Let me tell you about the birds & the bees…

donotI started my lecture that Thursday morning by polling the students in the upper division family science course I was teaching at BYU.

“How many of you had ‘the talk’ with your parents?”
25% of my students in my raised their hands.

“How many had homes where sexuality was discussed openly and on repeated occasions?”
Again 25% of my class raised their hands.

“How many of you never had any discussions with your parents about intimacy and sexuality?” 50% of my class raised their hands.

I was shocked at my students responses.  How and where did parents expect their children to develop appropriate understanding of sexuality if it was never discussed? Did they really want to leave it to curiosity? The heresay talk between adolescents? Surely the 5th grade maturation talk or a one time lecture to an overwhelmed 8 yr old would not be sufficient preparation for marriage?

Our discussion that day came out of their experiences. Many expressed frustration at their parents lack of information and the sometimes sad consequences of it. In a religion where exaltation hinges strongly on the values of chastity and fidelity, how does this happen? Why were discussions about sexuality so absent in many LDS families?

Parents often spend more time going over spelling words with their children, than preparing them to understand and participate in fulfilling, meaningful intimate relationships. Why is something ordained of God, integral to our very existence, and an important component of a healthy self-concept not being given it’s proper place in family teaching?

Homes should be the foundation of teaching sexuality and intimacy. Not only in terms of the nuts and bolts fundamentals but, also the modelling of healthy emotional and physical relationships. In our hypersexualized culture, if we chose not to teach the pervasive innuendo soaked media will, except it will teach it in a moral-less vacuum.

It seems too often sexuality is viewed as a taboo subject before marriage, and then as ‘anything goes’ after. This leads many to seek answers from sources which explore sexuality without an eternal perspective, which may ultimately prove destructive, in and outside of marriage. When intimacy should be viewed as an appropriate, sacred, part of our human experience from the beginning, consistently framed in God’s plan, before and after marriage.

Many friends have expressed to me their discomfort in discussing this with their children. They brush it off saying  their kids don’t need to know yet (at age 10) or they don’t want to take away their innocence. I am puzzled by these responses. I desperately want to communicate to my children the importance of intimacy. I want them to see it in the way God intended it. I want to show them I trust them and that I respect their maturity. I want an honest, open dialogue, that leaves room for continuation.

If parents seem avoidant, embarrassed, obtuse, or hesitant they will doubtfully been seen as a source of information for their children in the future. How will these attitudes rub off? How will they trickle down into a child’s future marital relationships? Our Church clearly states in the introduction to A Parents Guide (a booklet published by the church, designed to guide parents in teaching about intimacy) the role of parents in teaching this to their children.

“One of the most important concepts that the Lord expects you to teach your children is the righteous meaning and use of intimate physical relations between a man and a woman.”

How can do we help keep a subject so important from falling through the cracks?

Share with me your experiences.  How did your parents approach or lack of approach impact you?  What would you have changed if you could? If you have children are you doing things differently? What has helped you successfully address this topic with your children?

About Leslie

(Art Director) In her pre-diapering days, Leslie earned an MS in Marriage and Family Studies from BYU. This entitled her to mold the minds of impressionable college students in rambling six-hour lecture courses and travel the world as child life specialist. She now passes the seasons in a quaint Massachusetts town with her husband, Allen, and three young sons. She spends her days encouraging play, championing global causes, and whipping up a mean R2D2 cake. She savors her nights, stealing away to her studio to paint.

48 thoughts on “Let me tell you about the birds & the bees…

  1. Great topic!

    I only have little ones in the home right now, but my husband and I are determined to make sexuality a non-taboo subject(neither of us were taught well-or at all). Our first step has been to appropriately name our boy’s body parts. Penis is a common word in our home. We’re comfortable with that. Many of my friends are not. Even when it’s just about potty training I hear them using words like, “tenders,” “privates,” “wee-wee,” etc. (I wonder what that sex-talk is going to sound like in a few years?)

    I don’t have it all figured out but I do know a great place to start: http://www.valuesparenting.com/talktokids.php
    It’s an article entitled “How to talk to your kids about sex,” written by parenting experts who happen to be LDS.

    I can’t wait to read your comments.

  2. I find this too, in times where I have volunteered etc and there is such a lack of info.

    Even tho I was shown the progress of a baby in a womb, there was never any explanation of how it got there. I went to a school where my class was the 1st to get sex ed. – my mother banned me from it, she felt this was not appropriate and i believe that because of my handicap she felt it was better left a mystery.

    i remember 2 comments about sex as a pre teen, teen – we don’t have to talk about it, because it can’t be done before marriage. I actually thot it was a physical impossibility before marriage.

    the second, from another female family member: just close your eyes and pretend to like it, then you shouldn’t have to do it again for awhile.

