I had the ‘sex conversation’ with my son when he turned 10.
It wasn’t difficult at all. Between Discovery channel and our sundry pets — we have a dog and a rather promiscuous cat who has had innumerable kittens — there was very little he did not know. He was just grossed out when he realised that “it” was not something people were forced to do to have a baby but something they often did for fun.
Smug at getting ‘that’ conversation over — my husband, of course, had refused, though now he cackles the loudest at my son’s, now 11, collection of smutty jokes — I boasted about it to friends who all looked suitably impressed.
All but a doctor friend, who said 10 was too late. The time to discuss sex and all its aspects with your child is eight, he insisted! This left me completely confused. So when should a child be told about sex and reproduction?
Purists, of course, insist it should begin as soon as they begin to speak and understand you. They club almost everything — telling a child about ‘good touch, bad touch’, informing parents about any uncomfortable conversation or situation with friends, family and domestic help etc — as sex education. I don’t and prefer to put them in the ‘child’s essential survival guide’ category.
For me, sex education has always been about explaining copulation. Discussing sperms, eggs and where babies came from is not an issue. My son was asking these questions before he turned five. To be exact, a week before his fifth birthday. “Mom, did you and dad get married to have me?” “Umm, yes, among other things.” “So, what did you do to have a baby?” “I went to a doctor. You know babies come from hospitals.” “Does everyone who wants a baby go to a doctor?” “Yes”. “So where does the doctor get all the sperms from?”
I considered mentioning sperm banks, but then, following my policy of not lying to my child, told him the sperms came from the dads and left it at that. He was quite happy with that for a while and imagined reproduction as something that happened in the sterile environment of a hospital lab.
It’s only when he got hooked to Discovery and saw the cat have kittens that he realised babies were possible without the technical assistance of a medical professional. “I never gave it much thought.. I always imagined there were vets to help all animals, even wild ones,” he confided.
So, you see, talking about babies is not all that tough and parents are the best people to do it. I speak from experience. I’ve even had the condom and i-pill conversation with my child. Parents cannot afford to wait for schools to begin sex education classes — teachers are at a disadvantage talking about sex to a class of 30-50 students from varied backgrounds. Students, anyway, will not ask questions because they don’t want their friends to think they are stupid.
How you should deal with it entirely depends on how curious your child is. If he is asking questions, share information using his vocabulary. If he is not, do it anyway between the ages of 9 and 10. It’s better children get the correct information from you than half-baked ideas from their friends, which can wreck their attitudes to
sex for life.