Talk to your kids about sex. Talk early. Talk often. This has been the expert advice on how to parent sexually healthy children since long before I joined the field and long before I became a parent. Last night, my daughter and I had what struck me as our first talk.
H helps me change when we get home in the evening. Really, letting H rearrange my shoes while I get out of my gym clothes helps me keep her from jetting up the stairs. She’s a 15-month old walking, climbing, talking whirlwind who only gets upset when the moon goes behind a cloud.
Last night, she looked at me mid-change, grabbed her shirt and started saying, “beebs?”
“Beebs? Beebs? Mama? Beebs! Beebs?”
“Ohhhh! Boobs!* Mama’s boobs. H’s boobs.” (We’ve done this routine with eyes, ears, nose, and “bit-buhs” – belly buttons. Beebs was the first to come as a question - I think because ours are so noticeably different.)
“Yes, mom’s boobs are different. Yours will change when you go through puberty in about 10 years.”
“Yes, let’s go make dinner.”
I’m sure our talks will get much more complicated when she gets older – when her relationships with others get more complex, when she’s more exposed to the world, when stronger feelings about herself and others come into play.
Right now, I just answered her question about “beebs”. It wasn’t at all uncomfortable. Right now, her teacher tells her she can say “no” if she doesn’t want a classmate to touch her. Those are age-appropriate things for her to learn.
I know – from working here and from my gut – that these small talks will add up in the long run, and she'll be a much healthier, happier person because of them.
* I know “boobs” isn’t anatomically correct, nor is "beebs". We use the real, anatomically correct terms for the most part. Right now, we're focused on helping H say the words she's trying to say more clearly. We’re also real parents in the real world and we are really far from perfect.