The ideal age for “the talk”
I went to Amy Lang’s presentation last night, and of course, she was awesome. You’ve seen her this year and last year on The Talking To Kids About Sex Interview Series, and her talk last night on the basics of how and why we should be talking with kids about sex was spot on.
She did, however, say some things that were new to me, and the more I think about them the more I think she’s right.
The first one to share with you is: The ideal age to explain sex and conception is 5 years old.
Shocked? in disbelief? Let me explain why…
I routinely say that parents need to explain sex and conception by age 8…but that’s not necessarily the ideal time. At 8, many (if not most) of their friends have already learned where babies come from, and it never feels good to be the last to know. At 8 and above, it’s more and more likely that your child is learning about sex from some outside source – peers, the internet, the media – and not hearing about it from you first. And honestly, if you haven’t talked by then, you probably have some of your own stuff to clear. Something’s in your way; you’re blocked, conflicted, putting off this talk.
Sure, you say, but as early as 5?
Here are the pros:
+ An 8 year old is more squeamish about bodies and gender than a 5 year old. Your 5 year old will be more comfortable with the book and the talk, which will make you more comfortable too.
+ The 5 year old is already totally interested in private parts. They want to know how babies are made, the mechanics of it all. Take advantage of that interest!
+ The 5s take in information and move on, whereas the 8s mull it over and attach more significance to it. If your 8 year old asks questions, you’ll be in for deeper follow up conversations sooner, and if they don’t, you’ll be wondering what’s going on in their heads and whether you need to address it.
+ At 5, your child probably has not received any information about sex from any other sources, so this is entirely your show.
+ By starting to talk at 5, you’re protecting them much earlier from some very bad things. That’s 3 years in which you’ve protected them by saying sex is for adults only, not for kids, preventing sexual abuse. That’s 3 years in which you’ve protected them by explaining that there are private movies of people having sex on the internet, and that those pictures and movies are not for kids, preventing porn exposure.
+ You’ve gained 3 more years with which to have follow up discussions. Those who start later have just as much to do, but in a shorter time. It takes some pressure off.
In short, your 5 year old is more innocent, and that can actually make this talk easier and more protective – both for you and your child.
Here’re the cons:
– You can’t tell yourself you’re “waiting for them to be ready,” that you don’t have to have this talk until they ask exactly that question.
– Your child may have a bit less impulse control at 5 than at 8. Either way, you’ll have to tell them that it’s not their job to explain sex and conception to their peers – that’s a big talk each kid should have with their parents.
Think it over. Do you want your child to be the smarty pants who knows this stuff? Because the real way kids lose their innocence is from Adverse Childhood Experiences, like childhood sexual abuse or watching that hard core porn video.
Realize you have a lot of talking to do? Don’t panic! I’d love to help you formulate your plan. Let’s jump on the phone and get you out of paralysis and into action.
In support of you,
P.S. Have you registered for the What to Say When webinar next week? It’s free! Let me share with you what topics to cover, at what ages, and in what depth.