    my husband wishes i had a little more info

  3. My husband and I would have been in the 25%. Our parents never mentioned the subject. We were determined to do things differently and also began by using correct names for our sons’ body parts. We began having “talks” with our oldest when he was 7 1/2. We kept it short and age appropriate. The talks have continued several times a year and we have always emphasized our willingness answer any question. Now that our oldest son is in middle school, the school wants to get in on the act. I went to a parent meeting to see what they would be teaching. I found nothing objectionable and informed my son he would be attending the program with the rest of the kids. He was less than thrilled. He says he is embarrassed to talk about it with us, but we have assured him that we are not embarrassed to talk to him and that we won’t let him down by ignoring it. We know we are doing what’s best for our kids and I knew we were succeeding when my 11 year old boy, telling me about the 5th grade puberty film, used the term “wet dream” in talking with his mom without embarrassment.
    You are so right. How can parents send their children out into an increasingly morally bankrupt world without offering the protection of correct, gospel-principled information? It would be nice if we could shelter them forever. I would love to hold off on some of these discussions for another year, but the reality is that the world will not wait .

  4. I’m a convert to the church. Throughout my time as an investigator, I read everything I could get my hands on. When I read the Church’s teachings on sexuality, I was overjoyed. I thought, finally! I found teachings that made sense to me – that taught simultaneously how sacred it was, how it should be saved for the appropriate bounds of marriage, how integral it was to a relationship, and how beautiful and important it was. I loved how sexual sin was taught as something ugly, but sexuality – that sexual part of ourselves – as something beautiful and real and part of our divine design. And something good, and holy. Not something to squelch or pretend didn’t exist, but something to gain mastery over and to celebrate when the time was right for doing so. Something that was intentionally a part of our makeup.
    Imagine my shock after I joined the church and encountered woman, after woman, after woman, (and man!) who did not see it that way.
    My children are still young, a baby and a toddler. What we instill now is how beautiful and sacred and perfect and loved their little bodies are. We show them and tell them. Physical touch is a big part of our parenting. We don’t get upset with their natural exploration of their genitals, or tell them those parts are bad or yucky. We introduce ideas about appropriate social behavior (as they become old enough for it) without using shame. I believe these things will lay the foundation of love and reverence for the physical body that are needed to understand the Lord’s teachings on sexuality.

  5. I love this post. I think there are few things more important than knowing my children are learning about sexuality from my husband and me. I learned about sex at school – 4th grade. I came home and told my brother to ask him if he thought it was true (the ew, gross factor played a major part) and he told my mom what I told him. She stormed in my room: “Sharon told you that? WELL? Do you have any questions?” I, of course, had no questions about that kind of topic when we had never talked to me about anything like it before and the question was posed that way.

    My husband and I are already raising our kids differently. We are teaching them about their body parts using the correct names. Do you know how many parents don’t do even that? I really think it all starts right there. My 4 1/2 year old learned that while boys have 2 holes, girls have 3, and that’s how our baby came out of mommy last year. He had wondered if she came out “with the poop”. Talking about things little by little – from the time the children are little, using correct words and labels while staying on the child’s level, and not acting like it’s something embarrassing or bad or scary. Oh, it’s so critical.

    I am so glad you’ve brought up something to important! Talking about sexuality shouldn’t be a “one time talk” or something to tip toe around and blush about.

  6. My parents were very open about sex–I actually don’t remember learning about it at one specific time. They always used correct names for body parts, described birth, etc (they actually did home birth and when we were little enough we watched). I also learned a lot at school and from reading things on my own. At the same time though, my mom never really talked to me about menstruation or stuff like that as I got into my teen years. We just weren’t as close and didn’t talk about as many things like that.

    My kids are only 5 1/2 and almost 3, but we figure it’s not something we are going to just talk about 1 time. We use the correct words for body parts and talk about them in a matter of fact way. My daughter (the 5 year old) recently read a book about conception and thought it was fascinating. It didn’t really talk about how the sperm got into the mom, but talked about the egg and the sperm (it’s a cute book–called ‘Where Willy Went’). Sunday in sharing time they were talking about fathers and she raised her hand to say “daddys have the sperm so they can make babies”. I was a little embarrassed, but I figure that it’s correct information. She still hasn’t asked exactly how things get together, but I figure we’ll just answer that question when she asks it. It can’t just be a one-time thing.

    I think it’s also important to not just talk about the mechanics, but also other aspects of our body and relationships. Once she was potty trained we emphasized privacy and things like shutting the door when you go or not changing in the living room. At the same time, we don’t make a big deal about the fact that sometimes she’s less than modest. It’s normal for small children. I want her to learn about privacy, but not be scared of or ashamed of her body. I also felt a strong prompting when she was 4 and starting preschool to teach her about inappropriate touch–I found a few great books that emphasize the idea that “my body is for me” and we’ve been working on that with both our kids. The books (and we) focus on the idea that you can say no to any touch, from anyone (including family) that makes you uncomfortable–like tickling, hugging, kissing. If my kids don’t feel like getting a hug, they know it’s OK. Even if it’s from mom and dad. I hope they know that it’s OK to control their bodies and that it’s OK to say no to other people. My daughter had an incident in preschool where a friend kept pressuring her to compare panties. It didn’t seem weird–they were 4–but my dd was uncomfortable. Thankfully she came to me and shared her fears, and we talked about how to tell her friend that her panties were private and not for other people. I hope that the fact that we’re dealing with the little things like this in a normal way will mean that she’ll be more able to talk to us about other issues in the future.

