explaining sex to kids


What is this world coming to?

Yesterday was just a day of tragic news… where do I begin?

With the woman whose two children were stabbed and killed by their nanny?

Or the 14-year-old girl who jumped in front of a subway because she was bullied?

Or the NY cop who plotted to kidnap 100 women and cook them?

I don’t know which story disturbs me more. Why do these tragic events have to happen?

After picking up her 3-year-old daughter, Nessie, Marina Krim came home to disover her two other children, Lulul, 6, and Leo, 2,laying in a bathtub. They were fatally stabbed by their 50-year-old nanny who stabbed herself in the throat.  The mother had just posted photos of her kids on her blog.

Felicia Garcia, 15, jumped in front of a subway just moments after a group of classmates, described by witnesses as members of the football team, were bullying her. Why did the Staten Island girl have to end her own life?

NYPD officer Gilberto Valle III plotted to kidnap and cook as many as 100 women, including his girlfriend. Yes – cook. What’s more disturbing is that he and his estranged wife just ha d a baby last year. Thank God the FBI was onto him and arrested him before anything tragic could actually happen.

I don’t want my children to live in this kind of world.

I want to protect them from people who can hurt them.

I want to take them to a remote place and live our lives blissfully in ignorance.



by Alex Durrell

My daughter turned five last September and she’s still a sweet, innocent little sprite of a girl. She still watches Treehouse TV, doesn’t know who Hannah Montana is, or what kind of life Zack and Cody lead. She sings nursery rhymes and Raffi tunes and otherwise her musical interests extend only to classical and jazz (her choice, I assure you). She is the very epitome of a little girl, but she’s not naïve.

My daughter knows she has a vulva and vagina and she uses the words regularly. She knows her baby brother has a penis and scrotum. She knows that she and her brother were somehow created by her Daddy and I, grew in my womb and exited through my vagina. She doesn’t know exactly how the process happened, but when she asks questions, we answer her honestly.

We don’t pretty it up for the kids, but we don’t go into graphic details, either. We believe in age-appropriate education in all subjects, sex included. Since birth we’ve been perfectly frank with our kids about our bodies. To them, genitals are no more awkward to discuss than their noses.

Sure, it can be slightly embarrassing to hear my little kid blurt out, “Mommy! My vagina is TINGLY!” at the supermarket. (To which I respond, “We don’t talk about our genitals in public!”, and blush wildly.) Yes, it would be cute if we could call their genitals sweet little nicknames like “flower” and “dingle dongle”, wouldn’t it?

But here’s my point of view:

Educating our kids about sexuality starts early. When I didn’t balk at a friend’s Facebook status asking how her friends felt about sex ed in grade one, it made me take a look at the choices my husband and I have made about what we teach the kids.

Growing up, I’m not really sure I ever heard my parents use the proper terms for body parts. I didn’t even realise women don’t urinate from the vaginal opening till I was in at least grade six and I got my period – which I had NO education regarding (imagine my horror?). That was no way to be introduced to my own body.

I want my children to learn information about their bodies at home, not in the playground. Though, as adults we sometimes squirm at the idea of our kids being “sexual”, the reality is that sex ed doesn’t equal sexual intercourse. My kids need to know they can ask me or tell me about anything. They need to know the correct names and functions of their genitals the same way they need to learn about the respiratory or nervous systems. They need to know that genitals are private, and that it’s ok to touch them (in private, dear toddler, please). A vagina isn’t a bum-bum, folks. It just isn’t.

You may not like the idea that your “innocent” seven-year-old is learning about sperm and menstruation, but these topics are only uncomfortable if you make them so. Giving kids confidence in their bodies and feelings early will help their transition to adolescence during those crazy hormonal times that are (sadly) right around the corner. Sex education isn’t about teaching kids how to have sex, it’s educating them on the processes, names and functions so they’re able to identify their feelings (emotional and physical) properly.

Just this week, my daughter came home from kindergarten with some new education thanks to a bratty classmate: she told me about “making out”. Yup, it gives me hives to think my daughter will ever be making out with anyone, but I was happy she was confident enough to come ask me some questions about why kids might be doing that. Her classmate had witnessed some older kids hiding on the school bus he rides every day and he had kindly told his little classmates about it.

While I’m not thrilled, it’s also no big deal. My daughter came home giggling and I explained that when she’s older, she won’t be as “grossed out” by the idea of locking lips with someone. Her response? “If I decide to kiss a boy or a girl, I’ll let you know.” And that’s right: boy or girl. Because even at her age, we’ve addressed the fact that people can be attracted to those of the same- or opposite-sex. It starts early, and we want her to feel comfortable no matter what.

In our house, we’ve started our kids’ sexual education right from birth, and even if that makes you squeamish, I’m not apologizing. I can’t guarantee that my kids will always want to discuss this stuff with us, and I can’t predict what their choices regarding sexual behaviour will be. All we can do is give them an education, impress upon them what our morals are, and hope they make educated decisions when their times come.

How do you teach your kids about the birds and the bees? 


Alex digs her humour like she likes her wine…dry. With a bite. She knows the lyrics to pretty much every song ever written, has a weakness for plaid and for all her complaining, she always finds the silver lining.  Her two kids and one husband (for now…she’s evaluating the benefits of Brother Husbands) are the things that make her happiest and most frustrated in life, and there’s not a thing she’d change about that.  Despite the name, she blogs here and here but is usually found in her pajamas on Twitter.



More to read:  Birds n’ Bees: Teaching Kids about the Birds and the Bees
by Maria Lianos-Carbone

“Mommy, do you have a pee pee?”, my 4-year-old asked me the other day.

I didn’t know how to respond.

“Umm, no, girls have…. uh….”

I just couldn’t say the word. It sounded too weird. Was it okay to use a nickname? Or should I have used the proper term?

When I was growing up, I learned nicknames in Greek when translated mean “little bird” for a boy’s privates and “butterfly” for a girl’s.

But in today’s day and age, I thought it would be a good idea to see what other people are explaining to their kids about body parts and other fun questions that can catch a mom off-guard, as well as what the experts say. This is what I discovered.

The Name Game

Most experts say to use the correct anatomical names, ie. penis and vagina and not “wee-wee” or “cupcake” or any other nickname you’ve decided to use. Stating the words matter-of-factly will help the child learn to use the words in a direct manner without any embarrassment. It will also help children feel more comfortable talking about sexual topics. The correct names should be given for both male and female parts; one without the other would be unfair or could send the wrong message.

When your child asks why boys and girls are different, it’s okay to simply explain that boys have penises and girls have vaginas. You can say that nature or God made boys and girls that way.

Susanne Ayers Denham, a developmental psychologist, says you can point out that each and every person is unique: your best friend’s eyes are green while hers are brown, and Daddy’s nose is smaller than Mommy’s. In a similar manner, boys’ private parts look different from girls’. If you keep the explanation simple, and don’t act embarrassed, your child won’t be either.

Where do babies come from?

Sooner or later, this question will pop up. How do you respond? The stork? God? The answer can be short and sweet. Be honest but keep the answer simple. One way is to explain is by saying, “you were made in Mommy’s tummy (or uterus, to be correct) and that’s where you grew until you were ready to be born.” If your child wants more details, you can explain that Daddy’s sperm joins Mommy’s egg and then a baby begins to grow. When your child is old enough to ask for more specifics, then he/she will be ready to hear more details.

What are Mommy and Daddy doing?

If your child walks in on you and your spouse having sex, talk to him/her. See how much the child actually saw; if it wasn’t much, you may just explain that Mommy and Daddy were kissing and hugging. If your child seems worried or afraid, it is important for you to explain that you were not being hurt. Dr. Anthony Wolf, psychologist and parenting author, says to stick to the simple and honest approach to explaining what sex is. You can say, “Sex is something that adults do. It’s a way of making babies, and it’s something that they enjoy doing.”

Playing Doctor

Don’t make a huge fuss and overreact, and do not scold – simply direct your child’s attention to another activity. Later, you can explain that even though he/she is interested in his/her friend’s body, people have to keep their bodies covered in public.

Private Time

Tell your child that you understand that what he/she is doing feels good but that certain activities are meant to be done in private. Suggest that he wait to be alone in his room if he feels like touching himself.

It’s also a good time to explain to your child that their bodies are their own and that no one should touch them inappropriately. Tell them that if anyone ever touches them in a way that feels bad or wrong, they should tell that person to stop and then tell Mommy or Daddy about it.