As a mother to two young boys, I’ve become immune to the shocking. Or at least I thought I had…. Last week, my 7-year-old first grader and his 4-year-old brother were playing when I overheard the older one talking about “sexing.” He was teasing his little brother; telling him he was “sexing” a girl and, as we all know, for boys this age, girls are gross. Nonetheless, this conversation stopped me dead in my tracks.
I consider myself progressive when it comes to matters related to the sexual health of children. Before working at the Texas Campaign, I worked for the Center for Child Protection, which is where children go to be forensically interviewed after an outcry of abuse. I understand the importance of having age-appropriate, continuous conversations with youth from a very young age, so it came as no surprise to me when earlier this week the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics (JAMA) released a study that found sexual communication with parents plays a key role in safer sex practices of teens, particularly in their use of condoms and birth control.
From a very young age, I’ve talked to my children about age-appropriate sexual health issues. They know their body parts; they know the difference between girl parts and boy parts; they know good touch and bad touch. We talk about these things often and the conversations have been fairly easy to navigate. Until now.
Sex is a whole new ball game and I thought I still had a few years before I was called up to bat. When I asked my oldest what exactly he thought that meant (his answer: kissing) and where he heard it (his answer: a friend at school), I breathed a sigh of relief and headed to their bookshelf to pull out my trusted copy of “It’s NOT the Stork” so I could read them the chapter on Sex. I must admit it was a little unnerving reading the following to a 7 and 4-year-old, “When grownups want to make a baby, most often a woman and a man have a special kind of loving called ‘making love’ – ‘having sex’ – or ‘sex.’” This kind of loving happens when the woman and the man get so close to each other that the man’s penis goes inside the woman’s vagina.”
But honestly, more than anything, it was funny. I laughed. My husband laughed. And my kids laughed. We looked at the child-appropriate pictures together, the oldest asked a couple of questions about eggs, and then he started talking about Minecraft. I’m certain as my kids grow older, these conversations will become more and more uncomfortable as the topics become even more important to their health (ie: actual sex, birth control, sexually transmitted infections, etc…) but I’m hopeful that by starting young, and talking often, we are providing our children with the information they need to make good decisions.
Whether you have a 2-year-old or a 16-year-old, there are many great resources available to help families navigate these types of conversations. Below are a few links to get you started:
Advocates for Youth, Parent’s Sex Ed Center: Information and resources to help parents begin talking with their children about sex and sexuality.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Talk to your Kids about Sex: Communication tips to teach your children about their bodies and sex, as well as tips for starting the conversation about sex and healthy relationships.
Children Now, Talking with Kids: Resources for talking with your kids about tough issues including sex and relationships.
By: Melanie Chasteen, Director of Communications, The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy