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Talking to Your Child About the Birds & Bees

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I recently received an email from a mother who was concerned because her nine-year-old daughter had been told about sex from friends at school. The mother was justly concerned, but also told her daughter that she was “too young” to know about these things and to focus on her schoolwork.

As unfortunate as it was that her daughter heard about “the birds and bees” from her friends, it was also an opportunity for her parents to sit down and have an open discussion about the biology of the human body with their daughter.  It may seem that children are learning about sex, sexuality and even homosexuality at younger ages, but it is important that we as parents feel comfortable in discussing these subjects with our children. Children ask questions about “how babies are born”, “what does sex mean?” and other common topics at many different ages. Some children never ask, but they too need to hear “the facts of life and maturation” from their parents.

I think it is easiest to open up these discussions when your child brings up the subject. Again, this can be as young as five or six, or may be as late as 10 or 11. Schools usually begin teaching about body changes and sexuality while in grades 5 – 7, depending on your school district.

As a parent, I felt it was important that I discussed these subjects with our children before they heard about it at school. I wanted to be the first one to have an open discussion with our children to explain anatomy and biology and to make sure that I knew that they received not only correct information, but also that they knew that they could ask us any question that they had, or had “overheard” from others. I hoped that this open communication would continue throughout their adolescence.

So, if your child asks questions, take the time to sit down and honestly answer their questions, and also explain to them that these are private matters to be discussed within the family and not on the playground or computer. There are many books available to help facilitate your child’s questions and curiosity, geared for different ages. In order for your child to feel comfortable about their sexuality, you need to be comfortable with explanations, so prep if necessary. Knowledge is power, and this subject needs to be taught at home too.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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