best time to tell them about the birds and the bees...(124 Posts)
what age is a good time to tell kids the facts of life? My DS is seven and is pestering me to tell him where babies come from - he already knows they grow in mummies tummies (he'd be frankly backward if he hadn't worked that part out), but he wants to know how they get in there...he seems so sensible and mature about things, but wonder if I'd be opening a whole can of worms by tellling him!
ps my mum told me when I was five and I told the whole class...eeeek, I know there are some pretty stuffy parents of kids in his class who certainly wouldn't want their little darlings to know yet...
Am surpised he's got to 7 without knowing more, tbh!
Dd1 knows a lot but I've had 2 more DC since her so she's seen me pg, newborns etc and asked a lot of Qs
I think if they're old enough to ask, they're old enough to be told
TBH it's been more drip-feeding rather than a 'full-on chat' with mine
(and 7yr old dd knows a baby grows in the uterus, not the stomach)
mine are four. they wanted to know how the mans seed got into the woman's tummy at three so i had to tell them. i have hestiated a bit about the actual mechanics of how the seed gets into the lady. they just know the seed comes from a man. in their case it was ivf anyway which means i've fudged it a bit without actually lying. i used mummy laid an egg as well which they thought was hilarious ( have no idea what htey made of the pictures of the naked man and lady slotted together) and then an eighties science book which doesn't actually have any drawings of male sexual organs which is a pretty remarkable achievement given that its about conception and full of pictures. they find that fascinating. they were sking about it again today. it seems a bit early to me as well.
they know the seed goes into the lady's baby hole (sadly this is the term we came up with). the know babies come out of there - though again not in mummy's case. i've told them not to worry about babies popping in and out of there until they are older as baby holes don't really work properly for making babies until they are the age of x (their adolescent friend). they came up with dingle dangle for men's sexual organs.
i should probably have been a bit more straightforward.
Sorry, but PMSL
I know. it's a bit embarrasing.
Re your OP, when they ask is a good time
My sister and I used to talk about 'sweet little babyholes' and roar with laughter, as kids
ok, that's reassuring - he does know they grow in the womb not stomach - he worked that one out himself ( "because othewise they'd get disgested mum!") I will not feel bad about telling him next time he asks. Don't know why it's a difficult one because in general he has a full understanding of the world - can give you a very complete explanation of his political views...
Thanks for the replies
baby holes and dingle dangles?? Oh sweet Moses.
When they ask is the right time.
DD is just 4 and has known for at least a year. I am currently pregnant and she loves midwife visits, blathers on about umbilical cords and placentas and c-sections. I just answered her openly and honestly. No embarrassment, a vagina is a vagina, a penis is a penis.
Honestly. I didn't come up with dingle dangles. every time they mention it on the bus I shrink a little lower in my seat..........
You tell them as soon as they ask (often precipitated by a new baby amongst family or friends), or you get in a pre-emptive strike if you realise it's going round the playground, or if neither happen you tell them at 8 or 9 anyhow.
Finding a book you are comfortable with is really handy. One to consider is Questions Children Ask by Miriam Stoppard, which I like because it gives answers banded by suggested age (and covers a good range of topics).
we do indeed have a baby on the way in the family (not me ), and it was DS2 who was asking about it, which made DS1 want to know the mechanics. We're fairly sensible on terminology although I don't think there's anything wrong with using willy.
Tell them as soon as they ask - and if they donl;t ask by 7 tell them anyway. Ideally, they should be told bit by bit from when they are first talking, so they don't actually remember being told - it's just something they know.
re "tell them as soon as they ask": I agree it's best with most subjects to answer questions as honestly as possible when a child asks. However, I'm just not sure how much to say about the "mechanics" in this case. My son (age 7) knows men produce sperm and women produce eggs. He knows women have a special hole through which blood comes out periodically and through which a baby is born (if not c-section, which he also knows about). he also knows a baby develops over many months from a tiny cell. But the key point about how the sperm meets the egg.... he hasn't specifically asked and so I haven't specifically answered. I'd be very interested to know how others have imparted this information!
Dingle dangles and babyholes - ye gods and little fishes!
posadas - that's the bit I'm worried about, like your son he knows the rest. He said to me tonight, I think it involves kissing, and there must have to be some contact between the man and the woman...DH says just tell him it's when when two people love each other but that's a three year old's explanation...
"When a man and a woman love each other and cuddle a lot the man's ......dingle dangle gets stiff and if he and the woman want to, he can put it into the woman"s.......babyhole and the sperm comes out and sometimes it meets the egg that's inside the woman. If that happens the sperm and the egg merge together and start to turn into a baby."
Obvoiusly I'm not suggesting you say dingle dangle and babyhole - I'm just seeing what it feels like to say that instead of penis and vagina.
I'm struggling with this. DS is 5 and has been asking me how the egg and sperm meet. The rest of it has been perfectly comfortable to talk about and has come up naturally, correct terminology fine, but I just can't bring myself to explain this bit. I know he's going to be fascinated and go on about it forever more. My mother will be shocked, I'll hear him discussing it with his friends...
In my defence. They came up with these words when they were THREE.
It's weird what words children come up with and which ones stick! Mind you, aged about 3, mine were singing about the "Dingle dangle scarecrow with the flippy floppy head", which isn't a good image right now!
Agree with the drip feeding, best to give bits of info as they ask, rather than serious sit down birds and bees talk.
Dd is 10 now so is pretty much clear on the reproduction side of things, started talking about this at about 5/6yo, and bought her Where Willy Went by Nicholas Allen.
