9 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Sex

Anika and I have started reading a new series of books together – my all-time favorite as a teenager, the Christy Miller series. Pure gold. And lots of fantastic descriptions of nineties clothes. I had completely forgotten about swatch watches!

I have to confess, there are times when I feel extremely uncomfortable reading that first book aloud. When Ben came into the room just as I was reading about Todd’s “screaming silver-blue eyes”, I decided to wait until he left the room before I continued! I knew he would mock the cheesiness.

But outdated fashions and cheesy teen romance aside, reading these books is accomplishing exactly what I hoped for – only one chapter last night led to a discussion about make-up, flirting, dating too many boys, one-night stands, and sexually transmitted diseases. And we’re only on Book 1!!!

I once heard a speaker say that as a parent, you need to be the one talking to your kid about all of the difficult, important, uncomfortable stuff, and you need to do it before they turn 12. His reason made sense – before that age, they want to hear your opinion. They’re eager to spend time with you, and there’s no defensiveness in topics like dating, because they aren’t doing it yet (hopefully!). If you try talking about it when the kid is 16 and already dating, nothing you say will go in. Plant those seeds early.

I completely agree with this, but it means talking to Anika about stuff that’s just hard to talk about. I’ve actually heard a surprising number of parents admit to avoiding these types of conversations, with the hope that their kid will hear about it elsewhere. It makes me incredibly sad when I hear stuff like that, because this is a big one.

It’s not just one talk – it’s an ongoing conversation which will have a huge impact on what kind of relationship a parent will have with their child throughout the teen years. Avoiding the topic as a parent could lead to the child avoiding it as a teenager, and I definitely¬† want to be the one Anika feels safe talking to about anything in the years to come.

Talking About Sex

Here’s what I’ve learned about talking to my daughter about sex:

1) Start talking when your child is young.

My wise sister once told me, “No child should start grade four without being taught about sex. If you don’t tell her about it, someone else will.” It felt really young to me, and when Anika looked at me with her big, innocent eyes, I felt terror in my heart, but I wanted to be the one to have that talk with her.

It was my little friend who taught me about the birds and the bees, when she explained why Ken and Barbie needed to be naked in bed together. Totally traumatized, I went home to my mom, and she tried to repair the damage. She must have done a good job, because I remember many more conversations with her after that, and I always felt comfortable talking to her about anything.

I used to think I could keep Anika safe by protecting and shielding her from learning too much, but I’ve changed my mind on that. I keep her safe by teaching her how to deal with it, and helping her process it all.

I can become that safe place for her, instead of trying make ignorance the safe place.

2) Start talking long before you have “The Talk”.

We talk a lot with our kids about everything. I felt this helped – I was already comfortable talking with Anika about many topics, so talking about sex kind of followed – the foundation had already been laid.

Because I planned to tell her about sex the summer before she entered grade four, I started sharing little bits of information months before that – just little stuff about how a baby is born, or explaining body parts in more detail, so there wouldn’t be so much information for her to take in all at once. I had a miscarriage when Anika was old enough to remember, and that also led to opportunities for talking about baby-making.

3) You know your kid better than anyone.

I felt so afraid before that first talk with Anika, but looking back, I wish I would have remembered that I am what she needs. God made me her mom, and I have known her, loved her, and cared for her all the years of her life. I can read her, and understand her. My words were far from perfect, but that was okay.

I started off by explaining the most basic information, and then she started asking questions. The rest of the conversation continued like that – she asked, I answered, she asked, I answered. I didn’t have to figure out what to talk about next, because she led the conversation. I knew exactly how much she could take in, because she asked the questions as she was ready to hear more.

This strategy may not work if you’ve got a kid who doesn’t ask questions, but in that case, I’m guessing you, as the parent who loves and understands your child, will find a way. Trust yourself to be awesome – for them.

4) Take the pressure off yourself.

