Impromptu Sex Education With My Five Year Old Daughter
It’s a tricky one, knowing how and when to address sex in a conversation with kids. Do we wait til it comes up? Casually ask what they know? Sit them down for “the chat”? In this post I’ll recount the conversation I had with my 5 year old daughter, as well as 7 simple tips for talking with your child about sex and relationships. If you find this guide helpful, please do share it with other parents on Facebook or Pinterest using the buttons above or the Pin below!
The approach we’ve taken is to be 100% open with our kids, without burdening them with information that wouldn’t be helpful to them at this stage in their lives.
Our five and seven year olds know that sex is how babies are made, and they’d be able to give you a decent description of how that works. They’d also be able to tell you what condoms are for, thanks to this situation the other day.
In the media, sex education for kids is often referred to as “The Talk”. I think it’s helpful to think of sex ed as an ongoing and developing conversation rather than one event of ‘The Talk’. This encourages openness and questions as and when they come up, and takes the pressure off parents to get all the essential info into ‘The Talk’. Sometimes bite-size is better.
The first fairly lengthy conversation I had with our eldest daughter about sex was around two years ago, when she was 5. We were spending the day at Southwater Country Park and had popped into the toilets. As we washed our hands, Esmae asked me what the dispenser was on the wall- the one with sanitary pad and tampons in.
“That’s a machine to give out sanitary pads and tampons, love.”
“What’s a sanitary pad and tampons?”
“Sanitary pads are a squishy pad that soaks up blood when ladies are on their period- you just stick it on your knickers and it keeps all the blood on it.”
“What’s a period?”
“When girls grow up- when they become teenagers usually- their body gets ready to have a baby. So every month there will be an egg ready to grow into a baby, and if the woman doesn’t get pregnant the egg and some blood comes out of the lady’s vagina. It’s called a period.”
Esmae raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips in a thanks-but-no-thanks kind of way. “Ew. Does it hurt?”
“No, the blood doesn’t. Sometimes you get a kind of tummy ache.”
“Oh. And what if she gets pregnant?”
“Then you don’t bleed until you have the baby, and you don’t need a sanitary towel!”
“How do you get pregnant?”
Some context- we were still standing in the bathroom, because Esmae was still looking intently at the buttons and products in the machine. A small queue of women were looking at us – perhaps in vague amusement, perhaps wondering why I was bothering to have this conversation right now. (The answer being because it was natural and appropriate, basically, and the only reason I wouldn’t have had the full conversation is because of embarrassment, which isn’t a reason not to do worthwhile things). I took her outside.
“Ok, so to get pregnant, a man puts his penis into the woman’s vagina and a seed called sperm comes out, and goes into a tiny egg in the lady, and that grows into a baby. There are other ways of getting pregnant but that’s the usual one, and there’s always an egg and the seed.”
I waited for more questions.
“…. did you know, Mummy…”
“At that cafe right there, they sell ice cream FOR DOGS?”
“Really? No way!”
“Yep.” And off we went, with her clued up about sex and periods and with me wondering who on Earth realised there was a market for ice cream for dogs.
Here are my tips for talking to your child about sex:
7 Tips For Talking To Your Child About Sex
Take their lead. If they don’t seem ready to talk about sex, don’t push the issue. Respecting boundaries is an essential part of sex (and of life) so respect their comfort boundaries and don’t try and force the conversation. If the subject comes up and they don’t want to listen, let them leave without embarrassing them, or let them change the subject without bringing it back up.
Use the anatomically correct names for body parts. We don’t call ears our ‘flappy waps’ or our elbows our ‘pointy poms’, and there’s no need to use cutesie language for genitalia either. Doing this gives children the impression that sexuality is something to be hidden or embarrassed about. If as a parent you’re worried about embarrassment at a later date, simply mention that it’s not usual etiquette to discuss sex and private parts as part of casual conversation (or with strangers).
Giving children the correct names for their body parts enables them to have appropriate ownership, and is also helpful as potential predators will try to mask abuse with cutesie names and games, and if your child is able to use adult terms for themselves this may be off-putting, or helpful when dealing with cases of (god forbid, but it has to be mentioned) abuse to identify exactly what has happened.
Only give them information they need; not anything that could be a burden. Young children don’t need to know about the explicit details of a sexual relationship, or about the emotional ties that often come with sex. Explaining how babies are made is usually the reason that sex is brought up as a subject, and knowing that the sperm meets the egg via the penis and vagina is usually enough to meet their knowledge needs. As children get older, explaining that there is an element of pleasure and recreational sex (as well as types and uses of contraception) will be necessary. (Here’s how I explained condoms to my kids).
Be aware of your own opinions. That is to say, try to not mix up fact with opinion when talking to your kids about sex. Remember your opinion may not be the same as your child’s when they become old enough to have sex, so your aim in the series of conversations about sex as they grow up is to equip them with the knowledge to keep themselves physically and emotionally healthy.
The old, “when a man and woman get married…” explanation is no longer enough when explaining sex, as in the real world – even when it comes to those with conservative ideals- this is often not the environment in which sex occurs. Try to keep things as pragmatic as possible in the first conversations- the different contexts of sex is something that is not able to be grasped by young kids and may be confusing.
After the first conversations and as your child gets older, the ethics and consequences of sex are helpful to explain. Again, it is difficult not to get our opinions too entangled in our explanations Personally I made sure to explain to my kids that there is always a chance that you can get pregnant when you have sex, so it is not a good idea to have sex with someone who you could not raise a child with. As they get older I will also explain about the bonding hormones released in women during sex that may cloud their judgement about someone, and about the motivations of some people to lie in order to get sex (unpleasant but true and I’d rather them find out from me).
Let your older child or teen know that many people have many different opinions about sex, and how it should be used and treated. Let them also know that their body is theirs and only they have the right to make decisions about their sexual behaviour, but that their behaviour may have effects on other people and it is therefore important to behave responsibly.
Discuss contraception, and the importance of safe sex, with any teen you think may be considering sex. Potentially ignoring the issue because of your own opinions puts your child at risk, and everyone should be given education on how to keep themselves safe. Boys and girls should both be talked to about contraception- the burden is most often on girls, and it is a consequential issue for both parties. Equip and facilitate your teen to access contraception without negativity- being responsible is a great thing and one for parents to be proud of in their child, as uncomfortable as the situation may be to us parents!
Recommended Sex Education & Safety Books For Kids & Teens
Here are our recommendations for sex education books for children aged 5-9:
These are some great books we would recommend for children aged 9 and above for sex education: