When is the right time to begin sex education for kids to begin?
We all know how babies are made, right? When a woman is ready to become a mother, a Stork flies down and delivers a new baby to the family.
Peddling this myth to my daughter has never occurred to me, and with the number of pregnant women we see in everyday life, I have no idea how you’d hide the reality of where babies come from – or why you’d want to do so in the first place. Of course, this can lead to the trickier follow up question of ‘How did the baby get in there?”
My parents never really spoke to me about sex. The one time my mother tried, I was 14 and she was driving me home from school, and started awkwardly talking about how I shouldn’t worry if I found a white mess in my pants (I think she was hinting at wet dreams). I shut that conversation down as soon as I realised.
Sex education in school had started when I was 11, but even by then, playground innuendo had already established itself, and sex was something secretive and naughty to giggle at.
Given these childhood experiences, as a parent I feel I sex education for kids should begin early. But in the UK, the Conservative government has refused to make Sex & Relationship Education (SRE) statutory in schools. Under the national curriculum, SRE is compulsory from age 11 – prior to that it is up to individual heads whether to teach sex education in schools or not.
In this digital age, 11 is far too late to leave sex education for kids. So if we want to make sure our kids are learning about sex earlier – before being exposed to playground gossip or the first kid who realises how easy it is to access porn – it’s probably up to us parents.
My first sex talk with my daughter happened far earlier than anticipated. When she was 3-years-old, she asked about a pregnant friend of ours, when she asked the question – ‘But how did the baby get in her belly?’. I explained that a seed from the daddy joins and egg from the mummy, which grows into a baby. “But how does the seed get in there?”
Momentarily pondering the directness of this question, and my mantra of never knowingly lying to my daughter, I rather aptly though ‘Fuck it’, and I told her. So we had our very first sex talk, involving men and women, and how they use their genitalia to reproduce. It was all pretty matter of fact, and having her curiosity satisfied, the conversation ended.
There was of course lots missing from our first sex education talk. Reproduction and sex are two different things. Reproduction regularly happens artificially, and many children are conceived this way. Being a parent isn’t necessarily about your biological relationship to the child.
Other key aspects I feel need to be addressed include same sex relationships, the importance of safe sex, issues around consent, and simply the pleasure of sexuality.
We haven’t specifically gone into those aspects yet, but the ideas behind them have. Kids understand pretty well the pleasure of doing something because you enjoy it. General hygiene is often discussed and the need to prevent the spread of germs and viruses.
Recently, my daughter professed she wanted to marry her best girl friend when she grows up. I said that’s fine as long as her friend wants to as well – covering same sex relationships and consent in one go.
To answer the question posed in the title of this post, I guess the answer is when they are ready. And perhaps that is when your child asks. I’m happy for this topic to remain child led for now. If she asks questions, we’ll answer them. But there are looming deadlines. There is clearly a need for children to know before they hit puberty, and that isn’t as far away as we might think.
But even sooner than that, all it takes is another child with internet access to show yours explicit material. It’s in no one’s best interests for that to be your child’s first sexual experience. I feel the sooner we educate our kids about sex the better, before some kid with a smartphone gets there first.
For more information, please visit The Sex Education Forum.
When did you talk to your child about sex? Was it too soon or do you wish you waited? Or what age do you think you will talk to them about sex – if at all? When should sex education for kids begin? Please comment below.