    At some point your kids will learn about sex and will be exposed to sexual things/ideas, you have to be the one to teach them or someone else will.

  7. I agree with all the above comments. Very well put. I was fortunate to have a mother who explained things very well and clear when I was a child. I completely agree with using the correct names for body parts. I also feel like you have to make it something that is comfortable to talk about while they are young because once they are 10-12 it will become awkward and uncomfortable just because of their stage in like. However, it will be less uncomfortable if it’s already a common subject. A policy my husband and I have followed is to simply and clearly answer their questions… but not more. If they ask how babies are made and we launch into a long lecture pertaining to every aspect if the birds and the bees it would be extremely overwhelming and probably cause them to not come to us in the future. We’ll answer questions as long as they ask them and know that they will stop asking when they have enough to think about… and that they’ll come back when they have more questions.

    Just wanted to share a funny story. My sister-in-law and I have very different views on this subject, which we have openly discussed with each other and have had to agree to disagree. I had my second child and she had her third child on the same day. When we got our families together about a week later our older children (my son was almost 4, and her daughters were 3 1/2 and 6) were having an argument over how the babies got here. I was so proud that my son was insistent that the baby came out of the birth canal while her daughters were saying it came out of her bum. I was so happy to know that he was learning these things at an early age and would not be confused later in life.

  8. Add me to the camp of using proper terminology and explaining the basics of sexuality early. It does have its downside, though. Like when your three-year-old starts telling her preschool carpool buddies about their vulvas and the Moms tell me (laughing hysterically, thank goodness) that their kids get quite an education when they ride in our car…

  9. The first time I learned about sex was when being told about Gary Bishop who had raped and killed some young boys–I was six. It was terrifying. When I started liking boys and whispering with friends, I felt like my parents either lied to me or didn’t know the truth–that it could be fun. I’ve found, however, as a parent that it’s harder than I thought it would be to have the open honesty I always wanted to give my kids. I do have open discussions and try to keep communication open from the time they are small, but my kids are horrified by it. My older girls hate talking about their periods and won’t even go bra shopping–they make me do it while they wait in the car. My son just thinks it’s all gross, but he’s the least embarassed, and my youngest daughter just hates anything about it. I don’t know where I’ve gone wrong, but I recently ordered some books on how to talk to your kids about sex. I’ll also check out the Parent’s Guide (I’ve never heard of it) as well as the links relayed here. I had such great intentions, but based on results I think I missed something.

    Along these lines, I’d love a post on how to teach/discuss/explain/accept masturbation. I have a child who has developed this habit and feels horrible about it. I’ve approached it without shame or anger (they came to me about it, I didn’t confront them), but I’m concerned with how badly they feel about it. Maybe you’d rather not take your blog that direction, if so I understand.

  10. My dear parents never told me anything! When I got my period, I didn’t tell my mom for days because I was so embaressed. I hope to save my kids from being parented by Judy Bloom and do a better job!

  11. Fascinating. Also that fMh is talking virtue today too.

    My parents are extremely modest and discreet people, but they always answered my questions and were open. I was the oldest, so they actually took me aside when I was about 8 to explain somethings. When I was 13 or so, though, I brought stuff up at the dinner table, and we all discussed it right there, so they grew into it too.

    I have the feeling that parents who have good, open dinnertime (or breakfast, whathaveyou) discussions will naturally discuss sex, too, as it arises (no pun!).

    I had a roommate at BYU who insisted on saying penis “pennis” and it slayed me. (she felt “pennis” was less icky or something). And, hello, “tenders”? (Am I the only one who thinks of chicken tenders on this one — maybe I go to McD’s to often!)

    On the masturbation, that’s a dilemma, I think, as there seems to be quite a range of acceptance in the church — from a shrugging about the inevitability to a no-tolerance policy.

    I have a 19-ish sister who went to our mom w/ this concern and went to bishop, got it all cleared up, but still suffers serious guilt. I worry that this is really damaging/unnecessary — ESP since she has cleared with bishop. Not being able to forgive oneself can’t be healthy.

  12. I fully agree with you. I haven’t read the other comments yet so I apologize if someone has already mentioned this. Elder Jeffery R. Holland gave a wonderful BYU Speech entitled Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments about this topic. This is the talk my husband and I used to help our discussion about sexuality with our teens. We love it. It puts intimacy in the perfect light.

  13. alanna-amen to proper terminology and thanks for the link.

    traci- yes- the misinformation and misconceptions, and things we hear that twist our understanding of it

    JM- way to stay on it. I think too many parents are embarrassed oging into into and if theiur child shows embarrasmment back off entirely.

    Asha- so true, this is something great about our doctrine- It is good, important, meaningful. I can tell your understanding of this will make your teaching effective.