I don’t really remember exactly what I said – it’s all a bit of a blur. I was pretty nervous. But you know what I found out? That first talk is just the first of many. And if it’s ongoing, you don’t have to get it perfect on the first try. If you forget to say something, you’ll say it next time. If you say it wrong, you’ll think of a better way in the future. I don’t think you can wreck a kid in one conversation, so we’ll all be okay.

Sometimes I lament to Ben about how I want to be a better parent, and I don’t want to do things that will cause permanent baggage for our kids. And Ben always says the same thing: “Everybody has baggage. Our kids WILL have baggage. We can’t be perfect parents, but we cantry to give them the tools to deal with their baggage later on.”

You don’t have to be perfect. You just need to be the one to do it.

5) Pray like crazy.

Ben prayed with me before I went to talk with Anika about sex that first time, and I know it helped, because as I sat there on the bed with her, I happened to catch sight of an electrical outlet out of the corner of my eye, and I was saved – I won’t go into detail here, but let me just say, it’s much easier to talk about plugging a cord into an electric outlet than it is to talk about body parts. I would never have thought of explaining it in that way on my own. God can make a way where there seems to be no way! He can give words and insights right when you need them.

6) It takes two. Or more.

Ben and I decided that I would talk with Anika the first time, but he would follow up shortly after, because we want her to be able to talk openly with both of us whenever she feels the need. When I was growing up, my friends were always amazed that I talked with my dad about boys and kissing and whatever else. I felt totally comfortable talking about anything with him, and I enjoyed hearing what he had to say. I love the relationship our girls have with Ben, and he adds a perspective to the conversation that they need to hear.

As a teenager, I remember often talking to my Sunday school teacher or youth pastor about boys, and I think it really helped to have awesome Christian adults to talk to besides my parents. I think we need to pray for people to come into our kids’ lives who will also build into them, and reenforce what we’re trying to do as parents.

7) Expect the unexpected.

I went into that conversation feeling a great sense of dread, but you know what? It was kind of amazing. Anika was great. She asked smart, hilarious questions. She was not traumatized. She did fantastic. And I felt that our relationship grew as a result of that conversation. I did not expect that. So it might not be as horrible or traumatic as you’re imagining.;)

8) Leave some for later.

There came a point in that first conversation when I could tell Anika had taken in as much as she could process, so I followed the advice of a wise friend. When her son asks a question, and she feels it isn’t quite time for him to know the answer, she says, “There is an answer to your question, but I need you to trust me as your mom – I will tell you the answer when you need to know.”

So I told Anika there was more to say, but we’d talk more about it all another time.

9) Be realistic about the topics you need to cover.

Things were pretty basic when I got my first sex talk. A lot has changed since then, and while some parents may not be completely comfortable educating children about abortion, sexual abuse, STDs, pornography, or same-sex relationships, these are things they need to hear about at earlier ages than when we were kids.

If we don’t tell them what they need to know, they’ll hear it elsewhere, and we won’t be able to set the tone or choose the angle from which we begin these conversations. It’s time for us as parents take back this territory – our kids desperately need us to.

Have any tips you could add?

Kaylia’s Favorite Things 2012

Today our sweet girl turns three! We’ve been partying it up for the last couple of days, and today we will relax!

As is the tradition around here, I always make a list of the birthday person’s favorite things, which has proven to be a lot of fun for our family to look back on each year, as our girls get older. Read Kaylia’s list from last year here.

Here is Kaylia’s list for this year:

Food: Bananas, watermelon, meat (any kind, she loves it all), scrambled eggs, whole apples (apples cut in slices are completely rejected by her), smoothie pops or banana pops (I followed my friend Nikki’s directions: 2 Tbsp. cocoa and a banana in the food processor, frozen in a popsicle mold, you totally have to try it!! It will be everyone’s new favorite!)

