Thursday, January 03, 2008

Had The First Big “Birds and The Bees” Talk With Older Son

I’d blogged recently that I was gearing up for a more in-depth discussion of sex and human reproduction with my ten year old son. I was nervous about it and didn’t want to mess it up.

In the past some topics had been discussed by just me and some by both me and my husband but we had not gotten very detailed as we followed the cues of our son to stop talking as he didn’t want to hear any more!

I just wanted to share that it was ‘no big deal’ when it took place last month. A question came up when I least expected it. I was glad that we were alone when it happened. I answered it and elaborated a bit. This time he did not stop me from explaining it as he has in the past. I basically was explaining the sperm and the egg and that whole biology part.

I then showed him a portion of a documentary that we had saved on our TiVo about the human body. In the clip they showed photographs and video footage of sperm and egg and the development of the fetus and then ending in the birth of a baby. I noted in that clip they never said exactly how the sperm joined with the egg (they left that out).

Oh and during the footage my son said he recognized the sperm and egg scene from a comic of The Far Side that he had read about the ‘little worms’ racing toward the big ball. He chuckled about that being a reference to the egg and sperm.

After that was over he seemed like he had received enough information but I wanted to give him a bit more information. I had said in the past a man and a woman such as a married couple came together with their bodies and then that God made the baby. (I do believe that God has a hand in all creation because as we all know scientists can try to make sperm and egg result in a viable fetus but not all attempts are successful! And we know that even when we do ‘all the recommended right things’ that we know about optimal factors in conception that it so many cases it just doesn’t happen!)

So after the documentary viewing, I forged ahead and asked him if he knew how the man and woman’s body came together in order for the sperm and the egg to be in the woman’s body and he said no. So I briefly told him how. He looked down, seemed embarrassed and said, “Oh.”. He was not interested in pursuing this any further so I dropped the subject.

I will share also that a few days prior while we were grocery shopping my seven year old asked a question about sexual reproduction right there in public in the store aisle. It would have been a good starting point for a big discussion on the topic. However it was not the right time or place so I gave a short answer and left it at that.

As Dr. Chirban mentioned in his parenting book about how to teach and talk to our children about reproduction and sex, a major component of good discussions is that the child or teenager must feel comfortable approaching a parent with their questions. If the child and parent lack a certain bond or if there is a disconnect or a distance between the two the child or teen will not feel free to ask questions about sex (or a myriad of other important topics). Now that I have had a couple of discussions with my kids to answer their questions I believe this more than ever.

I am happy to see that both of my children feel free to approach me with all questions including those about sexual reproduction. I have also been asked “What does sexy mean? Is sexy a bad word?” and things like that. Children don’t have shyness about asking about sex unless they have learned somewhere that it is a taboo subject. Dr. Chirban said in his book that he felt that the parents themselves are the ones who teach children that sex is a taboo subject to discuss.

I agree with what Dr. Chirban says about being open to being asked questions. I agree that we should answer these questions accurately. I agree that we should not provide too much information but to use the child or teen as a gauge for figuring out when we’ve said enough. I agree that we should not force too much information on our children, especially young children.

I wrote a book review of “What’s Love Got To Do With It” by John Chirban PhD if you would like to read more about it.

I’m no longer afraid or nervous to discuss touchy subject with my children. Next up I bet the questions will be about homosexuality. In our past visits to Provincetown and on some TV shows we watch there have been homosexuals discussing their relationships or directly discussing homosexuality and using terms such as ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ and ‘partner’ and ‘commitment ceremony’. Additionally on the news on the radio and TV they have heard the term ‘gay marriage’ many times. We have not yet discussed this but you can be sure they are learning something from what they are hearing.

Kids connect the dots on their own, sometimes correctly and sometimes incorrectly.

An example of a wrong interpretation was that when my older son was nine he told me that he should not be reading the comic books Calvin and Hobbes as they were ‘bad’ because they had sex in them. I asked him to show the comic to me and it was one where Calvin put a sign on his tree fort saying “no girls allowed” and the girl next door said it was sexual discrimination. I then explained what sexual discrimination is and why it is not good.

Then I had to say that the book is fine to read and lastly tried to figure out why he thought sex was bad. He said he had heard me tell my husband that the kids should not watch a certain show as it had sex in it. I don’t even recall what show that was (probably some movie). I note that I’ve never spoken words like that in front of my children, saying, “that movie has sex in it so it is not for children” (but you see how they can overhear things). I then tried to explain that sex is not bad but certain things about sex are not right for young children. This is tied in to the private body parts discussion and past attempts at trying to teach my children what they need to know to try to not be sexually molested or to stop molestation if it starts, and to tell us (the parents) if something happens that is not right!

Lastly I want to make it clear that to me teaching our children about human sexuality and reproduction is not simply a lesson in biology. I feel that we need to teach our children our values on the topic of sexual relationships and to address the spiritual side of sexual intimacy. There is a lot more to teaching our children about sex than just about the egg and the sperm. One problem with leaving these teachings to public schools is that they don’t teach the values part, that is up to the parents. So all parents should be ready to discuss not just the facts and the biology but also to teach your family’s values and spiritual beliefs on relationships and intimacy.

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