I found the sex as recreation talk much harder
Was forced into it when she asked what a condom was as she had heard this delightful song in school (to tune of spice girls )
'if you wannabe my lover
Sex is 50p
Buy one get one free'
Got a bit flustered and to my shame told her I wasn't sure but I'd ask her dad and tell her later
She couldn't grasp that if sex was for making babies why would you do it with a condom
Get a book with pictures (but not mummy laid an egg, which is just confusing) because the next question will be 'will you show me?'!
Just keep answering drip feed fashion.
I remember learning the finer details myself when I was home sick from school and watching some 'schools tv' on the sofa with a mug of lemon and honey
"She couldn't grasp that if sex was for making babies why would you do it with a condom "
Honestly, you just have to be matter of fact. "Because it's enjoyable/feels nice/you don't always want to make a baby at the same time". The comes from us.
DD doesn't understand why you would eat onions or drink tea, she says they're disgusting. When told that sex is often just for pleasure, she shrugged and asked if she could watch Shrek.
We've just told our DD in a matter of fact way since she was 2. We always use the proper terms, ie penis, vagina, clitoris (because she asks what that bit is) - why use anything else? She is now nearly 4 and it makes life so much easier to be able to answer any question naturally and not have to raise the issue. We have the book "Where Babies Come From" by Harris & Emberley - too much for her in one go, but has good cartoony pics of sperm and eggs and she loves the pictures of babies in the womb. She is IVF and I have simply explained that in her case the sperm and egg were mixed in a special dish before the doctor injected the embryo into my womb -it's quite easy to explain really.
I had the conversation with DD at 8, then I got her this book
You need this book. My boys all love it.
We tell them on a need to know basis. Our dds are 7 and 4.
We are pretty matter of fact. They still seem to think that babies come out of tummy buttons! (Although there is a logic to that).
Of course, what they don't understand is the complex, interesting, lustful, emotional relations between adults! (At least adults before they have the children, that is, when lust comes after unloading the dishwasher for the billionth time!)
The bot need to know NOW that babies don;t come out of tummy buttons. What is the purpose of keeping them believing something that's not true?
I've been quite matter of fact about it with my DS1 who is 5 and my DS2 who is 3. DS1 was sounding out "con-tra-kep-tion" in the GP's waiting room, which allowed me to explain that angle of it too. They know that a man uses his penis to put sperm into the mummy's vagina, and it goes up to her uterus and meets the egg, and then grows for 9 months into a baby, which comes out of the vagina.
Before I sound too smug for getting the essential details across, when DS1 asked why children didn't have babies I said "it only happens to a man and a lady who are married". So I fudged that one.
My 4 old dc has asked this.
I said "when a mummy and daddy love each other very much a baby can get there".
DH and I were only married this November gone where dc was a flowergirl.
Im now 4 1/2 months pregnant.
So in her mind now it's when a a mummy daddy are in love, so have a wedding and that brings a baby about, bless her!
Another vote for telling them when they ask but be sensible with what you think they will understand and talk to them in a way that is appropriate to their age.
DS1 is 11 now and he told me the day before yesterday that they are about to get 'the talk' at school and promised he would try hard not to snigger. He knows all about the mechanics anyway because I told him when he asked and am sure it is very hot topic of conversation at school already. Without going over the top I reminded him that it was not just about the mechanics but also the more complex issues around relationships that mattered more.
He asked about the 'Ken Clark' furore of rape and wanted to know more about the issue as he had picked up a copy of The Times on the train and had been reading about it. That did momentarily floor me but I thought I'd go with the flow and see where it went. We talked about making sure the other person gives their proper consent and that they always have the right to change their mind at any time. He doesnt have adult feelings and emotions yet so he cannot put what I said in context but it was a start and he instigated it.
SEEKER - because they were so unconvinced when we told them they didn't come out of tummy buttons but out of a hole between the poo and wee holes. And they found the concept difficult to grasp about tummy buttons being the remnants of an umbilical cord that fed babies inside wombs etc.
And - in the end - if they're not that interested I'm not going to initiate conversation. (They are only 4 and 7!).
Plus, I remember believing that for years.
It's like tooth fairies, children often carry on to 'believing' things when they don't really believe them.
So those of you who managed to say 'the man's penis gets stiff and he puts it into the woman's vagina and sperm comes out' or whatever when your kids were quite young, have you find that they have gone on about it at school and shocked random people, or has it all been OK? This is what I'm struggling with about telling DS who is 5, he has asked me a couple of times but I've been wimpishly avoiding it. I am pretty sure being the kind of child he is that he is going to be fascinated and go on about it a lot.
dd is 7, I've told her in the past year a bit about the mechanics (before that she knew about seed & egg & babies growing inside etc, and she was satisfied with that for a while). I pretty much said "The man puts his willy inside the woman's middle hole, the same one where the baby comes out [she already knew we have 3 holes - i made a point of telling her very early on, as my mum had told me because her mum actually denied it & refused to talk about any of that! ] and goes in and out until liquid stuff called 'sperm' [dd said 'it looks like a tadpole! (we were looking at her encyclopaedia)'] comes out, that's the seed, and if an egg is in the woman's womb and it meets the egg, it 'fertilises' it, i.e. they get together, and a baby starts to grow...."
Nothing wrong with that? When she made a vague 'yuk' face I said "well, it seems yuk to you now, because you're a child, but for adults it can be nice, like a special cuddle"
I've even told her what condoms are and why, after she found out my sister was a 'surprise', because up until then she assumed sex was only for making babies and she was really confused, asking how it can be a surprise.
