Talking to my kid about s-e-x (I am so asking for trouble with this topic)

Harrison is eight. This is the age that discussion about having The Discussion is a regular topic of conversation among mothers and fathers.

It’s funny how differently people view having the sex talk with a kid. The when, the how, the if, I’m pretty sure it’s a major case of stress for any parent who considers virtue and wholesomeness highly credible attributes in young children. Sex is both the most virtuous and the least virtuous topic out there, depending upon your situation and how you decide to approach it.

Personally, I was raised on a farm. If I ever ventured into questions about creation in general my parents always suggested I take a walk in the field and observe the cattle. It wasn’t the worst way to learn about the birds and the bees, but I was practically 24 before I realized that humans did it too. A little more up front would have been helpful.

Lately one of my besties has been heavily debating the when and how to tell her daughter. She went with one of the How To Break it to Your Kid books and did the whole Special Secret, Special Hug, Special Naked bit that’s so highly suggested.

I think that method is great and wholly support parents who implement it. At the same time, I believe there is no single right way to talk to a kid about sex, and in fact I’d propose that the method should fit the child. Harrison is of an age where some kids are ready to hear a more mature description of the what-why-and-how, but both Jason and I feel like it’s not his season.

But there’s nothing like peer pressure to light a fire under a parent, if you know what I mean.

A few weeks ago I decided that perhaps it’s time to open the channels, if you will. Not fire hose the kid down, but just see if there’s any water pressure. Isn’t it funny how once we mentally entertain an idea, especially if you don’t force the issue, a moment will present itself that’s custom ordered.

Harry and I were cleaning one of the many messy rooms in my house not long after this and I had the thought that I should just casually ask him what he knows/thinks/has heard about s-e-x.

Being the total wuss that I apparently am, I dismissed it and continued on with my chore, choosing instead to probe his mind on what makes Super Mario so super.

An hour later the thought came to me again. Since I’m not completely dim witted I went ahead and casually blurted out, “So Harrison, have you heard anything about sex?” Yeah, I’m super sneaky and all kinds of prepared.

“What?!” he said, blushing scarlet. “No!” He quickly turned away and made himself busy arranging toys.

“No problem,” I said, “But just so you know, you can always just ask Dad or me if you’ve ever got any questions, or if someone says something that makes you uncomfortable. We know everything.” The room was opressively silent and I kind of wondered if I had just destroyed his innocence in one fell swoop.

“Actually,” he finally said, “There is a kid on the bus who’s always talking about…things.” Can I get a phew? This led to an awesome conversation about appropriate topics and how to handle situations where kids are being rude and crude. Options included moving, reading a book, listening to an ipod or some other music source, and always saying “please don’t talk about that,” even if they ignore your request.

Two days later Harrison came home from the bus really upset. “Buddy,” I said, “What’s up with you? Did something happen on the bus?”

“Yes!” he said and walked over to whisper in a super secret way, “Benjamin was talking on the bus…about…this (insert rapidly waving hand in front of chest)….and this (more rapid hand waving in front of zipper)….!”

I was so glad we had opened the channels of communication, and I’m glad that we didn’t tell him more than he needs to know. After asking a few carefully selected questions, I realized that he doesn’t want to know about sex, he wants to avoid having to listen to kids discuss it.

We’ve decided to periodically ask him where he’s at with his understanding and not rush into it. This would include learning right now the importance of never looking when someone with a cell phone says, “Hey, look at this picture!” or tries to show him something that might be the wrong kind of surprise. If he learns to guard what he sees right now it could really save him in a year or two when some kid tries to flash a picture of some girls you-know-what’s in his sweet little face.

I know I’m probably opening a can by writing about this, but we can’t be the only parents dealing with this topic right now, and I think it’s important to hear different methods and different ways.

My point is that just because something works for one kid doesn’t mean it will work for another, and like my sister says, what’s so wrong with baby steps? I’m more concerned with him knowing how to handle situations where kids talk about it inappropriately than making sure he knows everything about sex.

For us, he just needs to know that when he’s got questions or feels uncomfortable, we’re a safe, open place to go. Right now that’s enough.