    Julie- yes- addressing it ind evelopmentally appropraite ways as you go along, our instrucuction, and topics (body parts- desires) need ot be addressed as our children grown and change cognitively and emotionally.

    FoxyJ- I have alot of science information around, very clear information on conception. I think it helps to normalize it. Yes these topicsgo hand in hand with modest and even the ever difficult talks abotu inappropraite touch/abuse- how can we protect our children if it’s all mysterious.

    Katie- way to go- none of my children came out of my bum either!

    Shelah- yes- we we’re very matter of fact here- so penis is none to fly out in public relatively often but at least always appropriately.

    Josi- I think it is hard if your first exposure is in a bad and scary way. Children are often naturally embarassed, becasue it still seems unknown to them or they feel like novices. Latency is freud’s stage of middle/late childhood (he purpots a sort of avoidance of sexuality) and I think your childrens response it to is also because of the way our culture as a whole presents it. However buying things for them etc. Is not necessarily bad, it is a form of coping for them, but it keeps you involved and can give you opportunties to teach. Keep at it, they’ll become more comfortable in time.

    I will try to sensitively address other issues related to sexuality in the future through a repectful LDS lens. Masturbation and other issues are very relevant for many many families and individuals.

    esodhiambo-how many poor girls have learned from judy bloom- so sad.

    jane- I like the roommate story- parents often introduce nicknames in attempts to bring their child in innocently (WRONG) but it teaches just that that the real words are yucky and uncomfortable!

  14. Perfect timing! My oldest son has his maturation program at school tomorrow so I’ve been thinking about this all week. We have discussed sexuality with him several times over the years, but I always have to push past my instinct that it is not a “polite” topic. It’s good to hear what other parents are doing.

    My biggest issue is to discuss very blatantly and specifically what is NOT okay: to prep our kids to say NO and stand their ground if anyone tries to sexually molest them in any way. When they are very young, we explain that no one except their Mom and Dad (or their Doctor if Mom or Dad are in the room) is allowed to take their clothes off or touch their genitals or chest area (boys too). I think this is one of the biggest dangers of treating sexuality as a taboo or “impolite” topic: that children don’t understand their own bodies and that they are uncomfortable or unclear about correct boundaries.

    My sense is that we live in a different world than our parents and that just “not talking about it” with your children is not an option.

  15. Red- The “taboo” does carry that very real danger. I have tried to impress that upon other parents. Teaching this to your children is vital to their safety. As someone who has been around children in clinical settings who have been the victims of unfortunate occurences having that knowledge and understanding as protective for prevention and exposure when such incidents occur. Those boundaries must be clear and children need language and very concrete ways of understanding what is good and bad. I ask parents- How would you feel as a parent if things happened to your child and continued because you child didn’t understand that it was wrong or didn’t feel they had the language or opportunity to talk baout it?

  16. Great subject, great comments. I also am from the generation of no talk, just figure it out on your own, and have tried to do better with my kids. Its easy when they are little, am finding it harder as they get older. Which is the time it really matters. My boys definately don’t want to talk to me, so have to trust that my husband is covering it well enough. I do better with my daughter but still thought it would be easier than it is. It’s a process, a major improvement on what my parents did. I’ll keep working at it and hopefully keep getting better. My advice, don’t think your children are too young to talk to them about pornography, what it is and how to avoid it. It is a constant battle to keep it out of the home and out of my childrens life. I guess that is a whole other issue though.

  17. I am so with you! I would have been one of the 50%. Everything I learned about intimacy was from rumors at school, science and biology classes, and my own reading from LDS authors and general authorities. When I got engaged, I waited for months for my mom to talk to me and help prepare me, but I got nothing. A couple of days before my wedding I was freaking out because I realized that my mom was never going to open the subject and I was too shy to.

    Luckily, I was given some wholesome books on intimacy as a bridal shower gift. I practically read the important chapters in a closet the day before I was married. Also luckily, my husband was very gentle and caring with me. Things turned out just fine and we figured things out on our own without a fiasco, which is what I’m sure my mom was counting on. I’m sure she didn’t want to intrude on our personal life, even from before the start, but a little attention in that area from her would have helped a lot of my pre-marital anxiety.

  18. As a child, I remember at about 8 yrs old getting a “mechanics” lesson with my mom; my 5 yo brother knew more than I did. But I don’t recall ever having any discussions relating to sexuality and not just actual sex or periods.

    Our oldest is 9.5, and as recommended by both the Eyres (How to Teach Your Child About Sex) and Laura Brotherson (And They Were Not Ashamed), I took her on a special Mom and Daughter date when she was 8 to give her her first intro to what it was all about. Also, we have “A Child is Born” in our bookcase (which she has almost memorized) and I also highly recommend the American Girl book “The Care and Keeping of You,” which helps with a lot of puberty issues for girls. Our 2nd child will be turning 8 in a couple of months and will have a Father Son date with Dad explaining the birds and the bees. My oldest has come to me a couple times since then with some surface questions, but we’ll see what the future holds. She actually was crying during our Mother-daughter date, and wouldn’t explain what upset her.

