Most of us have no problem teaching our young children how to swim, how to read or ride a bike. But when it comes to teaching them the facts of life, we often have a harder time.
Linda Morgan, editor of ParentMap and author of the book "Beyond Smart," gives some ideas about talking with our kids about the birds and bees.
Why is it still so hard for parents to talk to their kids about sex?
We are products of our own upbringing. Our own parents weren't very talkative when it came to this. We didn't like that - but there was no real role modeling for us. It just wasn't discussed - so we grew up assuming it's not something you talk about. Every parent is different. On one end a parent might think, this is the moment i've been waiting for. Another parent could feel, this is my worst nightmare.
What should we say when our young kids ask where babies come from?
We have to think of where the child is - her age, and where she is emotionally and developmentally. There are lots of opinions on this. Some experts feel if kids ask, you tell - and use the correct terminology. Other educators feel kids can't understand the physiology - and don't need to. And that the facts of life talk isn't just a one-time discussion. You might say, "It happens when mommy and daddy are very close together and in private."
What do kids need to know?
Ask yourself, what parts of the story do i feel a kindergartener or first grader needs to know? How about a second grader? They should know about their bodies - their own anatomy, and how their bodies will change and that that's normal. They should know what kind of touching is inappropriate. And they should know there are different kinds of families - some with two dads or two moms, and that babies can come in different ways - cesarean sections, in vitro fertilization, surrogate moms.
What are some concrete tips?
• Find books
• Stay cool
• Avoid “TMI”
• No one's perfect
Especially when parents aren't so comfortable with the vocabulary. It's Not the Stork! is excellent. It's a book about girls, boys, babies, bodies, families and friends, and It's So Amazing about eggs, sperm, birth, babies and families, both by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley.
Kids pick up on your sense of ease with the topic. That's going to affect how you transmit the information. Parents should make peace with the fact that sex is a normal, healthy part of life.
We don't want to flood kids with too much information. We can take it one step at a time. Sometimes it's best to just answer the question they are asking. Maybe they just want to know where they baby grows, for example.
And you probably won't be, either, when you're trying to explain the facts of life to your child. Don't worry too much about getting "the talk" exactly right and remember there's more than one way to present the information. Kids are resilient.