Seriously I think if they're old enough to ask, they're old enough for an answer that is down to earth, honest, but concise and not too much for them to take in or understand. Far, far better imo than entering your teens knowing sod all and winding up really confused about it and bitter about never having been told the truth. A family friend got pg when when we were about 8-10, and it was then that me & dsis gigglingly approached the adults to ask "are babies made by 'putting private part to private part'" and they embarrassedly said yes. It didn't occur to me the willy had to go in . I quite resent the fact that in early teens it was from a giggly schoolfriend of mine that I realised the man goes in & out (she was winding me up about a boy i fancied, about his willy going 'in & out'.....(this is why I put it that way for dd). & that I had reassurance (age 14/15) that getting 'wet' down there was what was supposed to happen from bloody Prince of all people!! (Get Off)
Saying 'mummy and daddy had a special cuddle' worked perfectly well for my three year-old. You don't need to actually specify as ThursdayNext says until they're a bit older. My DD uses the word 'vagina' when she needs to (as in 'Mummy, my vagina itches') and I do wonder how other kids might react if she says it in school, but to be honest I don't care what they think. I wanted my kids to have the proper terminology and answer their questions honestly as that way they won't be believing all the mad-up scary stuff that kids tell each other in the playground as they get older.
It's not hard to make the truth age-appropriate. Better they know this version than some rumour in the playground.
builder -i would feel really uncomfortable if dd believed babies come from tummy buttons!!
Funnily enough, she asked me not long ago why we have tummy buttons and I said there was a tube thing joining the inside of my tummy button to her tummy button when she was in the womb, and it gets cut when baby is born, that that's how the baby gets its food etc (I am right about all that aren't I?!). We were both going 'aww' cos it was really sweet to think we used to be joined up in that way!
I don't really care what she says at school either, it's none of my business. It's really important to me that she has the correct facts from early on, I think (i hope) it will lead to a healthy attitude to sex in later life.
RE: Playground Sex Education
I think you need to tell your own child that sex is nothing to be embarrassed about, but also that it is not the sort of thing that should be talked about at school/grandma's house/middle of the supermarket.
Ye3s, my dd did enlighten a few of her friends when she was 4/5 (I was pregnant awith ds at the time) But that's all good - she could counteract some of the "goosberry bush" "going to the shop to buy a baby" stuff some parents burden theri children with!
Never be afraid of the truth.
i told all mine quite early on the basic ins and out (so to speak) bout 5 i think. my ds is four and just told a woman on the bus that he had eaten to much food and had a baby in his belly and soon it would come out of his funjana hole . when they ask i tell basically.
No DD hasn't gone on about it, although when painting a picture at nursery this week she did say as she was painting "here is Daddy's head, here's his body, his arm and here is his penis". Staff just thought it was mildly amusing - i'm sure the kids say funny things all day - no idea if anyone else heard but really, it's not your problem is it? Much better that they know from you and are armed against other kids being silly. I'm sure even if he did get a bit obsessed it would be very very short-lived before the next thing came along.
Think I may have sounded a bit smug originally, what I meant was IVF is pretty easy to explain simply.
god i remember getting getting called in to the school because my dd then 4 was using inappropriate, i was horrified got up there, to be told that it was not appropriate for her to be say penis or vagina. i went a bit mental thinking that she had been saying shit or something. i asked them what she should be calling them. i was informed that minnie was ok or front bottom (yuk), willie was fine as was pee pee ffs. i said that when the medical terms for genitalia changed i would be happy to teach to call her vagina after a mouse until then she will call it a vagina.
I'm glad I've read this. My almost 5yr old has been coming out with a lot of Q's recently.
Have been informing on a need to know basis.
It's been quite hard for me to gauge how to give just enough info to satisfy immediate Qs and curiosity without confusing him.
Have seen some great books with diagrams and simple language in library. Now might be the time for me to actually buy one!
I know, I know, I'm not planning on putting it off until they are teenagers, I was just hoping to fudge the specific mechanics of sex until DS was, I don't know, 7 or something, but it's not to be. He is asking and I have to tell him. I thought I was doing pretty well with correct terminology and so on, it's just the specifics of sperm meets egg that makes me twitchy. Slightly pathetic I know. If he is fascinated I will ask him not to go on about it at school yet.
cannydoit If that was dd's school i'd be giving them a piece of my mind!!
i did dont worry and since my 2dd and now my ds go there and have no problems they took it to heart or realised that i wouldnt change it. what was hilarious was one day my dd2 who is on the as and didnt talk until she was 5 one day said oh shit in class, and when i got to the school they came rushing out to tell me she had spoken and had used it the right context and everything, it was actually quite sweet how excited they were lol.
Think - it's attached to the placenta, not the inside of your tummy button, don't forget!
Hoping to just explain to DS as we go along with him asking questions etc. He found some condoms and asked what they were and I told him, though I doubt he remembers or really understood. Then the other day we found a bird's nest so I was telling him how baby birds don't have milk like baby people/cows/dogs etc. Again I'm not sure he was that interested but oh well!
My theory is if we can cover it before he's old enough to be embarrassed then maybe I won't be embarrassed either.
Thanks for all the great responses peeps, it does reassure me just to explain the whole thing properly next time he asks!
Cannydoit - that school's attitude sounds dreadful! What about their duty of care to children and child protection? If you don't teach a child correct words, and they talk about so and so touching my winkie/Minnie/nonky or whatever, how would they know if a child is actually being abused or not?
Being facetious - realise that is an extreme incidence, but if you don't teach children about correct terminology then how can they communicate properly?
I think the 'appropriateness' of when children use words is interesting. I told my DD at 3 that 'this bit' is called a clitoris (because she asked), and she's never said the word since (she's now 5). I think a lot of people get scared that their child might suddenly shout 'CLITORIS!' in the street or somesuch, which is pretty unlikely unless there were being told those sorts of words in an inappropriate context by adults. Just because they know about sex doesn't mean they are going to go round talking about it all the time.
