Podcast Episode #44: Kids and Sex
Today we talk about sex. How do you discuss it with your kids? What’s age appropriate? How much is too much information? Cindy, a former PA, gives us some good advice on how and where to start the conversation with your kids. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa, your host, and I’m talking with Cindy from Cindy’s Suds again today.
Alyssa: Hello! It’s lunchtime and we’re hungry.
Cindy: We are!
Alyssa: So hopefully you don’t hear our stomachs growl. We are going to talk about a topic today that probably doesn’t pertain to families with babies, but even for me with a five-year-old, it’s something I’m thinking about. You with teenagers have definitely gone through it, and that is talking to kids about sex. And it’s interesting how young kids begin to ask those questions. When my daughter was three, I got the first, “Mommy, how do babies get in your tummy?” And at that age, literally, my explanation to her – we were driving in the car, and I had no forewarning, of course, right? So I was like, well, daddies have sperm; mommies have eggs, and when they meet, it makes a baby. And she was like, “Okay.” That was literally a good enough explanation for her, so I’m like, oh, my God, when is level two coming? What do I have to explain next? She did, when she was four, asking something like, well, how does the baby get in there?
Cindy: What did you say?
Alyssa: What did I say? I think I just said, well, remember how I told you about the sperm and the egg, and they have to meet? And she didn’t ask anymore. So she was like, no, I didn’t remember that, so in her mind, that was an explanation. So we haven’t gotten there yet, but she’s five; I don’t know when she’ll ask again. But you have teenagers.
Cindy: Talking to your kids about sex is the worst thing ever. And it’s the scariest thing ever because you feel like you don’t want to give too much, but you don’t want to give not enough. And the thing that I’m learning as my kids are now reaching adulthood and beyond is that I probably should have started the conversation earlier, and I probably should have revisited it so casually that it was not a big deal. Because when you have “a talk,” and maybe when they’re between the ages of nine and eleven, you have “the big talk,” you’re building it up in your head. It’s probably awful for your kids to sit down and hear about it.
Alyssa: Because they don’t want to hear about it, thinking that your mom and dad have sex. That’s probably the grossest thing you could ever imagine.
Cindy: Absolutely, yeah, they’re probably wanting to stick needles in their eyes! But now in hindsight looking back, I’m like, oh, I can see where – I have some friends that are so very open that I’m kind of like, oh, my gosh, I’m a little uncomfortable. But their kids seem to roll with sex talks better than my kids who would run away with their hands over their ears. “Okay, okay, got it, got it got it.” Like, they’ll ask me something completely random, and if it has anything to do with sex now, I feel like they’re like, “Okay, got it, got it.” Whereas I’ve got some friends who were like, “Oh yeah, okay, so you know…” And they lay it right on the table, and their kids don’t bat an eye because they’re so used to Mom and Dad being so open about it. So it seems like you have to do what’s right for you as a family. Some people naturally are going to be more conservative about how comfortable they feel talking to their kids about sex, and some are going to be more open, but regardless, it’s a conversation that has to happen over and over and over.
Alyssa: Not just once?
Cindy: Not just once.
Alyssa: I never really got a sex talk, and when I did, it was one time and very – it probably lasted all of 20 seconds, and it was super uncomfortable, and then there was nothing else.
Cindy: Right. And I think that’s what a lot of us grew up with because who wants to talk about sex to their kids?
Alyssa: I’m really not afraid of it; I just don’t want to do it wrong. And so when she asked me at three, I was caught off guard, but I feel like I’m going to be very open about it without divulging too much. Like, I’m not going to tell her different positions when she’s six years old, but…
Cindy: Right, and I felt too, as a PA, I was going to be very open about it, and my kids are more private. They’ve always been more private. They don’t change in front of each other, and we’ve got two boys that share a room that they make the other person go out. They’ve always been like this, so that’s just their personality. So I’ve had to kind of work with them. I’m more open with talking about anatomical, factual type of information because that’s medical-minded for me, but the whole key is, I just feel like you have to do it in stages enough and have it be talked about enough where it’s not going to come out as a one-time shock and then okay, that was your 20-second sex talk, and now good luck. So there’s lot and lots of great resources out there, and there’s lot of great books. You can get them at the library; you can get them at different bookstores. Books that talk about what’s appropriate at three? What’s appropriate at five? What’s appropriate at seven? And kind of read them all. Even if you have a ten-year-old, read what’s appropriate at three because you may not have talked about what’s appropriate at three. And if you start talking to a ten-year-old and they’ve not gotten the three-year-old information…
Alyssa: You’re still going to lose them.
