According to marriage, family and child counsellor, Louanne Cole Weston (PhD), the best time to take to our children about sex is younger than we might imagine. She explains:
If you talk about sexual matters from the beginning of a child’s use of language, there never needs to be the big “birds and bees talk.” It’s just a series of small conversations spread out over many years. You, as the parent, become the obvious go-to person whenever there’s a question.
Of course, being the go-to person is any parent’s best case scenario, because the active imaginations of children mean that sharing information amongst themselves can lead to a lot of confusion we may not be aware of. Once our children are in school, we may be tempted to ask them what they know about sex and the body, in order to keep track of what knowledge they are obtaining. This is important because it helps us better understand what information they need, and what information they have. This information dictates their actions, and it’s important to be a part of that learning process.
In a video documenting the birds and the bees talk among five different families, parents struggled with how to re-adjust their children’s knowledge, which had some surprising gaps and misinformation. Even at very young ages, some children believed they knew “where babies come from,” and offered explanations such as, God, and the mommy’s “butt.”
Parents then tried to find appropriate language with which to explain the process of conception and childbirth, from taking off clothes and doing a special dance, to enunciating “vagina,” the parents found themselves in just an awkward position as their kids. And yet, what is evident through the video is the significance of having these discussions, and having them early on to ensure you are the first to deliver the information.
However, Ms. Cole Weston also suggests not answering more questions than have been asked. Rather, let the discussion come into itself over a period of time that both the child and parent can be comfortable with. She advises: “Never avoid a teachable moment.” She adds, “If you become an “askable” parent, you will have offered your child an incredibly valuable gift.”
Simply put, ask questions, and answer them. It’s the best way to set the stage for a open and healthy relationship with our children, and be an active player in their sex education, and beyond.