Having "The Talk"
Updated: Mar 19, 2019
It’s the day that everybody dreads, the day you need to discuss the proverbial ‘birds and bees’ with your children. There are so many reasons why this is an uncomfortable moment in parenting. It can already be uneasy to discuss sex amongst other adults. But, these are children, it’s not really a topic that we think about sharing with minors. Add that to the fact that these are your own babies, your little child that you sometimes wish will never grow up, and suddenly ‘the talk’ becomes a really daunting task. Yet, as their parents we know that it is a necessary moment, we are here to help guide and educate the next generation no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
Knowing ‘the talk’ is an inevitability, we as the adults need to have a strong grasp on how the conversation should progress. Educating ourselves on best practices is important. Child educators have a strong grasp on how these moments will shape a child’s development. However, it can be valuable to have an open communication with other parents to help build expectations amongst the generation. Most important may be sharing this topic with your partner or other people close to your own child. Every person is unique, and approaching your kid based on maturity level and personality is a significant element of ‘the talk’. This article is meant to give you a basic guideline of things to consider with some insight from other parents and development experts.
Before we really get into the brunt of things, we should acknowledge our fears and consider the worst case scenario. Take a moment and genuinely consider how bad the conversation could actually go. Sitting one-on-one with your child and uttering the word “sex” is not going to lead to them instantly wanting to practice what you discuss. The best thing we can do is break that curiosity, so they are not going to try and discover things on their own. When we accept that the worst outcomes are not so terrible, we can feel more comfortable with initiating the conversation.
Instead of focusing on those unnecessary fears, change your perspective to positive intentions. What are the outcomes that you would want from sharing ‘the talk’ with your child? There should be a few goals that we go in with, and they are broken up into three steps. One, we want them to understand today that sex takes maturity and is not something that should be taken lightly. Next, we want them to develop respecting what sex is; that it has a purpose and requires being ready. Finally, our goal is for them to grow up with a healthy relationship with sex when they are ready, we want them to hold onto all of the maturity and respect that we instilled for the benefit of themselves, their partners, and their future children.
With intentions set, we can prepare ourselves for facing the moment. Understanding your child, you should consider how best to approach the topic. You should also consider who your child would feel more comfortable sharing this conversation with. My own family is mixed with my partner and I each bringing our own children into the family. We have discovered over time that we have certain bonds with each other's kids that we don’t share. My partner and son are old souls that can share wise and deep conversations. While her daughter and I are much more expressive with emotions and moments. With more substantial talks such as intimacy, we will often decide that the other parent is much more suited to get through to the child. Though, keep in mind, the other parent may be stronger for the big conversation, you should still share your personal insights – it just doesn’t have to be ‘the talk’ more of an ‘overview of the talk’.
Step one: initiating the conversation. This is easily the most intimidating part of the whole thing. Recognize that once you start talking it’ll be much more comfortable. Any discussion as necessary as this one it’ll be critical that both of you are comfortable. Be sure to have their attention, and there will be nothing to distract them. Your posture, position, and approach will dictate how your child reacts. Initiate the conversation in a tone that shows that it is a serious topic, but in a gentle manner. If things begin on comfortable ground, everything will go much smoother.
I am sorry to let you know that there is no script of what to say, no layout of how the conversation will progress. One of the most important things that experts agree on while having ‘the talk’ is to allow the child to progress the way the conversation goes. It is better if the child is asking questions as it will help them to understand in their own way – it also assures that they are soaking things in.
Here are a few notes from the experts on things to keep in mind while having ‘the talk’.
Start the conversation early:
One of the biggest struggles is knowing what age is appropriate to talk about sex with your child. Psychologists agree it is better to get on your children about the topic earlier than ever. This article from Psychology Today says that 90% of children’s first introduction to sex is through online pornography. That is why it is valuable to begin acknowledging sex as early as just five when children begin exploring the internet on their own.
• At five-years-old start with topics such as conception and childbirth.
• By the time that they are eight-years-old, they are ready for discussions on intercourse, pornography, sexual abuse and boundaries.
• After eleven-years-old, they will be receptive to more complex analyses such as love and dating.
Love and empowerment:
Love is a serious aspect of intimacy, and it should never be discredited. Share the importance of love and respect with your child. The concept of love is individual to each of us, even between you and your child, and it will become very intense as they reach the teenage years. Empowering them as they grow is essential and be sure they understand that relationships are give and take. They deserve to feel honored and respected the same way that they share.
Ask instead of telling:
To gain an understanding of how your child understands sex it is better to ask questions and help them drive the conversation. Ask them what it means to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, or ask about their friendships and those relationships. Be cautious that this is done respectfully or you are going to have them close off and be uncomfortable sharing. This is not about finding out where your child and their peers are at sexually, but about knowing that your child has a healthy understanding of sex and what it means.
Avoid a ‘don’t’ conversation:
Nobody likes to hear no. If you are going to sit your child down and tell them don’t do this, and don’t do that, then it is less of a discussion and more of a scolding. A much better approach is to share the dos. Instead of saying “don’t have sex” share that they should only have sex at the right time and place. Instead of saying “don’t catch a disease” discuss the practices that are used to keep people protected. Discuss sex positive situations and try not to focus on the ugly. Utilizing the media as an example can be very beneficial here, by using examples of what is right and wrong.
Safety is non-negotiable:
There is one topic that is a must-have in ‘the talk’. When it comes to safety and protection, you can insist that it is non-negotiable. Touching on the many risks and dangers involved with sex, educating on safe practices is essential. Discuss ways that they can keep themselves out of undesirable situations. What you want to succeed at with expressing these concerns is that your child will respect themselves and not give in to other peoples pressures and desires.
It does not matter what conversation you’re having with your child, whether it is as big as ‘the talk’ or just about them keeping their room tidy, it is always healthy to end things on a positive note. After getting into some heavy topics, you will not want to leave them feeling uncomfortable. You can finish by discussing your own positive relationships. You can also get onto the topic of love and express what your love for them means to you. Ending things on a positive note will help your child to feel right about the whole conversation. Oh, and a good hug is always helpful for everyone involved.
‘The talk’ does not have to be taboo. Relax. With some positive intentions and dropping your fears, you can approach the toughest of subjects with the confidence that your child is going to need to see. Sharing your expectations and understanding is what parenting is about sometimes, it’s not all stepping on Legos and birthday parties. But, with a plan and honest emotions, this can be one of the most positive experiences you have with your child.
Oh, and good luck.