With Elle entering 5th grade, we knew it was time to have “the talk” with her. We wanted her to have correct, complete information from trustworthy sources before she started learning about puberty and sex from her classmates. She learned about several of the female reproductive organs as well as the need to have a cell from the wife and a cell from the husband to make a baby during our IVF journey. However, it was time to give her a more in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the male and female reproductive systems and how they work together to create life.
I’m not a doctor, psychologist, or any medically degreed professional. But I’m a mom. A mom who knows how to get the information she wants and has access to the Holy Ghost for guidance. In this post, I’m sharing our experience with talking with our 10-year-old daughter about puberty and sex.
Better to Learn at Home
We knew we wanted three outcomes for this discussion:
- Introduce correct anatomical vocabulary
- Establish our authority on the matters of puberty and sex
- Open the discussion in a safe environment
At first, all of the vocabulary involved in our discussion seemed to be overwhelming for Elle. By the end of our discussion, she felt more comfortable with the new terms she’d learned, but it’ll take some time for her to be completely comfortable with them. And that’s ok. This “talk” shouldn’t be an event, but the start of a long experience that is deepened and developed over time. When the questions start getting more complicated than “How do you pronounce vas deferens?” we want to have already established ourselves as trustworthy authorities on this subject.
Using correct anatomical vocabulary can discourage sexual abuse. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has suggested several tips on how to “minimize your child’s risk of molestation.” First on their list is the following advice:
“In early childhood, parents can teach their children the name of the genitals, just as they teach their child names of other body parts. This teaches that the genitals, while private, are not so private that you can’t talk about them.”
If our kids ever encounter a real-life example of “bad touch,” we want them to be empowered to say no and know why they’re saying no. If abuse does take place, we want them to be able to accurately and confidently report what happened to medical and legal professionals as soon as possible.
We emphasized several times that we use these words and refer to these body parts with respect because they represent private parts of our bodies. But we also emphasized that private doesn’t mean secret or embarrassing.
The Gospel Perspective
We checked out two books on puberty and reproduction from our local library. (You can see them below.) While they were both very informative, neither included our religious teachings regarding our bodies, marriage, and procreation. We included the following gospel principles in our scientific discussion:
- Our bodies are gifts to us from God and, therefore, sacred
- Our bodies can do amazing things (like create life!)
- Sexual intercourse within marriage is wonderful and OKed by God
President John Taylor ( the third prophet and president of the Church) has said:
“We have a great many principles innate in our natures that are correct, but they want sanctifying. God said to man, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.’ (Genesis 1:28.) Well, he has planted, in accordance with this, a natural desire in woman towards man, and in man towards woman and a feeling of affection, regard, and sympathy exists between the sexes. We bring it into the world with us, but that, like everything else, has to be sanctified. An unlawful gratification of these feelings and sympathies is wrong in the sight of God, and leads down to death, while a proper exercise of our functions leads to life, happiness, and exaltation in this world and the world to come. And so it is in regard to a thousand other things” (Gospel Kingdom, 61).
Adam and I were able to testify on scientific and gospel truths which brought our discussion to great, safe place for questions and comments. We kept the conversation respectful while still inviting curiosity. Introducing sex on the foundation of gospel principles helped Elle stand on familiar ground even though she was learning a lot of new things.
5 Tips for When You Have “The Talk”
Here are five tips to create an experience that is as informational, open, and as positive as possible.
- Speak to the child’s level of understanding while using medically correct vocabulary
- Try not to overwhelm them; take comprehension breaks as needed
- Let them ask questions
- Be honest about whether you can answer them now or will have to get back to them
- Assure your child this isn’t the only time they can talk or ask questions about sex
Plan a fun activity or treat for after the main discussion is over so your kid doesn’t associate sex with tense, overwhelming, or embarrassing feelings. We shot off a bottle rocket after we were done. It was absolutely unrelated to our talk and allowed us to easily and comfortably transition to the rest of our evening.
Talk to Your Kids About Puberty and Sex
Our bodies are powerful and amazing gifts from God. They are so incredible that when they are joined together they can create life. Since this is a wonderfully sacred power, God has established laws or commandments that teach us the appropriate times to use this power. We will be happiest if we treat our bodies and others’ bodies with respect and only engaged in sexual intercourse when we are married.
However you present the information, aim to make it a positive experience for everyone. Prepare with your spouse beforehand and assign each other whichever tasks you feel comfortable with. Try to resolve whatever issues (embarrassment, shame) you have with these topics yourself beforehand so your child doesn’t accidentally become your therapist – and so that you don’t transfer any negative paradigms about these topics to him or her.
Remember, if we don’t teach our children the world will.
Books We Used
What’s the Big Secret: Talking About Sex with Girls and Boys by Laurie Krasny Brown
Your Growing Body and Remarkable Reproductive System by Paul Mason
Have you had “the talk” with your kids yet? How did it go? Any tips you’d like to add?
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