  1. I wish all the kids I worked with had parents like you.

  2. Great post and for me, you totally nailed it on a few points.
    #1, my kid and I have had some opening s-e-x discussions (he is 8) and it is very obvious to me that he doesn’t really WANT to know the details or ins and outs and we go with what he feels comfortable with, until he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore and then I shut up fast. 🙂 (don’t want to accidentally give him more than he can handle)
    #2, every kid is so different in how they want to know-so true! and what they can handle-so true!
    #3, baby steps when talking to your kids about it is good, no reason to throw the whole horse at them unless it’s absolutely neccessary.

    Good luck with Harrison. I really can’t wait for your posts when you have the talks with Rex and Junie though. I’d love to be a fly on the wall during those conversations!

    • Hmm, okay, the first smiley face is supposed to be his age? He is eight, not Joe Cool in sunglasses…although he is pretty cool.

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head…All parents should deal with their own children on their own timeline. And each child will be 100% different. My 12 year old knew about it ALL by age 9. (She had heard about it and asked. I was so happy she came to us.) My 10 year old on the other hand, does not want to know. But we have told her enough to know what to expect in her own body.
    We are given stewardship over our children. We, as parents, are given the enlightenment to know how to best work with and talk to each of our children. So you will know what is right for each of them. It sounds like you are truly on the right track!!!
    BTW…I read the posts about your accident and they brought tears to my eyes. I loved to hear how the priesthood was always there when you needed it! So glad you are all safe!

  4. All of our kids are pretty similar in age (except I have two girls then two boys, funny huh?), I don’t think my oldest is at all ready to hear about sex. My belief is to always tell them things on their level, use words they understand, and SIMPLIFY.

    If any of my kids ask me a question, I try really hard to answer them and be honest. I NEVER lie about those things that are uncomfortable (I know someone who tells their kids that babies come out of a zipper in her stomach because she’s too uncomfortable to tell the truth, not knocking her, I just think its better to be honest, so my kids aren’t telling other kids that in fact babies come out of zippers in your stomach. 😉 ), I have found that sometimes a very simple answer is all they want. When they ask me if babies come out of your belly button, I say no. When they ask where they do come out of I tell them there’s a special place on mommy’s thats made for babies to come out of. Sometimes thats enough, if they want to know where that place is I tell them. I always try to be serious but not silly and not secretive and act like its a matter of fact, nothing to giggle about or be embarrassed about. I do this because my parents were always SUPER embarrassed about anything like that and it made it VERY hard to talk to them about anything (try going through your period completely on your own, not fun. Plus bra’s or anything else, we just had to deal.).

    I think you have the right idea and I’m so glad that Harrison could come talk to you! I think thats more important than them having every single “fact”. 😉 And gosh, eight years old is the age to start telling them everything?! I remember sixth grade was the first intro to anything I had, and I was so naive I didn’t really get what they were talking about! haha

  5. This post is full of wisdom, Annie. I think we absolutely have to remember that every kid is different and they may be ready for different levels of “the talk” at varying ages. For example, I have twin 8 year olds, a boy and a girl. My son is asking tons of questions, probing questions, and is demonstrating a readiness for some level of education that is sister is obviously not ready for. It will be interesting as we move forward, approaching our conversations with the two of them on individual levels. While I do think every kid is different, I think in general parents need to acknowledge the fact that kids are learning things from peer/media/social sources at a much younger age than in generations past. I never would have dreamed that my 8 year old would hear talk of sex at school, but unfortunately, it happens. A(Not so long ago I wrote a post about seeing 5 and 6 year old girls in the movie theater watching Breaking Dawn. How does a kid not have questions/comments after seeing something like that?!) My husband and I have decided that it’s important for our kids to hear it from us first, so that they know it’s a subject they can talk to us about if they ever hear something that they don’t understand. I think you did a great job with Harrison. My oldest is nearly 11, so we’ve endured a couple of years worth of conversations with him. And really, it hasn’t been near as hard as I thought it was going to be. It’ s been refreshing to see him handle it maturely and with an appropriate level of curiosity and understanding. He doesn’t know too much, but I feel pretty confident that if he has questions, he’s heard the words from us enough that he will come to us.

