When it comes to explaining the birds and the bees to junior, most parents can be a bit of a prude... but honesty and age-appropriate facts are the best ways to deal with this situation.
WORDS ANGEL DREWGUS
So as parents, what can you do? How do you hold on to your right to raise your children with the values you believe in? You wake up to the reality that the whole world is talking to your children about sex. It is your job as parents to begin this conversation at an early age and sustain a dialogue with them about sex. Even if it is difficult to talk about it, they will respect you for being honest in answering their questions about sex. You as parents, need to think and act proactively.
The Right Age
First and foremost, there is no prescribed age at which children should be told about the birds and the bees, however, there are a couple of things to keep in mind before having this conversation. It is ideal if parents have this conversation with their children themselves rather than have the children find out from someone else. So, if you think your child is in an environment where he or she may be exposed to the subject earlier than you would like, it is best to tell them about it yourself, explains Anita Shankar, psychologist and parenting coach, from Perceptive Parenting Pte Ltd.
Secondly, you can have the conversation with them when they start to show curiosity about it. So once they start asking a lot of questions about the birds and the bees, it is best to tell them about it. With increased media available to all children it is even more important for parents to be more open about it. How much or how little you choose to tell your child should be determined by their age and their ability to comprehend what you’re saying. It is also important to keep any information as factual as possible.
Kids can start becoming curious about their bodies from the age of two. They also start to notice differences between male and female genitals around that age, explains Shankar. Between the ages of two to five, this gets further magnified. We should always speak to children about their body without instilling a sense of shame, disgust or embarrassment.
When it comes to naming body parts, it is best to use the correct terms when discussing them with your children. It is important for children to know the correct terminology not only for their private parts but also the private parts of the opposite sex. This ensures confidence, comfort, and ease that children will have with their bodies. Using nicknames for private parts, says Shankar, may imply to the child that it is embarrassing to use the correct terminology and that nicknames are necessary to reduce the awkwardness when they are talking about it.
Let’s Talk about The Birds and The Bees
The term ‘the birds and the bees’ refers to sex. It is an old fashioned term used when parents wanted to explain to their children about sex and sexuality without being too specific, explains, Fiona Walker, who is the chief executive officer and principal of schools, from Julia Gabriel Education Pte Ltd.
So when talking to your children about the birds and the bees, how much is enough without giving too much information? Your child will be the best guide in this matter. Children will usually either tell you to stop when they have received enough information or ask for more information if they continue to remain curious. Let your child be the judge of how much information to give to them. If your child has a misconception then make sure you rectify it, in an age appropriate way, advises Walker. If children are unable to have an open discussion about sex, they could hold onto misconceptions for a very long time, which could be embarrassing for them at a later date.
Also, keep in mind that it is very important to know how much your child knows before you start talking. This will give you a clearer picture of what they already know. It’s always good to ascertain what they know as you may also need to clarify some things that they might have been misinformed, or have misunderstood. This would be great, but if you remember your own childhood and any discussion your parents might have attempted with you on this topic, the likelihood is that you probably already knew more than they thought you did. With the use of the internet, children nowadays know more about sex than we expect. However, explains Walker, they may still need to ask questions about what they have heard or seen. These questions are the most important ones for you as a parent. Being open and available to your child’s questions provides you a great opportunity to share the values you hold regarding sexuality while giving them age appropriate information.
Where Do Babies Come From?
So how do you explain to your child when he asks you ‘where do babies come from’? It is best to be as honest and realistic as possible, again, keeping in mind that the information given to the child is age appropriate. According to Shankar, telling your child about the eggs in mummy’s body and seeds in daddy’s body is a good introduction to the topic. This can be followed by how the seed fertilises the egg to make a baby (eg. daddy’s seeds swimming to mummy’s eggs). Sometimes children don’t want to know more and may ask you to stop and if they do, you should respect them and stop. Keep your answers simple and straight forward and only answer the questions that they ask.