Time for the ‘Birds and the Bees’ Talk

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Are you ready, parents? Because here they come ­– the nonstop questions you’ve just been dying to answer:

“Mommy, when will I have fluff on my butterfly?”

“Dad, why does my penis stick out sometimes?”

“I know you grew me in your tummy, Mama, but how EXACTLY did I get there, and how did I get out?”

This last one sprang from the lips of my almost 5-year-old son, who had heard at preschool that babies grew up from the ground. “You know, Daddy plants a seed in Mommy’s garden. So can we go plant a seed outside and grow a little brother?”

Sex talks are difficult, even excruciating, for many parents. But when your child broaches the subject, it’s time to suck up your discomfort and forge ahead, says Sara Dimerman, child and family therapist and author of two parenting books.

“When they ask that kind of question, they’re ready to hear a proper answer. It’s really important to answer at an age-appropriate level, but also accurately,” she says. “If you say you’ll tell them later, they’re going to try and get that information somewhere else, and often, that information is going to be inaccurate.”

Six-year-olds are very curious about themselves and others, “but not really in the form of sex per se, more in the form of interest in genitals, and a little bit about where do babies come from,” says Dimerman.

So how should I have answered my son’s question?

“Inside Daddy’s penis is sperm, and inside Mommy’s body is an egg. When Daddy puts his penis into Mommy’s vagina, the sperm travels inside to the egg and the baby is formed,” says Dimerman, who advises parents to use the proper names for penis and vagina.

“We don’t want children to be ashamed of these body parts any more than they would be about a hand or a leg,” she says.

If you don’t know what to say, let someone else say it for you – pick up a couple of books or DVDs, and use them as springboards for further discussion.

Most kids think sex means kissing and cuddling. “They don’t understand the procreation part or the penis-in-the-vagina part, and most 7- and 8-year-olds would get kind of get grossed out by that information. But it’s important for them to know so that they can use the word sex appropriately,” says Dimerman.

Julie Pound, a mom of three daughters, ages 4, 7 and 10, grew up in a very open household. When Pound’s oldest daughter was 3, “she asked how she came out of my tummy, and we told her exactly how,” says Pound. “As long as the answers satisfied her curiosity and were truthful, we didn’t offer more. As she grew older, she required more detail, which we were happy to provide.”

A few years later, Pound read Peter Mayle’s book “Where Did I Come From” to her child, which provoked many questions.

“Kids talk to each other at school, at camp and at recess. I had friends who skirted the issue when the kids asked, but I wanted my kids to hear (the information) from me first,” she says. “Sex is everywhere, and they are going to find out, whether we like it or not.”

Pound and her husband share sex-talk duties. “It’s important that (our kids) feel comfortable talking about sex with either one of us. I don’t think it should be a scary talk. It should scare you more to think about what their friends are going to tell them.”

“It’s been shown that in homes where there is open discussion about sex and sexuality, there’s actually less chance of your children being promiscuous,” says Dimerman. “In homes where it’s inhibited and kept under wraps, it becomes like forbidden fruit, where children need to unlock that somewhere else.”

Books About the Birds and the Bees
• Download Healthy Chats’ free e-book, “The Birds and the Bees with Ease” by Dr. Chrystal de Freitas. http://www.healthychats.com/?ebook.
• “Boys, Girls & Body Science: A First Book About Facts of Life” by Meg Hickling and Kim LaFave.
• “It’s NOT the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends” by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley.
• “Where Do Babies Come From?” by Ruth S. Hummel and Janice Skivington.
• “What’s the Big Secret? Talking About Sex With Girls and Boys” by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown.

Wendy Helfenbaum is a mom, writer and television producer.