  6. We talked. They blushed. They talked. We blushed. More talking, less blushing. And now everyone knows everything about everything. Except Algebra. We still don’t know everything about Algebra.

  7. Sheesh, I go offline for a couple weeks and I come back to car crashes and sex talk! Glad you and your kids were okay! An amazing reminder that God is in control, glad your guardians were on the job.
    I’ve been thinking about how to tackle this topic with my own kids. I don’t think that sitting kids down for an overly informative big talk is such a good thing, rather taking it a little at a time as you are. The ‘big talk’ makes it seem like a much bigger deal, and I think it kills the casual questions from kids. With my seven year old, if he asks a question, I give him a bare bones truthful answer. And we have chickens, with roosters, so you know, he’s got some farm kid knowledge 😉
    I have to say, the line about “Dad and I know everything” cracked me up.

  8. I have zero memory of my parents discussing this with me—although I know they must’ve. Still, I’m nervous about how to approach it with my future children. Sounds to me like you are doing an amazing job.

  9. Kudos for opening up the line of communication…I think more parents need to not only make sure they educate their children, but do it without “shocking” the child. For the record, I’m taking notes..I’ve got two boys and soon will face these issues. I like how you handled things.

  10. Absolutely. Yes. And Right On! (totally dating myself w/ that one!) You said all the right words & thank heavens you listened & opened those lines.

  11. “Kids these days” know a lot more (or better said, have been exposed to a lot more) than we ever did. You did the right thing to open the channels. You may need to bring it up occasionally again, like you already did, to open the channel again. It’s hard for a kid to approach the questions on their own, but if you bring it up….

    Like I said, they see and hear a lot, but they don’t understand it. It’s a confusing thing to try to sort out on your own without feeling quite disturbed. Having a smart source to go to, like a willing parent, can make a world of difference. (I have a son who was told he was gay because he doesn’t like girls much. Not understanding all about it, he believed it and actually considered himself gay for a little while. I was so grateful we were able to talk about it and help him understand it better and understand HIMSELF better.)

    I know you weren’t asking for specific advice, but I just wanted to pass a long a link to this manual put out by the Church long ago. I think it’s a pretty solid resource about when and what to discuss with a child at different developmental stages.

  12. (um, good for you is all I want to say.) Good for you.

  13. My parents never had the talk with me. I learned most of what I knew from giggling little friends during recess and standardized curriculum. I’ve decided I’m definitely not taking that approach. We take baby steps with our kids, too. And I like your approach of keeping it casual, relaxed. Not seated at the dining room table with both parents there, staring and squirming.

  14. At the beginning of this school year I felt really strongly that I should discuss this with my 8.5 year old daughter. It was the two of us hanging out in her room chatting. She got a little bit embarrassed, but came up with some fabulous questions. I stressed the fact that she could ask me anything and I would answer her… Which has been a huge blessing this year as the kids in her class are talking about it. So she let’s me know what is going on and I am so grateful for that. I much prefer this method to the silence that my parents used. 🙂

  15. I learned in public school, too. Not cool. And frankly, I’m not sure I knew much when I got married either.

    Our six-year-old is very much into the logistics of where babies come from and how mothers take care of babies (especially nursing) *shudder*. It’s so hard to not brush off the topic, but I’d rather be that source of serious, age-appropriate, honest answers than what he might get somewhere else. It’s nice knowing how others are handling it.

  16. Britt Burton says:

    My favorite part of your discussions was, “We know everything.” 🙂 Love.

  17. I think what I worry about even more is when to talk to the kids about pornography. Just the other day my daughter’s little friend was saying that she was over her friend’s house and the big brothers were looking a pictures of “naked ladies in google” Those boys were only 7 & 8 and they have a wonderful mom and their computer is out in the kitchen. She had no idea and was mortified! Our stake president talked a lot about this at our adult stake conference and how you really have to start asking them younger and younger about what they have seen online….and make sure they know pornography is not ok. Sorry that is a whole other subject but that is what I am worrying about first before the sex talk!