I told ds (7) and dd recently when dd (5) asked how the baby had got in my tummy (I was pg). I am very much of the opinion that they need to understand the basics from young so that it doesn't become some sort of an embarrassing secret later. That said, when it came to the detailed mechanics, I did get a bit worked up about telling them.
Should I have worried? Absolutely not! They took it all very matter of factly and actually weren't that bothered, so I don't think they've been interested about it enough to discuss it at school. It's only we grown ups who find it something to be embarrassed about. I think it's important to teach them the proper terms, too, like penis, sperm etc.
Any more book recommendations?
(My mother gave me the maddest Christian birds and bees book which was full of weird hints about tricky topics but didn't explain anything properly. I burnt it so my brother wouldn't see it and insisted she look for Usbourne or something sensible for him.)
I told my Dd1 (5yrs) as she wanted to know how my now dc3 got inside me.
I said the Daddy has a sperm which swims into an egg inside the Mummy and that grows into a baby. The baby then comes out of a hole in the Mummy's bottom. She was most smug when she discovered that unlike her brother and sister she was born by C-section. She kept telling everyone, 'They came out of Mummy's bottom, but I didn't'.
Let's Talk: About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families & Friends (Robie H. Harris) is a fantastic bookfull of matter of fact information presented in an engaging style. The level is spot on for 4-7 yr olds. It's one of my dd's (6) favourite books.
"a good time" is when they ask.
What do you do when they're just not interested in knowing! DS1 is approaching 10. He knows where babies grow and how they come out and I've tried talking to him about the mechanics of sex. He clearly doesn't really know what sex is although is keen on using the word!
It's complicated slightly by the fact that he's adopted so I didn't give birth to him and his daddy isn't his birth father. But it does mean that he had a good understanding of where babies came from right from word go. And given that he's since been joined by an adoptive brother and sister he knows that I didn't grow them. Giving birth to two 12 month olds would have been tough I should imagine .
I have Where Willy Went and Mummy Laid an Egg and I've sat down with him tried to explain but he's just not showing any interest.
We've had to have some difficult conversations over the years so I'm not embarrassed at all but I don't want to push at a closed door either. And there's no point suggesting dh does it .... my son will be a grandfather before that happens.
Another vote for Let's Talk About - my copy is called Let's Talk About Where Babies Come From - see www.walker.co.uk/Let-s-Talk-About-Where-Babies-Come-From-9781844281732.aspx - and it's really excellent. To me it strikes the right note, not too deathly serious but not as if sex is just one big joke.
For my older DD (nearly 11), I like www.amazon.com/Whats-Happening-Me-Guide-Puberty/dp/0818403128
The nice thing about books is that they can keep going back for clarification and you have a good script in front of you!
I gave my DD(8 next week) a couple of books (Horrible Science Body Owner's Handbook & Where Willy Went) which explain the concept but are a little vague about exactly how people 'join' together. Still waiting for her to scratch her head and ask for more details. Have to keep them out of DS(6)'s way though because he would ask that straight away!
I agree with all the above - my son is almost 12, and I have just tried to answer any questions he has. I have also said sometimes, "we can go into further detail when you're a bit older" which he always accepted. I will say though that since he started secondary school his knowledge has trebled! some of the terms he asks me about I have to say " I don't know you'll have to google it"! Jeez, I feel old...
Oops, thanks BertieBotts! It's shocking how little i know about my own body!
Def gonna get that "Let's talk about babies" book - maybe i'll learn something too!!!
walesblackbird my 10yo ds isn't remotely interested either. We've had a couple of chats about puberty (or rather, I say something about boys start growing into men - although this takes a long time but changes happen; ds shrugs his shoulders), he knows how mammals reproduce (result of "what are those hyenas doing?" and the like - and a lot of natural history programmes, which he enjoys), that mammals feed their babies, and that we're mammals.
It's a bit crap really though. I'm hoping school will pick up the slack.
My dd will be five this summer. A couple of years ago we looked through birth and baby photos while we chatted about this topic so she already knows that babies come from Mummy's tummy and about how she lived in my womb, and fed through the umbilical cord (one of her favourite topics atm ), but I haven't pushed to explain about the actual sex part yet.
She still calls her own body parts 'bottom' and 'front bottom' (her names not mine). She is aware of the correct terminology but should I correct her, or leave it be for now?
I have always been straightforward with her but I never know just how much info to share.
Another fan of the "Let's talk about..." range here.
I'm a bit worried about this, I agree that you should answer questions when they're asked, but my 9yo Ds hasn't really asked yet. I didn't want to bombard him with a lot of information he wasn't ready to hear or wasn't interested in, but now I wonder if I should've broached the subject anyway. He has childrens science books about the human body and encyclopedias etc that explain the biological side of things but I don't actually know if he's ever read those chapters. I really sound crap now. I think they do Sex Ed in year 5, which he will be in september but I don't want to be one of those parents who leave it all up to the school and then the child is horrified by the whole idea. If I bought one of the books recommended above and put it in his room would I still be being such a rubbish mum?
Don't worry if your children tell others in the playground. it's not your problem. You are being a responsible parent by telling your dc about conception. It's very important imo to talk aboiut it in terms of loving relationships so they get an early message that love, sex and consent go together.
Yes, that's so right about consent. When my nearly 4 year old asked why children don't have sex I explained that as sex might lead to having a baby you need to be old enough to look after and support yourself before you can look after a baby, and that you need to be really sure that you want to have sex with a person, and that it can be difficult to be completely sure about that until you're older. (I'm aware it's actually MUCH easier to explain this to a child when 'older' is a vague and far away concept!!)
