Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Teaching Children About Sex

Today's guest blogger is Deila Taylor-- mom to five kids, now aged 29, 27, 24, 21, and 15. The three oldest have married in the temple, one is on a mission, one is still at home being home schooled. She blogs over at Eve Out of the Garden and Ridgeline Homeschool Academy.  I met Deila through MMB, and although we are at different ends of the Motherhood spectrum, I feel as if we could sit and talk for hours about so many topics.  I love the things she writes about and shares with the world!

Here's Deila!

I had seen enough movies where the mom or dad decides to broach the delicate subject of "sex" with their kids, only to have the kids say "oh, I already know about that," which leaves a parent wondering what they know, when they knew, and who told them.

That is why I decided as a young mother to teach my kids about the basics of sex when they were young--young enough not to be embarrassed, or "grossed out"--young enough that someone else had not stepped in and told them "everything they wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask."

About school age, kids often come home with stories they have heard from their friends. I wanted my kids to know about sex before that happened, and not be surprised or dis-informed by a classmate or friend.

You may be wondering at what age I chose to disclose the so-called story of the birds and the bees to my children. Since I have a background in the biological sciences, I approached the whole"learning about sex" from that perspective. I think it is natural to teach your children the parts of their body--eyes, ears, nose, elbow, and not avoid the parts that make us female or male.

Avoid those areas, and they begin to wonder why--because children are so smart. Being too vague, is not a good idea. I think I remember being slightly amused when I heard Mr. Rogers sing the song"Girls are fancy on the inside, boys are fancy on the outside--everybody's fancy, everybody's fine, your body's fancy and so is mine..."    and I realized what he was saying. That is fine for Mr Rogers, but not for a parent with their child.

Fancy, what does that mean? Vagueness leads to imagining things that may not be true. So I like to teach my two year-olds all the body parts, and that girls are, yes, different than boys, by body parts for sure. I teach them the medical terms, which I will not post here.

However, in addition, I think a mom can choose whatever name she wants for those gender specific parts. I am reminded of an interview with the actress, Andie MacDowell, who shares an embarrassing moment in the grocery store when her little girl, uncomfortable in the shopping cart, loudly announces the problem with her "V". So, later they decide on a code word instead--"Princess". I do believe that is important to know the medical terms for all these body parts, but sometimes it is good to have a substitute, because little kids will say the craziest things in public.

When they are three years old, they seem to have more questions, especially if mom becomes pregnant again. About age three or four I introduce the baby story.  Like I said, I do not want to leave this up to someone else to teach, so I have a book, that shows how babies grow inside the womb, from fertilized egg to full baby. And yes, I say, the "P" word, and "V" word. And in very simple terms, the "P" goes in the "V". That explains how the sperm and the egg meet, an embryo develops, and a baby grows. The book shows this as well, in a respectful but clear way. (Hey, my book is 30 years old) And in my opinion, age eight is too late.

When I showed the book to my youngest son, who was about three or four years old, he looked at me and asked, "Does Hyrum know about this?"--he was ready to run out the door and share the book with his older brother.

It was matter of fact; not funny, not gross, not embarrassing. That is so simple, and a three to four year old is not embarrassed at all, it is just as if I explained that he has two eyes and a nose, and two legs that are great for walking and running. The door is open when questions arise.

Along the way, kids need to understand about morality, dressing modestly, and saving sex for marriage. I used to tell my daughter, when she was young and playing with her Barbie--"Barbie can wear this, but you can't, not until you are married, and sometimes then, only in your bedroom." I did not want to forbid it, but to let her know that sexy clothing is for a special time, married time, with your husband. This way, it is not taken away, but postponed.

At a certain time, the forbidden fruit is no longer forbidden, but we are blessed to be fruitful and multiply. There should be no guilt then. It can be tricky to teach a concept--sexual behavior--that is a sin when you are not married, but not a sin when you are married. Most sins are sins whether you are married or not, such as stealing, cheating, breaking the sabbath, being uncharitable. But sex is tricky. Not married to each other, and it is a sin. Married to each other and it is righteousness, and keeping the commandments. The stirrings are natural and good, but must be kept under wraps until marriage.