    We definitely try to approach it with a “sex is great!” attitude. We have taught them all the correct terms (from the time they can talk), but we find that it is better to generally refer to them as “privates” or “private parts,” in normal reference. Because they *are* private, and so if they get hurt at school, for example, instead of telling the teacher that their vulva hurts, they can tell her that their privates hurt, and then they can tell the nurse specifically what hurts. It’s just better social manners, and still correct. They don’t need to be disclosing TMI to just anyone; that is just inappropriate.

    I did a minor in health ed specifically because I wanted to teach sex ed. But, let me tell you, BYU’s program (at least 15-20 years ago), was pathetic! They only had one class that taught human sexuality, and it was disguised under some non-descript name and was a 500-level class. It was ridiculous. Further, the teacher didn’t even teach it. The first day, he divvied out all the subjects (mostly body parts) to the students, assigned us to research them, and then the rest of the semester was spent in students presenting their info on their assigned day. Additionally, my roommate (who I hadn’t known before that semester) and I were about the only single students in the class, making us reluctant to ask any questions because of appearing very naive and stupid.

    I tried to learn things on my own in high school and through college. But our public library here only had the porny books out on the shelf and the real informative books were kept in the reference section behind the counter — like a teen is going to actually ask an adult for a sex book in public! BYU’s library was no better. The real sex books, such as the text book by Masters and Johnson, were kept in *locked* cages, and you had to ask a librarian to get them for you. Not especially conducive to open learning.

    Fortunately, before I got married, a friend (the former roommate) recommended “The Act of Marriage” to me by Tim and Beverly LaHaye. Highly recommend that book, and have given it to several friends since then. Between that and my own research, I felt pretty prepared for married life.

    I think the most important message to get across to our kids, beyond teaching them basic plumbing and mechanics, is that sex is great, it is fun, it is a normal and frequent part of healthy marriages, and it is something to look forward to, but that it is special and is meant only for our spouses.

  19. count me in the group of people who had NO idea / preparation whatsoever. I think it helped that DH was the same way so we could be clueless together.

    But if you’ve read Brotherson’s book she talks about the “good girl” syndrome and how it damages marriages . . . I’m determined for little ellie to not be the same as I was. So we started teaching the anatomical names during potty training. She must have misheard me because a few days later she asked her grandpa if he had “peanuts” he said, “no I don’t have peanuts” . . . I think that confused her more! but I had let my parents know she was in the anatomical learning stage and they figured out what she meant and Papa had to go back to Ellie and let her know that yes, he did have a peanut.

    But yes I am SO DETERMINED for Ellie to not have any of the stigmas that I grew up with . . . I know it affects my own intimacy and I hate that . . .

  20. Good for everyone taking a pro-active and healthy approach. It’s a thin line, but do remember that there is a such thing as being too honest. I was talking with my mom about a dream I’d had — in the dream I was pregnant — and I said I was excited by that but disappointed that I’d “missed the fun part.” She laughed bitterly. I don’t blame her for it; I know you can’t always stop your immediate reaction in time. But still, I really wish I just hadn’t said anything.

  21. izzy- yes I think involving both parents is good and that sort of primary player role can shift back and forth. I would love another post on pornography as I have seen it’s implications for young and old, married, unmarried- etc.

    agreed- sorry it was so hard to get good, pertinent information.

    strollerblader- Oh yes- good information- can we please get out the good information! We need it readily available!!

    kma-you repsonse to how it affects you intimacy- This what I have seen all to often, most commonly married women still haunted by this sort of embarrassment, stigma, in their marriage. It upsets me to see the early lack of improper handling, can cripple marriages and keep peopel from coming to really understand and enjoy intimacy in all its forms.

  22. Love this post! I like others I was given a talk on the anatomy at age 5 or 6 and then nothing. Thank goodness for a great ob/gyn who was informative – It was the best information I received.

    With my own children, we have followed the pattern of many others. Honest, open, truthfull information. Sunday dinners were/are the best place for us to discuss the beauty of sexuality within marriage. I have sons and because of our open dialogue, my future daughters in law have come to me with questions they felt uneasy asking their mothers. My sons felt comfortable having me talk to them. I feel badly that their mothers missed that opportunity – What a great bond it created.

    Don’t feel that just because you have boys your DH should inform them. Take an active roll. They need your perspective.

  23. I read a book earlier this year that broke down the myths and realities of teenagers in the United States. The majority of teenagers want to learn about sex from their parents. The majority of parents want the school to teach their children. It’s not just an issue in LDS homes, it’s an issue in the whole country. And parents are missing out on some bonding experiences with their children by passing it off on the schools.

    I would fall in the 25% that never had a sit down talk but that it was something that was just there and talked about as needed. That is how I plan on doing it with my children. It shouldn’t a one-time deal but should be a topic freely discussed. And it should most certainly be discussed in terms of the Gospel. There is so much more to chastity than just not having sex till you are married. Understanding the eternal aspects of chastity and fidelity would make them stronger principles.