Can I ask... would anyone think it bad if your 4 year old dc watched quite a 'graphic' (if that is the right word) birth on OBEM?
fooso, your post has made me feel worried.
my 8 year old has been doing basic sex ed in school. i have felt strange about it, because the subject has simply never come up, so we haven't covered it with him at home. i feel fine about talking about such stuff (i have a 15 year old stepdaughter and so am already in the children/sex interface years), but am not happy to foist it upon him. but i trusted that the school were presenting the info senstively and age-appropriately. however, i have discovered that a child in his class suggested he google "sex".
google is a useful tool, but you have to be an adept and experienced user to get what you need out of it. in the case of the "sex" search, you can imagine what came up. educational, sure, but not in the way my child was expecting.
i have been into the school to talk about the whole issue because i feel they were extremely naive in not recognising that sex ed is a more complicated world than it could be because of the internet. had i been tackling this issue myself with my child, i would definitely have brought up the issue of internet porn, and how the internet can give a skewed sense of sexuality. the school were apologetic and understanding. but my boy is hideously embarrassed as he recognises he started to gain access to something inappropriate and, at least at the moment, irrelevant. i feel cross and sad that the dialogue between us on this vital subject has been started in such a negative way. any thoughts, anyone?
My 4yo saw a bit of an episode of OBEM.
She wasn't freaked out by it
notnowbernard so did mine.
Had no idea she walked into the room while I was watching it until she laughed "the baby is coming out of a mummy's bottom!"
She seemed quite amused and seems fine with it, but I didn't tell anyone about this in RL incase they were not too approving, plus I felt a bit guilty...
I was pg at the time
The 6yo was v interested in all things baby and pg related and wanted to see the birth (alas I'm not that progressive)
So I let them watch an episode of OBEM. It was a straightforward VB one (I'd already seen it, we watched it together on catch-up later) so I felt ok with them seeing it
Thankyou I feel reassured. Since Im expecting dc2 I guess dc1 will at least be prepared if she ends up witnessing the birth somehow!
I've drip fed my kids info(although I realise I was more proactive about it with ds1. Ds1 (and i) had the advantage of ds2's pg as a prompt.) I'm pg again. With ds1 being 7 and ds2 being 4 I feel appropriate question may be asked. Looking through the other responses I feel 7yr old may have a bit of catching up info wise! I'm sure he and I haven't actually used the word vagina. (He used front bottom at the age of three and I didn't correct him then) We' ve got "Mummy laid an egg" ,but I think more of my friends have looked at the skateboard picture over a bottle of wine in our dining room than my kids have. (Not that my kids drink much wine.YKWIM) My son is the oldest by at least two years of all our friends kids so theirs were still babies while we were beginning sex ed chez ginger! I just answer questions as and when. I don't think the kids have even thought about the logistics though.
I've just got "Let's talk about where babies come from" from the bottom of the pile of books on the kids book shelf and popped it on the coffee table.
Wow, most of you tell your kids really young. I didn't know until I was 11 or 12. I will tell mine at 9 or 10, just before the kids at school start to pair off. If they mature early, have interest in older boys/girls, or it becomes a hot topic at school, I'll tell them younger.
When they ask is probably the right time although my DS1 didn't ask anything but got to a stage (aged 9.5 he had a 12yo GF who kissed him with tongues apparently) where he needed to know the basics. His response was "I'm NEVER going to do THAT!" and he was quite incredulous when I told him one day he'd do it for fun. I told DS2 at the same time (he was just 7) on the recommendation of his teacher - 'shag bands' were the in thing at the time and some of the children in his class had a good grasp of what shagging was. He took it in his stride.
Recently I heard DS2 calling DS1 a lesbian (they are now 8 & 11), I always ask if they know what the word they are using means and if not I explain it (although when I asked DS2 if he knew what a lesbian was he replied "yes, DS1")
DD has just turned 9 and I have bought her a couple of books: 'Lets talk about where babies come from' and 'The care and keeping of you'. She is an avid reader so I thought she would be keen to read them and we could then discuss any questions she may have. She has instead given me the books back. Perhaps the idea of growing up is a bit scary for her?
I am shocked at a school not wanting a child to use the proper anatomical terms for body parts though! A mini is a car in our house and I've never been keen on front bottom. As for pee pee...
DD is 3 and she knows that her "bits" (as she prefers to call them) are really called a vagina and the boys willies are really called penises. She talks about it sometimes, once in front of another parent. Said parent was impressed she knew the right words I think TBH.
I'm not looking forward to explaining menstruation though when DD gets bigger, I haven't approached that one with the boys yet either although I'm sure it'll come up sooner or later.
My Mum gave me a pamphlet thing (with line drawn illustrations) when I was about 9 or 10 about periods, I read it and then gave it back to her - I took it all in but didn't feel the need to discuss it, the information was all there. Perhaps that is what has happened with your DD sevenseas? Do you have any quiet time together where you could bring the subject up at all to make sure she is not worrying?
I really don't think she had time to read the books I'd given her.
Yes, definitely think a quiet chat is the way to go. Probably should have done that before giving her the books but didn't expect that response. I am fairly sure she would have spoken to me by now if she was worrying about it. I think it is probably more a case of being in denial/not wanting to grow up just yet or possibly even a case of wanting to get my attention/not letting me get away with just giving her a book to read... who knows???
Whatever the reason, I am fairly certain a girlie chat is what we need.
I think that books are perhaps useful as a follow up to a conversation, but not as an introduction. Apart from anything else I'm not sure that most children would think that this sort of book is particularly appealing (my children are always rejecting books on the basis of being boring/not what they are in to).