Toys: play food, lego, anything she can steal from Anika because someone else’s toys are always more exciting, her dollhouse, Polly Pockets

Books: The illustrated Little House on the Prairie books and Curious George books

Things to Do: Helping me in the kitchen – she loves cooking soup, because she’s obsessed with stirring things, and she likes to put all the chopped vegetables in the bowl. She tells stories with her little dolls, plays with lego, and has picnics, all day long.

Song: “I Have a Dream”, from¬†Tangled

My Favorite Things About Her:

I love her hugs.

I love it that she skips EVERYWHERE!

I love how she has to be wherever Anika is. Even when we separate them because Anika is pestering Kaylia, she still wants to go after her beloved big sister, because she can’t stand to be apart from Anika.

I love reading to her. She’s just starting to get interested in chapter books, which is so much fun.

I love her very detailed explanations about things that have happened to her. Someone asked me today if my three-year-old was talking much, and I almost laughed, just because she won’t stop talking.

I love her grin, and her laugh which sounds exactly like Anika’s, and I love how she asks me to come read or do puzzles or play with her.

I love being able to love her. I love feeling complete as a family, and I love how God chose to bless us with our little Kaylia!

The Hard Thanksgivings

We lost a baby on Thanksgiving weekend five years ago.

When we got back from the hospital that day, Ben and I tried to choke down the meal some kind friends brought over for us, but food seemed so unimportant. And I didn’t feel very thankful that Thanksgiving.

It was a horrible time. I did not deal well with everything. I kept crying, and Ben kept asking, “Isn’t Anika enough? Can you be happy for the one that we already have?”

But my arms ached for that baby we would never hold, and I desperately wanted a sibling for Anika.

It took many, many months for me to pull out of that dark time. And even once I was able to go on with life, and stopped crying every night, I still had such an all-consuming desire for a baby. I would sit in church and watch all the other families with two or three kids, all sitting together, and there we sat, our tiny family of three.

I felt so guilty, because it should have been enough. I already had a wonderful little girl. But it still felt like our family was barely a family. I wasn’t enough of a mom yet. I wanted to be busy with my children, and I wanted to know what it felt like to have many little people climbing on me and cuddling up close to me. I had never pictured us having the quiet, controlled little life that we had with only one child.

I knew that for lots of people who couldn’t have any children, what we had would seem like a dream come true. And I was thankful. But I still wanted more.

And I kept wanting, and wanting, and there was so much anger and bitterness towards God, and so much jealously towards anyone who had multiple children, or who had babies so easily that they believed it was completely in their power to choose the size of their family, with their perfectly-spaced, two-years-apart-each-one, row of children.

We lost one more baby before God gave Kaylia to us. And I don’t know exactly when my heart healed. Some of it happened before I ever knew that we would finally have our miracle baby. I was learning to accept things the way that they were, and I was ready to trust that God would do what was best for our family.

But a lot of the healing happened after she was born. And I don’t know if I would have been fully able to accept things the way they were if she had never come. I would like to think that I would finally have been at peace, even without another baby, but I will never know.

I do know that I wouldn’t change a thing. As I sit here now on a quiet Thanksgiving morning, while my beautiful, wonderful family still sleeps peacefully, I know that God is good. He redeems anything. He takes the mess of our lives and does good things with it.

How is it possible that I can look back on all those years of pain, and be thankful for it? It made our family what it is today, it made me what I am today. What I suffered and what I learned was what God knew I needed to go through.

When I think about what our home would be like with four children instead of two, or I think about those babies in heaven I’ve never met, I feel sadness and regret, but I know that those things are not for me to long for. God has chosen the very best for my life, and I would much rather spend it being thankful for His blessings, than wanting what will never be.

And when Anika takes Kaylia by the hand, and Kaylia toddles after her big sister, my heart could burst. How could I want anything more?

Sometimes Thanksgiving is hard. Sometimes we don’t feel very thankful. But thank goodness that God redeems anything, and keeps giving us another chance to surrender everything over to Him.

Trust Him with the hard thanksgivings.