talking to children about human sexuality

Dear blogging nana,

I have two children, 6 and 3.  Here’s the problem:  I have no idea how to talk to them about human reproduction.  What do you suggest.

puzzled mom

Dear pm,

You are not alone.  And I am no expert in this department.  I did a bit better than my mom who unintentionally communicated to me that sex was bad before I understood what it actually was.  And I was too embarrassed to very effectively communicate with my own children.

But, as usual, nevertheless, I have some thoughts!  to wit:

-Take some time with some close friends to practice and laugh about the subject.  This will reduce the embarrassment that most of us carry.  Do that a lot.

-Clarify what values you carry connected to human sexuality.  Do you believe that sexuality should be limited to committed relationships?  Do you think having good sex is important to having a good life as an adult?  What does that mean?

–If your child asks a question, answer it; but don’t answer more than the question.

–Give your child an opportunity to observe animals mating.  Even insects on a physiological level aren’t all that dissimilar.

I have a friend who I believe has done a good straight-forward job with her children; I think it helped that her mother was a nurse.  She said that, like a career, marriage, and most other things in human life, a good sex life needs education.  I agree.

And a question for my dear readers:  do you know of some good books on this subject that you have found useful?


One thought on “talking to children about human sexuality

  1. Your recommendations to consider nature are helpful. Those references to ‘the birds and the bees’ may have made more sense when we actually watched animals (and plants) more, but we can incorporate that into our children’s lives. I have canaries in my kitchen and during breeding season I comment to my granddaughter that the loud male singing his heart out, or feeding a hen as he is courting her, is trying to convince her that he would make a great dad for her babies. Once she is convinced, she has a little dance of her own to convey her interest to the male. We’ve has observed the male ‘treading’ the hen, the laying and incubation of eggs, and the care of the babies into ‘adulthood’. It may not answer all the questions, but it gives a safe atmosphere to discuss how people are the same and different.

    Many people have commented elsewhere that children often don’t need the detailed anatomical (or emotional) information we imagine. Asking ‘what do you think” and “what have you heard about it” can open safe, age-appropriate conversations.

    I took a graduate level course in human sexuality and then left my textbooks out for my middle school aged children. For younger children I think it is most important for us to deal with our ‘issues’ around sexuality. Your idea of talking with others is good – though I can’t think of anyone I’d really like to discuss this with just now!

    When I was working in a mental health clinic I saw so many women who had engaged in sexual activity before they actually wanted to – all different levels of coercion, but near universal regret – so my primary concern was that my children knew that the most important aspect of being physically engaged with another person – whether engaged in horseplay, playing a game, or cuddling, was that both people had to feel really comfortable with each other and what was happening. Also, that speaking up was not only the right thing to do, but could help people feel closer and happier together. And if you were with someone who was’t listening and respecting you, that wasn’t the right person to be with. It seems like a useful way to incorporate sexuality into the larger realm of ethical behavior.

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