I think that you should approach conversations about sex, puberty and growing up in the same way as any other topic, that is answer questions, look at books or other resources together. Sometimes you have to seize an opening and direct the conversation a bit because it is important for them to know the facts and to think about some of the issues.
I think in general that the conversations aren't particularly tricky once you get going. Usually children make it very clear when they aren't interested any more, and I've not found with my two that they retained that much when they were small, so I also agree with the drip drip approach. Plus you need to check every now and then that they haven't picked up some funny ideas.
innana I'm sorry that you feel that your ds has had a bad experience because a school friend told him to google 'sex', but I really don't understand why you are blaming school. It's one of those things that happens and probably had nothing to do with the class at school. It is primarily our job as parents to education our children about sex and relationships. We have more time and know our children better, and it is a fairly fundamental part of growing up. I think that you just need to talk it through with your ds until he feels OK again and he'll be just fine.
Cocoflower my children have watched lots of births on youtube, or DVD in prep for them being present at the birth of their siblings. My eldest was present when her brother was born, she was 26 months. Later, she and her younger brother and sister were present when my youngest son was born. We had all read books (looked at piccys) together and videos etc and they accepted it as the most natural thing in the world. They asked to be present, and indeed were, they were aged 5.10, 3.8 and 1.8. They were at a friends for the labour, but came home about 10 mins before he was born, they were fab, and came to talk to me inbetween contractions, my 3 year old went and fetched his goggles and put them on incase he needed to help out (was a waterbirth) and they all looked on and welcomed their sibling. They were the ones to find out if he were a boy or girl, and my eldest 2 cut the cord with the help of my wonderful midwife.
Or course, having children at a birth does not present as an opportunity (or the choice they would make) for a lot of families, however I do feel that as adults we should try not to project our discomfort about a subject that is perfectly natural and one which our children accept readily if it is always just "there" in their lives. It is difficult to correct things like "front bottom" or babies come out of your bottom" and children can lose faith in you when they realise the things you have told them for years are simply not true, ie the baby came from a stork!
Both my eldest went into school and told them all about the birth, and both classes were supportive, and encouraging. DD class 5 already used correct scientific names for human body parts and were covering life cycles (though not reporoduction) as a topic - so it actually fitted very well.
I have tried to start early and talk about it whenever it has come up.
It is amazing the misconceptions children have even though you think you have been very clear.
Both my older two boys thought that you only had sex once and the sperm was stored inside the woman until needed for subsequent babies. This came out later in separate discussions.
Oh I am laughing to myself as my DS who is 5 has started to ask when I am going to have a baby, as he would like one!!! We didnt even think we would have him, and as we were bit older having him,(and were told 3 in 10 chance too) have decided he is going to be the only one, other factors 2 like too tired now to start all over again, and like the bit of me time a bit more now that he has started school,!!! But had this conversion with him last week, when he started to say that the baby grows in mummys tummy and if I want one I should just go to the doctors who will give mummy a seed that I will swallow and thats how I will get a baby!!! Bless, if it was only that simeple but maybe not as much pleasure!!!! Any good books to maybe start reading with him, without going into 2 much detail at the moment, want him to stay my baby a little bit longer, he is growing up too fast, and cant belive he will be 6 soon...its a true saying they dont stay babies long...thanks
My 7 year old son recently witnessed the real live birth of a lamb - nothing I've said to him since has convinced him that the lamb didn't come out of the sheep's bottom!!
I am realy shocked that some mothers of 8 and 9 year old girls havent dicussed menstruation. About 50% of girls have their periods before leaving primary school. 25% before they are 10, the average has got younger ( for a combination of reasons) . It can happen anytime after the 8th birthday. I would think that this is of far more pressing importance than the mechanics of sex .
My just turned four year old knows that mummys have eggs daddys have seeds, baby grows in mummys bellys then she 'poos' them out he asked lots of questions when the cat gave birth. I dont think theres a 'right time' to have a full on chat i think its best to 'wean them' when they ask questions asnwer them as simple and honest as you can.
My partner's a genius in this as all things, and had a 'chat' with DS1 at 2.11 because he was worried his nursery key worker ate babies (the 'tummy' thing). He was told it was in her womb, he asked how it got there, was told nursery worker had had sex with her partner. No more questions. Bit later he asked what sex was and was told it was something grown-ups did for fun which could make babies. He asked lots of questions about which grown-ups, and was told all grown ups did it for fun, but not people related to each other, but that only sometimes and with men and women did it make babies. He never asked any questions about willies or anything else, and that seemed fine, especially because at the time he thought men and women were distinguished by hair style.
Which seemed OK, but he does sometimes ask pregnant women if having sex was fun or just to make babies, and he does think that the Lake District is in Grandma's womb (because that's where Mummy came from).
Don't know if that is helpful, but to me it seems to say that misconceptions needn't be harmful, and that the hierarchy of biology before social needn't be as obvious to kids as adults. There isn't really a need to explain everything mechanically and fully just because the issue has come up-you can be guided down different paths by children.
So, the question is whether you want to 'teach' it as biology and try and avoid misconceptions, or just respond to questions as and when and accept the problems.
As soon as they ask as if you don't tell the next time they have a sex question they will go else were for the answer and the information they get might not be correct
We have a really good book called Let's talk about sex covers it all in cartoon strip form
One of the big pluses of starting the conversation young is that you don't have to tell them everything at once, and you are right when they are really small they aren't that interested in mechanics. Conversations with my two started with my c-section scar when they were 3 or 4, and it think it was several years before they wanted to know how the baby got there in any more detail, and then why. To be honest I think that my two asked many questions primarily as a way to get Mummy talking and delay bed time (for some reasons the questions always came in between te last kiss and lights out ). Any excuse for a good snuggly chat.