  24. When I told my oldest daughter at age 7 about sex, I thougth I had done a great job of making sex positive and wonderful. When I finished, she looked at me and said, “Mom, when I get married can you explain all of this to my husband, I think I will be too embarrassed.”
    She’s married now. I offered to explain, but my offer was declined.

  25. This past Sunday we had a special lesson for the adults on talking to their kids about sex. Apparently it was instigated by the many questions they were getting in young men and young women about appropriate sexuality. The bishop literally said, “We are going to talk to your kids about this as long as they have questions, and we need you to talk to them about this too.” Although it was never said outright, I definitely got the feeling that the bishophric was frustrated with parents for not talking to their kids about sex more.

    The first sex talk I had in school was in first grade, although I must have learned more about sex before that because I remember knowing the answer to some questions my friend had. My parent’s “talks” didn’t come until 10-12 years later, WAY too late to make any kind of a difference.

    My husband’s parents were part of the 25% who made sex a safe subject and answered their children’s questions as they came. They used anatomically correct term and explained how things worked. It might have helped that they were both biology majors. He was really surprised when he heard that some parents still had “talks.” We are definitely going to follow the pattern his parents have set on this issue.

  26. We talk about sex pretty openly around here. From as soon as the questions start flying (which seemed to be more often when I was pregnant more often).

    Our kids, when they hit 10 or 11, also read the book “growing up” by Brad Wilcox. Really, really excellent LDS centered book.

  27. My parents never said anything to me. I remember that my mother gave some kind of lesson to either the YW or RS on sex or rape or something, (I was under 10 years old.) and I found the book that she was using. It had stories about sex in it (no, not a graphic novel) and I was secretly reading it in my room. She found it there, got mad and told me I was never to touch that book! So, yeah. I was pretty curious, with no clear boundaries of “goodness” set up. There were the occasional lessons in Young Women’s encouraging us to “not even french kiss, because it is too sexual!”, and us pledging not to “have sex” before marriage. Bleh.

    A friend of mine told me how their understanding of sex was that, “yes, sex is great! Those are natural feelings that are also very special and should be reserved for marriage.”

    My husband was so shy that he avoided paying attention to any lesson on sex or sexuality or anatomy at school. Combined with help from his parents, he knew absolutely nothing. I actually pulled out my textbook from my anatomy class and gave him a little lesson on how things worked, and what things were called about three weeks before we got married.

    We try to answer our kids’ questions appropriately. I do say “Girl Parts”, but this article has encouraged me to do otherwise. When we have our next baby, the oldest (4yo now) will know more about the process. I like the kid books that are out there right now.

  28. I just bought a children’s book (at the LDS bookstore here) called “The Trap” about pornography. I thought it was a great book and I really wanted to share it with my 2 older sons (7 and 5), but we decided that the book would make more sense if they knew about sex first. We’ve always used the appropriate anatomical terms and appropriate/inappropriate touching/not keeping secrets, etc., but beyond that, they hadn’t asked any questions. That had been my plan–to just start out by answering their questions, but I just made the executive decision to explain about it all anyway without them asking. It was a great conversation. We talked about intercourse, erections, sperm and egg, masturbation. It went really well. With masturbation, we told them that bodies are designed to have pleasureable sensations when they are touched, and that’s part of how Heavenly Father wants husbands and wives to show love for each other when they are in private. We said that we knew they had probably touched their own bodies because it felt kinda good and the fact that it felt good just means that their bodies work the way they’re supposed to. We said, “Just try not to do that cause that’s really something for your wife to do when you’re married.” I hadn’t really anticipated talking about masturbation, but the kids brought it up, so I gave an answer that I hoped emphasized what is acceptable, trying not to make them feel any shame about anything, as well as show that sexual relations in marriage are appropriate and good. My parents gave me a book when I was 8, told me to read it one night when I went to bed, and that was really about it. As an aside, I did not grow up in the church.

  29. “Parents often spend more time going over spelling words with their children, than preparing them to understand and participate in fulfilling, meaningful intimate relationships. Why is something ordained of God, integral to our very existence, and an important component of a healthy self-concept not being given it’s proper place in family teaching?”

    That was the best quote I’ve read.Both my husband and I fell into the category of being in the 50% where parents did not talk about sexuality at all. I am firmly convinced that the reason we enjoy healthy intimacy in our marriage is because I was really proactive about getting good information. But I really wish that my parents had talked to me.

    I talk with my kids at various times. Sometimes the conversation is formal. Other times it is informal. We answer questions but also bring up the subject. I remember hearing dirty jokes about sex when I was in 2nd grade. I never asked my parents any questions. I don’t think it is appropriate to wait until kids ask questions. Because chances are kids aren’t necessarily sure how to ask their parents. Parents need to proactive and talk about sexuality with their children.

