children are constantly receiving sexual messages and information from you and the people around them. Through your words as well as your silences, and in what you say and do.
But children are also learning about sexuality from a lot of other places too! From watching the cartoons on the tv, from listening to the radio in the family car, from seeing the billboards on the side of the road, from playing on their ipad and also from their friends. The problem with this though is that what they learn is often inaccurate, misleading and confusing. Which means that it is more important than ever before, that it is you that is explaining the facts of life to your child (and not someone else).
Your role as a parent is to provide a balanced viewpoint for your child by providing them with honest and accurate information.
So for young children, it isn’t about sex at all. That part comes later when they start to become curious about where babies come from. it is about learning:
So in the early years (ie before they go to school), it is about learning:
Kids naturally become curious about where babies come from when they are 3, or 4 or even 5 years old. They start to ask questions because they are curious about where they were before they were born. So they ask you about it. Just like they ask you about everything else that they are curious about, like where does milk come from, and why is the sky blue.
And remember, it is more than just teaching facts to your child. It is also about allowing your child to feel good about being a boy or a girl, to appreciate their own body, to practice making healthy decisions, to develop & maintain healthy relationships and to show love and affection appropriately.
I'm Cath, a sex educator living in Australia with my husband and 2 kids. I help parents to talk about sex (with less cringe and more confidence) and to empower their child to make smart sexual decisions. You can join my online parent support group here and visit my shop for helpful resources.