I always used the theory 'if she is old enough to ask...' with my daughter. She started periods at 10, and we have just been talking and know we must have discussed it before then as she wasn't freaked out, but neither of us can remember it...
THe only incident I do remember is when she said to my sister 'I know how babies get in a ladies tummy, but how do they get out?'. My sister (sharing the open to questioning policy) told her that it was through a special hole in the mummy's bottom. THe look daughter gave her, apparently, was hilarious. She seems to have decided then and there that my sister talked rubbish and she would never ask her another question again!
We have just told the facts, simply, since day one. Penis goes in vagina, wiggles around, sperm out, meet egg = baby. I can't understand why people make such a song and dance about it.
I wormed out of the 'how the seed gets in to Mummy' as well when my dd aged 6 asked. She knows how babies come out of our ,hole, which stretches to allow them out and that the male sperm meets the female egg and the eggs get fertilised. My DS 10 knows the lot and refuses to have any discussion with me about the subject as they do it in great detail in Year 5. I learnt a bit when I saw the DVD they watched.
We have started early.
DS (4) knows that babies grow in mummy's tummy and how they get out - I told him that there is a special hole between ladies' legs that stretches to let the baby out - and that babies are made by the mummy and daddy having a special kind of cuddle, which can make a baby but not always. I am expecting to have to give more details on the cuddle soon but I will do so.
DS has tried giving me a tight hug and asking if it could make me pregnant though - he wants a sibling!
I have also used the word mating to mine as they watch a lot of animal programes and live near horses so are used to that term. I just said men and women mate like other animals to have babies.
I'm a bit worried by this I have two DS aged 10 and 6 and neither have asked any questions really. I wouldn't just sit them down and talk to them because I feel they will ask when they are ready, although at this rate that might be when they've already left home.
DS1 did ask what rape was when we listened the ken clarke story in the news. I said rape was when one person usually a man forces another person to have sex against their will. I hoped that he might follow up with "what is sex" but my answer was followed by silence.
I don't remember being told, but we had this picture book kicking around so I think I learned when I was so young, the knowledge was just in there somewhere.
Told DS1 the basics when he was 5 or 6. His poor little eyes nearly popped out of his head. And then he said "Will you be able to help me the first time I do it mum...." Er, no....
My five year old was very proud the other day. She said the teacher asked what rhymes with China, and she was the only one who put her hand up and she said: 'Bagina!' The teacher then said excellent!!
The worst is that I don't remember teaching her the word 'vagina'?
On hearing how men impregnate women, my son scratched his chin thoughtfully and walked off to play with his friends. I later overheard him tell one little pal 'Yes, the seeds shoot out of my penis but it won't hurt ... isn't that right Mummy?'
Sheesh, something got lost in translation.
Oh I have a "baby hole" too, having had to explain it to DS recently - he's almost 6 and was asking more and more questions till it got to the point where I would have to lie to fob him off, and I'm not doing that.
Baby hole is not twee, it's descriptive. DS was trying to get his head round what women have instead of willies - he sorted it out as they have a wee hole, a baby hole and a poo hole, whereas men have a willy and a poo hole, and the willy is for the baby cells AND the wee. (It is pretty odd when you think about it...)
Having got the facts straight DS pondered for a LONG time then asked "Muuuuum - does that mean you and daddy have done that thing!!!???"
I am all for being honest with children and I agree if they're old enough to ask about it, they can be told, sensitively obviously. But I don't get this thing about having to use "vagina" and "penis". Tbh they're not the words I use so why should DS? They sound stuffy and medical to me. There is nowt wrong with willy and baby hole IMO. We don't insist on children saying "umbilicus" or "patella" do we, just because it's the proper term? Which suggests to me that people who insist on vagina/vulva etc. are actually more hung about it than they think, IYSWIM.
LadyWord I see what you mean and I sue the same terms.
There's no way my 5 yr old will remember 'Urethra', wee hole, baby hole and bum hole are far simpler and what I used and understood as a child.
When I did biology much later I got the right terms.
He knows he and Dad and men and boys have a penis but calls it his willy. Fair enough. And he knows that men don't have babies as they haven't got the right hole and the right bits inside their tummies.
My DC are 11 and 7 and i can't remember either of them asking anything about this.
The right time to tell them is when they ask, in a way you think they will understand. I find sex/biology questions quite easy, it's death and the nature of existence I find more difficult to explain.
Also "Do you believe in God?" causes me a sharp intake of breath.
My daughter hasn't asked about the act of procreation as such yet but when she was three and I was pregnant with DD2 she asked how the baby got in my tummy- I stuck to biology with eggs and seeds etc, but if she had wanted further info I'd have supplied it. Also she asked how the baby comes out and I told her in basic terms.
We now keep hens in the garden and this prompted a discussion about eggs, and I told her we have eggs too but they are tiny, as a precursor to discussing menstruation (she is nearly 6 now). I will tell her properly about periods when she is 6/7 in case she starts early - would prefer that to the shock if she didn't know what was happening.
I don't believe in making things up about the Stork etc. I hope both daughters will be able to be open with me about sex, relationships and sexual health when they are older.
And if my daughter told the class I'd prefer she was giving them the right info rather than the "The boy has to do a wee into you" stuff that used to go round the playground when we were 7/8, very confusing and worrying!
If other parents had a go at me because of this so be it, tough titty.
