parents

The perfect age to start talking to your kids about sex

Parents should begin talking to toddlers about sex from the age of two, according to a new sex education guide, Talk Soon. Talk Often published by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at LaTrobe University. The recommendation from the author of the study, Jenny Walsh, is to not have the single and  daunting ‘birds and bees’ talk, but a series of discussions.

“Parents might be relieved to know that helping their child towards a happy, healthy sexuality does not come from ‘one big talk’ that has to be perfectly scripted. Nor does talking with children about sexuality make them go out and do ‘it’. In fact, talking about sex with young people has the opposite effect.” says Ms Walsh.

You can download the Talk Soon, Talk Often booklet here.

Freelance writer and mother of twins, Josie Gagliano writes:

It’s the moment every parent dreads: the sex talk.

When I had my twins three years ago, I figured I had, oh, a whole decade before I even ventured there. Phew, lucky me!

As if.

And yet, I am surprisingly calm when it comes to contemplating ‘the talk’.

Probably because somehow it seems to be working itself out – at a frighteningly quick pace.

You see, when you become a parent, your body parts become someone else’s. Starting with your vagina. Heck, there’s no point being coy here.

Suddenly, it is the receptacle from which baby/ies emanate. Everyone – in the delivery suite at least – has a good look.

Then your boobs. Many women will recount how their maternity ward nurses yanked their breasts like a child snatching a cookie – there’s nothing personal nor precious about your ‘girls’ from that day forth.

The your-boobs-aren’t-sacred-anymore thing continues at home. You relax a bit about who sees you breastfeeding. Sure, it’s still muslin-wrap-central, swathing bits of the flimsy fabric as best you can when visitors pop in. But mum or mum in law or friend in the tit-precinct? No worries! You find yourself saying things like, “We’re all the same, anyway”, when mere months before you were all cagey Miranda-style: nobody was ever even allowed into the department store change-room.

Babies tug and chew and guzzle on nipples as if they’re life depends on it (well, for some, it kinda does) and soon you’re undressing in front of your infants. Hell, they’ve seen it all before and they don’t seem that impressed. And then suddenly, they reach that age when you notice they stare a little too long; their gaze doesn’t turn away. No, this time, they study. And you panic.

This started happening to me when my twins were two and a bit. Sometimes, when I am bathing my kids, I really gotta pee. And so I, y’ know, do my thing and finish my thing and barely a teeny eyebrow is raised. But one day, my daughter watched me. Intently. And she noticed I looked different to her… down there. I made sure that from then on, emergency pees were as concealed as midnight snacks.

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Shared showers with the bubs – a rare occurrence anyway – suddenly turned into bath-time pirouettes, dodging curious looks as fast as I could without stacking it right there on the enamel. Lately, my daughter asks, “Mummy, what’s that?” pointing directly at my va-jay-jay.

And the clincher. Watching ‘Sex & The City’ in front of my kids. I knew that one day, that would be my barometer. Indeed it was. I know the episodes by heart; I know the scenes when Samantha screams like a banshee. Or when Miranda picks up a random and screws him senseless. So, I know when to flip the channel. The Sex & the City 2 movie, though… not so clued in! There was Samantha, rooting like a mad woman, and there was me, doing an impromptu Haka dance, trying to shield young eyes that had just entered the room while diving for the remote. Hubby watched the whole spectacle and thought it was hilarious. I proceeded to throw the remote at him.

And it all left me wondering: when do I stop calling my son’s penis his ‘doodle’? And how on earth do I intro any semblance of a sex talk to young ones?

I’d interviewed author Martha Gelin on the topic some years ago when she released her aptly titled book, “Sex Explanation Handbook: Talking with Kids about Sex” and desperately went to her for some answers.

First, I started with the big one: the birds and the bees for toddlers. How on earth do I start?

Give them the language they need to talk about their bodies and about where babies come from. When they are learning the names of body parts, include ‘penis’ and ‘testicles’ (or ‘balls’). With girls, many parents are most comfortable starting with a general “bottom” to indicate the whole nether area, but “vagina’ and/or “vulva” should be added well before starting school. I’d suggest that by age 3½ – or whenever the child is asking questions about the genitals – start using more definite, and correct, words. Both boys and girls need the names for the sex organs of both sexes.”

Gulp. I have been trying to incorporate that into my conversations with my daughter of late. I will admit I do flinch a little when I hear myself say: “Oh, that…? That is your vagina.”

“When your children have the names for penis and vagina – and know where they are located – when the questions start about where babies come from half your work is already done,” adds Dr Gelin, who suggests intro-ing that topic by the time they’re in first grade if they haven’t already done so. Although it’s very likely that by then they’d probably have talked about their penis while with you in the bank queue. When it’s quiet. Adding that they think they’ve just peed their pants. And as your face burns, you try desperately to ignore the muffled laughter.

I do like the concept of creating an open place to talk about anything that may seem awkward for growing kids, teens, and young adults. It’s certainly a far-cry from the non-existent where-do-babies-come-from talk when I was growing up, and I like that. While they’ll still get lots of info from schoolmates and books and the biggest, much-maligned teacher of all – the internet – I’d like to think I will create a safe haven for liberal discussion.

How do you speak to your children about sex, how were you taught?

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