Cindy: Yeah, that’s just going to be over the top.
Alyssa: That’s a good idea. So I need to go buy a couple sex books?
Cindy: Buy some sex books because there’s a lot out there, and you can pick and choose as a mom what working is comfortable for you. I personally would definitely say use anatomical words. Do not do fake words like “this is your boo-boo.”
Alyssa: My daughter knows it’s a vulva.
Alyssa: The other day, I was like, “What is this little wad of toilet paper on the floor? Why didn’t you throw it away?” She was like, “Oh, that was stuck in my vulva.” It’s like, okay, still, I’m glad you found it, but it needs to go in the trash can. But you know my parents’ generation. She was talking about her vagina one day, and my mom was like, “Did you hear her? She just said vagina!” I’m like, “Well, that’s what it is. What do you want me to call it? Her hoo-hah?”
Cindy: Exactly. Don’t go there because our kids are smarter than we think, and if we start using dumbed-down words, they could potentially have a dumbed-down version of what sex is. You don’t want that. You want to be a straight shooter with them. The other thing that – and this is an aside, too, is the whole sex talk and starting at super young, just being very age-appropriate with what you’re saying, but start the conversation. You’ve got to just have that conversation. It’s got to be comfortable and natural and it’s got to be something that flows kind of woven through your whole parenting. It’s got to be consistent. The other thing that we are facing now that we didn’t have in our time growing up is that pornography is everywhere.
Alyssa: Readily accessible.
Cindy: And when we were grown up, you had to search out pornography. And now you have to flee from pornography, and it’s a very, very different world. They could be innocently on Snapchat or Instagram or Facetiming their friends – whatever they use computer-wise, and every family has their own boundaries for what they are comfortable with for computer time, but it is literally out there everywhere. So you would be naïve to think that they don’t know and that’s a problem that they’re not going to run into until they’re in junior high. Oh, sister. It’s a problem that’s happening super, super early and young because it’s just everywhere. So you’ve got to start thinking now about if you want to have on internet blockers or some kind of an accountability blocker on your computer or on their phone. Be careful with giving your kids phones. Every kid has a phone, but now looking back, I’m like, gee, that was like handing a time bomb to your kids.
Alyssa: Open access.
Cindy: It’s open access, whereas when we were growing up, you literally had to search it out.
Alyssa: Well, we didn’t have the internet, so it wasn’t even like Google searching it. It was like, oh, under the bed, or my friend’s brother found some.
Cindy: Right, my uncle in the bathroom cabinet. I mean, it had to be something that was physically sought out, and now your kids are needing to physically remove themselves and flee from something that is so out there. So that’s, I think, part of the whole sex talk, too, is when you’re doing the sex talk with your kids, make sure that you’re establishing a guideline of what you feel is healthy for their sexual relationships with themselves and with others and within their family because it’s out there and they will get exposed to it. And if you don’t talk about what your healthy normal is, they will have a different idea of what normal is from what is out in the world.
Alyssa: We’ve had to have the masturbation conversation way early with my daughter because she’s a humper, and you know, we just had to say, totally fine. I know it feels really good. Do it in your bedroom. She was still napping at the time in school, and we were like, you don’t do that at naptime at school. This is a private thing. I don’t care what you’re doing; just make it private. And I’ve actually started calling it the humpty dance. She’ll tell me; like, mommy, I want to go in bed and do the humpty dance. I’m like, that’s fine, but if I see her starting to do it, like while I’m scratching her back at night, I’m like, no, babe. That’s for you to do by yourself. You don’t want mommy or daddy or any friends around. You do that on your own time. So she knows, like, I’m going to go in my bedroom and I’m going to hang out by myself for a little bit.
Cindy: Yeah, and you know what? You’re not shaming her either.
Alyssa: No, absolutely not.
Cindy: Exactly. And that’s the whole thing; if it’s not – if you don’t establish that hey, that’s totally fine. Go in your room; it’s just a private thing, then she could have other ideas imprinted on her from what she sees out there. So the fact that you’re giving her a safe place and –
Cindy: Permission, and that it’s just something that you do in private, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.