I have 10 and 8 year old dd and neither of them really want to know the facts. I am pg and they have an older friend who has just had the "talk" at school so was prepared and happy to answer all the questions, but I don't think you can force info until they are ready for it. The older friend informed them your pee comes out your vagina after reading the fpa materials a couple of years ago. It took a lot of persuasion to convince them that women actually have a 3rd hole where babies come out. I left the room while blue peter was on and came back to find them witnessing childbirth. They both promptly informed me that I needn't expect to be a grannie any decade soon. Periods were recently accepted very matter of factly when I explained about women's bodies getting ready in case they decided to have a baby once a month and if not then your body cleaned out and started again. I don't think it is appropriate / accurate to link male erections purely with sex so when asked we discussed it in terms of excitement and also the mechanics of blood flow like when you get flushed cheeks. Did show them pictures of how babies develop inside mummies but they gave me the tmi look and walked away before we got to how babies are conceived.
I remember knowing the facts from about 8 but didn't really start to believe them till my emotional development caught up years later.
My dd's know absolutely everything, EXCEPT that the sperm comes from the penis gets hard puts it in...... I'll have to tell eldest dd very soon as she's going to high school in September and I can't let her go there without her knowing it. I'm really open about everything and we all talk a lot about periods, gay people, puberty etc but I really really am not looking forward to saying 'erect penis' and explaining what we do!!! She'll likely be a bit horrified and never be able to look at her dad again!!
Bucking the trend here and teaching willy and vajayjay to my 4 year old DS.
My parents were trendy 70s hippies who taught me to say penis and vagina when I was 4. I cringe about it now especially when I hear their stories of mirth about how I shocked the pensioners in the post office loudly and bossily pointing out and declaring who has a penis and who doesn't, and other worse ones.
I wish they had used more childish terms and descriptions until I was about 10.
my dd 5 just asked so I told her, proper words and everything. Then she said: so you don't need a man to have a baby, just some sperm? erm.... a whole nother conversation needed!
imho whatever words are used in any one context is the proper term
so they need to know 'willy' to speak to their friends and 'penis' to study biology
one is not more correct than the other- it's all a matter of context
what you don't want to do is to teach them some cringeworthy term special to your own family- if you've raised a laugh round the playground and puzzled the biology teacher you've got it wrong
still haven't forgiven my parents for teaching me a twee word for poo that was not recognised by anyone
Our ds1 asked us "how are babies made? when he was about 6. My dh launched into a full explanation which ds1 listened to silently. Dh then asked if he had any questions. Ds1 replied "how is chocolate made?"
MoreCrackThanHarlem- My ds (7) came home form school singing that the other day. I told him a condom was a special kind of sock that daddies wore, and that his tongue would fall off if he sang that song again. Haven't heard it for a while now
I've already covered gay relationships given that we've attended two civil partnership ceremonies since we had children.
Only in terms that men can marry men and women can marry women.
I told DD(9) basic info about puberty/menstruation over the last couple of years (drip feed, really). Decided now was the time to go into more depth but she is just not interested. Had another talk to make sure she understands that she/her friends may go through a few changes soon and have now left it at that. Books are now back on her bookshelf (she did hand them back to me last week soon after I gave them to her).
Come to Scotland ...my DD1 got the 'naming the bits' video etc I think it was P2 or 3 (5 or 6 yo) the only bit I thought was going too far was 'this is the clitorus it feels nice when you touch it' (or similar- they did say the penis got hard sometimes too) - I seem to remember a cat with kittens in there ...and they got an idea of the mechanism. Her second lot in P5 - (7-8 yo) actual mechanics (cartoon) and a video of someone giving birth ...lots of stuff about relationships (inc introducing same sex couples). Next lot is in P7 (10-11 yo) not sure exactly what they get told there... someone I know who has seen the P7 video wasn't very specific but was shocked - not sure if they start tackling oral sex/same sex sex...I would imagine contraception...
I'm not particularly happy with it (you can exclude your child if you want but how uncomfortable would they be and they would get a garbled version in the playground anyway ) - I've always answered all the questions my DD had up to the level she wanted to know ...and she was investigated for possible early onset of puberty so had a NHS booklet about changes...
I was annoyed that they would show them all the other stuff but as I recall never mention menstruation (or if they did not that I remember)...when girls starting at 9 or 10 isn't unheard of - now that might be useful. Otherwise I feel they are just creating more interest in sex at a younger age and depriving them of their childhood....
BTW what the hell is wrong with front/wee bottom and poo bottom and willy?
Do people really tell their children to wipe their vaginas (which wouldn't actually be correct!) ...or their anus? or shake the drips off their penis? Really????????
If you think 'dingle dangle' is funny, when my daughter was 4 she announced, "Daddy got a willy....and a bag of sweeties."
As far as the sex and making babies thing goes, I'd just tell it to them straight, but at the level they are at. So, at 4 we talked about 'special cuddles' and by 7 it's more like 'the baby comes through the vagina' etc. It's us who has the hang-ups about it - not them. Just do whatever you feel comfortable with!
I think seven is more than old enough to drip feed basic facts if asked. One of dds in my dc school who is 11 found out recently babies grow for seeds and wouldnt eat apples, i think 11 is wayyyy to late.
My dc know that a baby grows from a seed in the mums womb and that the man puts the seed there when the mummy and daddy love each other, they know the baby comes out of your "front bottom" as dc1 calls it.
I'm enjoying reading this thread, and honestly think it's full of good ideas and sound advice. DS1 (yr 2) is about to have sex and relationships education and I'm very at ease with this. My friend on the other hand is up in arms and is lambasting the school for irresponsible behaviour and waving all sorts of government targets at them . Each to their own, but personally I do agree, the more you can talk about this openly and as part of family life, the easier it must be? My parents were VERY awkward about sex or any aspect of puberty and I'm striving to do for my ds's what I wished my parents could have done with me.
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