By the way, I do not schedule some special day to talk about sex--I have memories of the public school teaching us girls the joys of womanhood--not so joyous a memory. Boys are taught about puberty as well.

But in our home we talk about sex, morality, dating and marriage as we talk about other things in life. I do not focus on it, but make sure my kids know the correct principles. Times to talk have unfolded as I have been prompted by the Spirit.

We read the Strength of Youth Pamphlet and I impress upon them that it is better to wait to date seriously and exclusively until the age of marriage. Girls need to understand that boys are different than girls. That boys are visual and for this reason it is important to dress modestly, and not look sexy.

It is important for kids to know what is normal as they go through puberty, and what is expected of them. That yes, these changes are good, but must be bridled as we put a bridle on a horse to show it the way to go. But there are times when the passion and feeling are all proper and good, in the bonds of marriage. The Apostle Paul said, "Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband." 
 I Corinthinans 7:3  

"The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force." 
 The Family: A Proclamation to the World 

Thank you, Deila!

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  1. it is such a delicate subject. but something that should be celebrated, not put off. thanks for your words.

  2. I'm a firm believer in open conversations about sensitive subjects. I think it's too easy to get intimidated (for the parent and child) when it's a BIG deal. I appreciate your perspective. Thank you!

  3. Children do learn what they are taught. I think this is a wonderful and very well explained post. Congratulations..

  4. Loved this. If you teach children the truths about sexual intimacy with clarity and straightforwardness, they will trust what you have to say about other things too.

  5. Great post on a really important subject. Thank you.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. ooops, lets try this again...there were a few really bad mistakes in the last one! :)

    Two years ago I opted out of "sex ed" in elementry school for my oldest. It didn't hit me till later that ment that I was then responsible to helping him learn all the basics. We have always been very frank with our boys, but this was a whole new level. Over the past two years it has been a learning adventure for our family. :) We are not ashamed, but getting over the "embarassing" part is a stigma we are still trying to do.

    If you would email me the name of that book...I would really love it! I have lots of books but one that actually approaches the act of fertialization tastefully would be wonderful! Thank you

  8. my mom choose to tell me about IT the night before my wedding and was relieved when I told her I already knew about IT. But I didn'!

  9. oh thankyouthankyouthankyou. I've tried teaching my boys correct terms of body parts and tried to be normal and not embarrassed about it, but man that's hard! I love the code word idea; we've had a few embarrassing public moments and a code word can come in handy.
    Can you share the title of your book? Or perhaps someone else has a recommendation for a similar book...

  10. SO helpful! Thank you! I would also be very grateful to know which book you are talking about.

  11. What a great post. We use correct terms for our boy parts. My husband wasn't so sure at first, but I'm glad we've decided to go that route. I too am interested in the book -- I'm sure being so old, its probably not in print.

  12. How direct, clear, and to-the-point! I liked it and it gave me something to think about. What is MMB?


    I want to know about your book as well!

  14. My husband and I were just talking about this the other day! Thank you for these thoughts. I like the matter of fact attitude. :~)

  15. Well said. I agree that in many cases there needs to be more open communication about this topic, but in a respectful way. Thanks for sharing.

  16. This is the conversation that scares me the most, but we had a great conversation with my 9 yr old last spring. Nothing embarrasing.

  17. Thanks for the positive feedback, I was a little concerned about my post--and all the P and V talk--so your comments today made me sigh with relief. :)

    The book I used was the 1974 edition of "The Way Your Body Works" By Dr. Bernard Stonehouse. I checked Amazon and they have some used ones available. There is a 1985 edition as well, which may be the same.

