Birds, Bees and Kids

Posted on October 19, 2011 by

A reader once inquired of me how and when we handled talking to our daughters about sex and the physical changes that take place with the advent of puberty. What to tell them, how much to tell and when, are the general types of things we all have to consider for our children. Because we have so many daughters, a few at the beginnings of adulthood, we have some experience with this type of thing, though I am far from an authority. I’ll share as much as I can by way of how and when we broached these delicate subjects with our older daughters. Understand that what worked for our family may or may not work for another, and that boys and girls are different despite what we’ve been told. I’m also interested in how other parents approach the subject with their kids. Here’s what we did.

I had a general discussion with them about menstruation, its onset, and why they have a period around 10 years of age. This was not an arbitrary number. My reasons were varied. Even though my girls turned out to be very late bloomers, I couldn’t be sure of that and figured double digit ages were a pretty good time to at least lay the foundation. Second, my older girls are in school, it’s not unusual for 10 year old girls (5th grade) to have already crossed this early bridge into womanhood and I would much rather they hear the basics and learn the ins and outs of these things from me rather than at school or among peers. Also, as many of you may recall, the “talk” is a 5th grade ritual in almost every school. I still remember the grainy movie I watched as a 5th grader.

In our family we’ve found that having an ongoing conversation about all kinds of issues makes it much easier to talk about just about anything with our girls and sex talks are much less ominous when communication lines are already open. It removes the need for an awkward “moment of truth”. There are lots of good books as well to introduce some of the basics for talking to little ones who ask questions like “Where do babies come from?” A good series can be found here.  I realize that many parents find the subject matter daunting and having books and materials to guide the discussion can help lessen the awkwardness.

As our girls entered the teenage years, my husband began to take over discussions about sexuality, relationships, and modesty. Again, because our daughters are in school, we felt it was important to go beyond just the mechanics, the how’s and why’s of how reproduction takes place. With teen pregnancies, rampant promiscuity, and the casting off of restraints beginning at younger and younger ages, we feel that a proactive approach is best.

Our personal belief is that dads are in a unique position to explain to young women why modesty is important, how men and boys respond to modesty as well as immodesty, and most importantly, God’s standards for relationships. Instilling God’s word on these matters and explaining that His loving boundaries are to protect us is the most vital truth we are trying to impart to our girls in a culture that promotes an “if it feels good, do it” brand of freedom that is anything but freeing. It’s important that adolescents understand that God’s boundaries also preserve our bodies and our spirits so that future marital intimacy isn’t shrouded by an immoral past.

This is why my husband felt it was important to also share with our older girls the possibilities of sexually transmitted diseases. Complete with photo illustrations.  I realize that many Christian parents feel that discussion of STD’s is inappropriate because they fear sending the wrong message. That discussing any of this takes away from the core belief that it’s important to abstain until marriage because God’s word requires it and for no other reason. We don’t feel that goes far enough.

I used to agreed with that line of thought until I followed it to its logical conclusion. The reality is that in many cases, natural consequences indeed accompany disobedience. Thieves often go to jail. People who eat a perpetually unhealthy diet often end up with diabetes, high blood pressure and numerous other health problems. Smokers often get lung cancer. And fornicators, despite their best efforts often end up faced with unwanted pregnancies and STD’s, not to mention the emotional scars that can’t be quantified. In every case, the foolish decision maker, stuck with what should have been understood as a natural occurrence, has told him or her self that it could never happen to them. Young people have an especially exaggerated sense of invincibility. So our reason for including STD’s in our discussion was simple: sins have consequences in this life as well as the next.

When, how and why the birds and bees are explained to our kids will vary from family to family but I hope we can all agree on one thing: that these subjects are best handled within the safe and loving confines of the family unit rather than left to an ever coarsening culture.

What are your suggestions for teaching the facts of life to your children? We would especially like to hear how those of you with sons handle these issues also.