    I think there are many benefits to teaching our children about sex.
    1. a better understanding of the purpose of sex (and this leads to me believe that some of our parents and grandparents weren’t comfortable with it.)
    2. a safeguard for children to understand about their bodies and help them against predators
    3. a healthy understanding of sex and its role in marriage–which hopefully leads to a positive experience in marriage

  30. Interesting topic. I’ve been thinking lately that I really need to have “the talk” with my son. Not because he’s interested in any of that right now, but because I know that he’s getting to the age where kids will start talking about sex and if I don’t say something, he’ll learn it from his friends.

    My parents sat me down and gave me the sex talk when I was a kid and I found it to be pretty embarrassing. But my husbands parents never talked to him at all, which is much worse. His mom just tossed a couple of pamphlets on his bed and expected him to figure the rest out on his own.

    Anyhow, this topic has definitely reminded me that I need to get on with it and start having discussions with my son…

  31. Fantastic article. My son is only 8 months right now, but I’m so glad that I’m not the only one determined to be more open than my parents were. I vaguely remember my parents talking to me about it and the anatomy book they had (Dorling Kindersly anybody?) and everything else they sheltered from me. I don’t remember the menstruation talk. But I do remember overhearing my aunts and a couple girl cousins’ conversation about birth control that was ended because they knew I was around and my mom didn’t want them talking about it around her kids… That was weird to me because I was in high school and already knew about it from other kids.

    I also have strong objections to how chastity is taught in many many Young Women’s classes. Why can’t they just say it how it is? Why the scare tactics? So ineffective. It makes me wonder if any of my old leaders understood it themselves.

    Thanks for all the ideas from the comments, guys!

  32. Love this post! My older daughter (8) knows close to nothing. She was born via c/s and when I was pregnant with my second, and planning for a vbac I figured questions would start, but they didn’t.
    I have been trying to get my husband geared up to talk to her about it in a big fancy way (per the Eyres’ suggestion) and got the book they recommended. He freaked out when I showed him. He simply could not imagine sharing these pictures with her. It’s so funny–I totally expected him to be okay with it. He wanted to wait until she was 10 and I compromised at 9.
    My mom told me everything at 8 and I freaked and promptly blocked it out. When I was 12 I asked her when she was going to explain things to me, and she reminded me that we had, and what did I want to know now? I was so embarrassed at that age that I said I was fine, and continued in ignorance until I got brave enough to do some reading of my own. I think there is something to be said about telling kids before they’re old enough to really be super sexually aware, if that makes sense.

  33. Ah, the joys of growing up on a farm. It makes a parent think they don’t have to actually explain anything if they let the kids watch the animals. Let me tell you, I had some crazy mental images of my parents that could not have been physically possible. I was very confused for a long time. lol.

    A few days before my wedding my mom tried to explain some more things with terms like “get done” and “finish.” Poor woman.

    I too hope to do better with my children and so far have explained enough to my 8yo because she told me, “Mom, I don’t want to know any more yet.” But I still feel unprepared. Maybe after 13 years of marriage I could still benefit from reading those marriage books.

    We do have the church’s A Parent’s Guide. I need to pull it out again.

  34. Thanks for everyone sharing you recommendations of other resources.

    Your wonderful insightful comments are all so rich.

    Tamlynn- those are some classic expereinces.

    giggles- Yes these needs are not only with the LDS world, but everywhere. And children even in their embarrassment, want and need good information.

    I know some people do the the big event introduction- I personally don’t because to me that feels contrived, I think there are many good ways to fit it into a family family culture

  35. My parents never REALLY talked to me about sex or intimacy. I think my Mom may have sort of broached the subject, but it ended up being a “don’t do it until you’re married” shpeal.

    I am definitely doing it differently with my children! Each time I get pregnant, the children I already have get to sit with me MANY times during the 9 months and read books about the whole process. There’s one, in particular, that we have that goes through the WHOLE process. It even says, specifically, that the man puts his penis in the woman’s vagina, moves in and out until some liquid with sperm in it comes out… and so forth! This is my favorite book because it very clearly educates my children on the whole biology of the situation – I just have to deal with the emotions and spirituality of it. Also, as an added bonus, I have been able to read through my own discomfort. So, when I look at my children when we discuss these things, I don’t feel a bit WEIRD most of the time. And that is a HUGE blessing!!! I think looking somewhere else when the whole concept was introduced was really helpful.

    I homebirth. My children see their new sibling come into the world. The whole process is VERY real to them and they know the wonderful abilities of the female body. I have 3 girls!

  36. I grew up in a nonmember household and never had the talk at all. I learnt about sex from finding pornograhphy at home. There was playground talk too of course at school. When I started my periods I thought I was dying. What a life! Both my husband and I were very naive when we married and it took us a long time to be comfortable with sex. Things are great now but that is mainly down to me finding outmore for myself. I did talk to a couple of close friends before i married which helped.

    I have 2 younger sisters (quite a bit younger) and I went out and bought them detailed body books as I didn’t want them to go what I went through.

    I try to be open with my children aged 12, 10, and 8 and sometimes they laugh when they are told things. I hope I can help them learn not just mechanics but also to feel good about their bodies and the wonderful things that can happen. I do find it is not the easiest part of parenting though.

