Top tips for the ‘facts of life’ talk

Don’t wait for the point-blank question

Initiating a conversation about the birds and the bees is a daunting experience for many parents, but don’t make it harder for yourself by waiting for your child to catch you off guard. Instead, find moments in everyday life and use them as your cue to initiate the conversation. For example, if a family friend is having a baby, familiarise your child with the concept of pregnancy by commenting on how exciting this is and asking your child if he or she knows where babies come from. This should be enough to spark a conversation on the subject. You can use a similar technique when it comes to discussing topics such as puberty, too. Preparation is the key to making ‘the chat about that’ a whole lot easier.

Encourage questions

Children are like a sponge, constantly soaking up information to form a better idea of the world around them. This is why it’s important to encourage questions about sex and puberty from a young age, so that your child can acquire the most information as possible when they’re likely to be less wary than their teenage years. Use positive reinforcement through statements such as “What a good question!” and encourage further questions by asking “Is there anything else you’d like to know?” Being an approachable parent puts you in good stead if your child needs to come to you for advice in the future.

Use a book

Rather than blaming it all on the stork and rushing out of the room in a flurry of panic when your child asks a sex-related question, ensure that you have a children’s book about such topics to hand for when the subject arises. Make sure you sit with your child and go through the book together; simply leaving it on their bed and hoping that they flick through it will make the subject seem taboo and won’t give them the opportunity to ask questions. Ensure that the book you choose has plenty of pictures to keep your child interested. This will make it easier for them to understand your explanation too.

Use stories from your past

Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about your own experiences. The younger generation love to hear stories about their parents’ pasts. You can tell them about what age you started to notice you were growing up, and how it made you feel. Talking about your own experiences makes your child feel more comfortable sharing their own personal experiences if there’s anything on their mind that’s worrying them, either now or in the future.

Use uncomplicated answers

The information you give to your child should be simple yet accurate. If – for example – you were explaining to a young child how babies are made, try something along the lines of “the sperm from the daddy swims inside the mummy and when it meets the mummy’s egg, it sometimes makes a baby”. If you overload them with scientific explanations about the spermatozoa’s arduous journey up the fallopian tube to penetrate the egg, there’s a good chance your child will end up confused and overwhelmed.

Talk about feelings as well as anatomy

Once your child understands the basics of sex and growing up, it’s important that they learn about the feelings associated with these topics. For example, let your child know that they won’t only see physical changes to their body as they get older, but emotional changes too. Make them aware that growing up brings with it a lot of varying emotions that they may never have experienced before and that everyone – including you – goes through these emotions. The same goes for sex; make sure you tell your children that sex isn’t just a way to make a baby, but that it is a way of showing you love someone and want to be close to them. Warn your older children of the dangers of STIs and tell them about contraception too.

Never leave questions unanswered

If your child asks a question that you don’t know the answer to (as they often do), be honest with them; say you don’t know the answer to that question but that you will find it out later, and make sure you do. Going back to your child later with the correct answer is always a good idea, because it familiarises them with the concept of talking to you openly about sex – you don’t want it to be a scary subject that they feel they must never speak about. If your child starts asking questions that you aren’t comfortable answering in public then, again, make sure you say that you will answer the question when you get home (and stick to your word).

Are they asking too much too soon?

When your child starts school, chances are they will have friends with older siblings. To younger children, older siblings can seem to be a fount of all knowledge. Younger siblings sometimes misunderstand what older siblings tell them or are exposed to more mature conversations than they otherwise might be. If your child is confused or making comments or asking questions that you think are inappropriate for their age, talk to the school about addressing some of these questions as well. PSHE lessons (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education) start in primary school so a general talk about a tricky subject can clear things up very quickly.

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