If you don’t explain what sex is to your children using a weird animal analogy, how do you do it?
In a variety of bizarre ways, apparently – that’s according to the parents I spoke to about handling one of the most uncomfortable moments of raising kids.
My own experience of it happened without warning. On the way home from school, my seven-year-old repeated something her friend told her about how babies were made – and let’s just say that between them, they’d got it quite wrong.
I wasn’t prepared for ‘the chat’, but I had no choice – I had to set her straight, so I said something along the lines of: “That’s almost right. Except it doesn’t go there, it goes there.”
The rest, I explained, she would learn more about when she was a little older. But if she had any questions, she should ask me, her dad, or a teacher. Case closed – for now.
To get a few more tips when that time does arise, I asked HuffPost UK readers how they handled the sex conversation with their kids. Brace yourselves.
‘My son brought the conversation up in the bath’
“My son’s ‘sex talk’ was very funny. Aged around six, he was having a bath with a female friend, aged four – and to whom he is quite seriously betrothed to be married! He started telling her what they would do when they’re older – much to my, and her mum’s, surprise. I asked him how he’d discovered this and he said, matter of fact as you like, that he’d read it in a book. So, no biggie. He’s been very unembarrassed to talk openly about sex ever since!” - Emily, mum of two
‘My daughter asked questions, then said it was disgusting’
“I’m a big fan of the ‘American Girl’ books. There’s one called The Care and Keeping of You, which is about puberty for the pre-pubescent, that my daughter read. I tried really hard to answer all her questions frankly about the book, which led onto further questions about sex and willies. She said it was disgusting!” - Sarah, mum of two
‘I called it a grown-up cuddle’
“When the conversation came up for me, I explained it in terms of a ‘grown up cuddle.’ But it really depends on the age of the child, doesn’t it?” - Jerome, dad of one
‘No animals were involved in our chat’
“I did it very matter of factly – but it was all about reproduction, and not how much fun mummy and daddy have doing it. My daughter was very young, three I think. She asked how babies get in mothers’ bellies, and the truth seemed to be the logical answer. No animals were involved.” - Simon, dad of one
‘I avoided the formal sit-down’
“I did it while doing something else – baking cookies, running an errand, etc – because it’s so much better than a formal sit-down. I used plain matter-of-fact talk, but also addressed the emotional element.” - Laura, mum of two
‘I explained it exactly like it is’
“I explained it just exactly like it is – with correct terms, too. My kids said ‘ewwww’ but never asked any more questions!” - Nadine, mum of three
‘I slow-dripped the conversation casually’
“I just talked normally over the years slow-dripping it casually. It started when my daughter was four and saw a DVD in a store in Delhi called ‘Yoga for Sex’ and asked very loudly in the middle of this store, “Mummy, what is sex?”″ - Pragya, mum of three
‘Sperm meets egg’
“Sperm meets egg is roughly what I’ve covered so far!” - Nicola, mum of one
‘It’s important to teach the fun bit’
“I think it’s really important to teach the fun bit, too! It’ll help with issues of consent later in life – if it doesn’t feel good, then maybe don’t do it. I currently just answer questions as they come along using scientific terms, but I’m definitely going to sit down around age nine or 10 for a big, embarrassing talk about arousal, consent etc.” - Gaynor, mum of one
‘We watched a nature documentary’
“I had a conversation led by my then eight-year-old after a nature documentary with elephants...” - Lucy, mum of two
What do the experts say?
:: Even if you are feeling really awkward, or just can’t bear the thought of getting nervous giggles, it is important that you don’t just leave sex education to your child’s teacher or the web.
:: Instead of trying to approach ‘the chat’ as a one-off, open an informal dialogue with your child so that they feel they can come back to you with more questions in the future.
:: There is no set age at which parents should sit down and talk to their child about sex, but the important thing is that when this conversation does happen the content is age appropriate.
:: You don’t have to go into detail during the chat. A short, simple answer might be enough. For example, if your three-year-old asks why she hasn’t got a penis like her brother, you could tell her that boys have penises on the outside and girls have vaginas on the inside. This could be enough to satisfy her curiosity.
Sources: NHS, Family Lives, Mumsnet