  37. As I read the comments, I just keep thinking I have nothing to add, but to say that just like everything else in the gospel, sex is part of the whole truth. If we talk to our children about birth, they will know about sex. If we talk to our children about romantic love and marriage they will know about sex. If we talk to our children about chasitity they will know about sex. It doesn’t have to be a one time talk.

    We shouldn’t fault previous generations, they really were doing the best they knew how. Now that we have learned from previous generations that ignorance isn’t the best road to certain chasitity, we can teach our children openly. What a wonderful community and church we have where that decision is left, largely, up to us as parents.

  38. My parents spoke pretty openly about sex. We learned about it in conjunction with my mother’s pregnancies. She would draw diagrams, etc., and we would discuss our questions. While she was entirely comfortable the day she explained the mechanics of the whole thing in response to one of my questions, I remember being shocked to think that a baby had to emerge from an opening so small. I thought it was hard enough to imagine the act initiating the pregnancy as being “possible,” let alone a delivery!

    At any rate, my siblings and I grew up pretty comfortable with our sexuality, and my husband and I have modeled the same amount of openness in raising our own kids. I will say that I am the one who wound up doing most of the explaining, mostly due to my availability, though I did refer the boys to their father when the questions were specifically related to parts or functions I did not possess and was therefore not particularly adept at answering.

    =)

  39. I grew up on a farm where animals were making and having babies all the time. My dad even let us stay home on days when birth was in process. I guess it taught me what I needed to know. The discovery channel offers some pretty graphic animal reproducton films. Also they have several well done human reproduction films.
    I also found including my children in my own birth process helpful. There are many useful and well done books about human reproduction available for parents to use. I also found that not treating the subject as though it was “dirty” but a fact of life provided a better atmosphere for talking about it.

  40. Not something to squelch or pretend didn’t exist, but something to gain mastery over and to celebrate when the time was right for doing so

    This is a beautiful line. I think I will use it in the future with my kids, if you don’t mind. :)

  41. I sure past generations had even more lack of good information than much of our generation. Hopefully, the trend toward more honest, good education will continue.

    I am glad to hear so many of you are heading in the right direction and taking an active stance in teaching this.

  42. Like many of you I didn’t talk to my parents too much about this. They did make effort to show love openly. They did ask me if I had any questions. Nope. In fifth grade sex ed I had the gross-out realization that my parent must have done that at least 7 times! My mom did say, “One kiss leads to another.” I found out she was right.

    I french kissed plenty, but was lucky to remain chaste. I thought sex would be no problem, although when the gynecologist said to tell my husband what felt good, I didn’t know I would be too uncomfortable to find out. I didn’t know what felt good. It really wasn’t until twelve years of marriage that I learned to open up and actually enjoy (have an orgasm) myself. That change came about much due to Laura Brotherson’s book, which I think every marrying/married person should read.

    I always thought I’d use the correct terms with my kids. I guess I do, but mostly private parts is how I refer to them. I like the comment about this, as they shouldn’t be treated the same as an elbow (as I’ve heard some sex ed teachers try to portray them).

    We’ve tried to be open with our kids, and for the boys I’ve been fine. However, I find that I struggle more with my eight yr. old daughter. This has been a great topic to discuss openly (even if I did go anonymous this time).

    One more thing, I have sisters that were sexually abused by a foster brother. When I was RS pres. I was asked to present a special class on sexual abuse prevention to all the adults in the ward. In my preparation for this is when I was inspired to say that if we didn’t teach our children the correct ideas about sex, they wouldn’t learn the right things from our culture.

    Thanks for this reminder. I loved Elder Holland’s talk too (I was there and it helped me a lot).

  43. I think the best chastity/morality talk or lesson I was ever given was by you. I remember it clear as day and I think everyone else who was in that Young Women’s room does,too. You were frank yet respectful regarding the topics and I think it was perfect. I will never forget the clothes line you hung up…such a great lesson.

    I am in total agreement here, but yet I still have the hardest time teaching my son to use the anatomically correct words for his body parts (and mine for that matter). In fact today I grabbed a tampon from under my sink and headed to the toilet and he was totally curious and asked what I was doing. I didn’t want to tell him what I was doing. I wasn’t ready! Finally I just said, “I’m using a tampon now can you go grab your shoes and socks, hon?! Thanks!” Lame, i know. He starts kindergarten in the fall, and I suppose by then I will shed some light on this topic.

    I think a lot of parents may fall in the same category: they want sex to be an openly discussed topic and want their kids to have a healthy, wholesome view of it.But the initial step to bring them out of nievete is just so hard.

    On the flip side, wearing my RSP hat, we certainly had a frank discussion on it in Relief Society. I taught these moms they need to be frank and open about this stuff with their kids, because they will learn it elsewhere if they don’t. I truly believe it and we have been counseled even by the general authorities to do this.

    Help! How do I take that first step?! I’m not ready. I want my son to be 2 again.!!!!!!

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