    Price is cheap, from a penny to a dollar. Here is the link:



  18. This is a very touchy subject for me. I do believe in teaching them about it. I want to do it and not leave it to anyone else. I also believe that, if we are teaching them their bodies are temples, than that helps to also teach them the good positive things about sex. I didn't do so well with my older kids in teaching it. It was too embarrassing for me. Then something aweful happened and now, I never let that opportunity pass. We are the ones that are best able to teach our children in the right way and for the right reasons.

  19. My mother did a good job of teaching us about sex. I think she was a woman before time, because I was born in 1952. Her pregnancies every couple of years provided an excellent platform for teaching, and she answered every question we asked forthrightly and in some detail. However, she did not go beyond our questions and answered only as far as our curiosity took us.

    I was about eight years old when it finally occurred to me to wonder (having learned about fertilized eggs and how they moved through the fallopian tube at the age of six), how the eggs got fertilized. In the most natural way, she answered my question, and I was ready for the information because I had sort of learned it by stages through the other pregnancies.

    I taught my children the same way, and it worked out great.


  20. You've described my attitude in teaching my children exactly. I think that is how it should be done!

  21. Wow, as a mother of very little ones, this post is a great read and very informative and encouraging!!!
    Thank you,

  22. Hmmm, you've given me something to think about, for sure. Thank you for your crystal clear way of thinking and explaining.

    I might have to go get a book.

  23. So beautifully written. Too often I think parents don't know what to say and so they don't teach. I think it's so important for them to hear it from you! My sister showed the documentary "The Miracle of Life" and after that her 3 year old and 5 year old knew all about how it happened, and then she explained the commandments. They were informed and if someone giggled about how it happened, they would say "So?"

  24. Oh, I loved that movie, I remember showing that to my kids too. And it is so much better when they hear it from you. I knew I had to teach them before they went to kindergarten. It gives them the advantage for sure--and no confusion.

  25. Wow, Kindergarten Really??? That seems really young, but I homeschool so maybe that's why I feel like they are ok to be older. I feel like it is really important to have them be mature enough to not go around and talk about it. My little boy who is 4 almost 5 I would not feel comfortable telling him about it because he blabs about everything he hears, so I don't want my kids to be the ones that are telling their friends. I have heard 8 or 9 is a good time, but you can definitely teach them stuff leading up to that age about anatomy, and where babies come out and that it has to be between a man and woman to have babies. Am I crazy to think 3/4 is to young? Thanks for the insight though, I am interested in that book also. I'll have to co check it out!

  26. Were you sitting in my living room last night? My two-year-old already asks me, "What's that?" whenever I change his diaper, and I haven't known what to tell him because he's super smart and repeats and informs people about everything and I KNOW it will come up again. But this gave me some new perspective and new ideas. Thanks!

  27. WOW! Delicate subject... well done! I am very much straight forward with our kids and feel really good about it. I also answered questions with clarity when asked, and used a book with cartoon photos... but did that when they were eight. Mine were still very innocent at 8 and it worked very well for them; they were curious, innocent, and not put off by it at that age. It is sad that it is getting harder and harder to be the one to tell the kids before peers do, even at such young ages. We certainly need the guidance of the Holy Ghost for such important issues.

  28. Great article. It's so important for this subject to be explained well by mom and dad first. Then anything kids hear at school is going to sound not quite right, and they can go back to mom and dad for questions and clarification.

    It's also good to remember that talking to your kids about it makes them LESS likely to dwell on the subject or experiment, not more likely.

  29. I think you are right. I asked my 15 year old if he remembered back when he asked if his older brother "knew this". He said he didn't remember, and actually did not think much about it after I showed him the book and the simple explanation.

    At puberty I asked his older brother to explain some of those "boy" things that go on at that age. I knew he and I would be more comfortable with that!

    And with homeschooled kids, you may be able to postpone, true. Each mom knows best. I have homeschooled the last few of my kids, but I just stuck to what had worked for us. There is a 6 year gap between my youngest son and the next older one---so he had teenagers around him all the time. Each family is unique and I suppose the location where you live is too.

    Thanks for all the comments!