Alyssa: And she has no idea at this point that it’s even related to sex. All she knows is that it feels good to her and she wants to do it, so fine. Right now, until you ask more questions – again, you know, we’re walking a fine line of, she’s five. She’s very naïve right now, and I want her to be that way. I’m not going to give her the sex talk yet just because she’s a humper.
Cindy: She’s not asking questions yet. But you still want to have enough – even things like oh, Mommy’s breasts are sore because – you know, if she hits you funny, “Oh, honey, that hurts my breasts because women get sore in their breasts when they get their period,” or whatever.
Alyssa: She knows about that, too, yeah.
Cindy: It’s a conversation so that nothing is all of a sudden blurted out and they’re like, I just got hit by a fire hose.
Alyssa: That leads me to the conversation of having periods because I have a daughter, and I’ve been very open with her about things and changes in a woman’s body and even breastfeeding, you know, like you get a baby and they automatically come with a bottle. So from a very young age, I was like baby’s hungry, and I’d stick the baby on her little booby instead of giving the baby a bottle. But I grew up, again, getting zero, having zero conversations about anything sex, periods, anything. My mother told me at one point that you had to be sexually active to use tampons. And I found out later as an adult when I confronted her and said, “Why did you ever tell me this?” “Oh, that must have been something that Grandma told me.” I’m like, so you’re giving me –
Cindy: 1940s advice?
Alyssa: She was born in, like, 1920! Are you kidding me? So I am probably a little bit on the opposite spectrum of being very, very open about what’s going on, and she knows what a tampon is. She knows what a period is. She knows why. She’s like, why does that happen and when will that happen to me?
Cindy: Well, you’re normalizing it. If you kept it secretive, when you start having secrets, that’s when you start questioning, well, why is it secretive?
Alyssa: Right, and then she’s going to ask her friends instead of me. And this is natural. There’s nothing secretive about it. But I remember in 7th or 8th grade, my girlfriend Alison coming up to me in the hall and asking for a tampon, and I was in shock. I’m like, oh, my God. She’s having sex! You know, we’re like 13 years old, and that’s all I could think about.
Cindy: Poor Alison!
Alyssa: And I don’t know how I found out, but I went to the store by myself and bought tampons. I went through three or four of them before I figured out how to use it.
Cindy: Same with me, yeah. I know, it would just be so much easier if as a parent you could say, hey, you know, this is what you do, this is – I actually even had a friend that showed her daughter how to use it. She was like, yeah, this is what you do. So easy. And her daughter was like, oh, okay. You know, I stood outside the bathroom door, like, “Can I help? Can I talk you through it?” She’s like “No! There’s directions right here!” I’m like, I know, but I went through, like you, three or four before it went in comfortably, and I was like, oh, it’s not sitting right. “Can I help? Can I talk you through it?” “No, get away!” So each person’s going to be different, but if you’re starting out being super open about life and about sex, that’s the best way to be because now there’s not going to be fear or stigmas or they’re going to come to you, hopefully, versus –
Alyssa: Yeah, that she doesn’t have to feel like it’s this bad thing that she needs to seek out porn on the internet and be secretive about it.
Cindy: And you’re not seeking out porn. It will find you.
Alyssa: Right, right, that’s true. It just happens. I know; it happens to me when I’m just Googling something. Oops, okay, I shouldn’t use that word, I guess. But especially in the birth world, like looking up stuff for breastfeeding, and all sorts of crazy stuff comes up.
Cindy: So just talking about talking about it and keeping open, but at your stage in the game, I would just check out some sex books from the library and pick and choose what feels good and familiar for your family and just be consistent with having the talks. And not making it a big deal, because when you make it a big deal, now they’re going to think it’s a big deal. But if you’re just talking about it regularly like life, because it is life, it will be received better. I think it will be a healthier transition because it’s not fun, regardless, talking about that with your kids, but if you have some tools in your back pocket about, well, I’m going to say this, and this is what I feel comfortable saying at this stage in life, and giving a little bit more information as they get older, that’s probably the best route to go.
Alyssa: I’m going to put that on my to-do list. Get sex books from the library.
Cindy: There you go.
Alyssa: Well, thanks again. It’s always so fun talking to you. So Cindy is with Cindy’s Suds like I mentioned before. We’ve talked to her a lot, and in case you guys haven’t heard, you can find her online and at a bunch of great local stores in Grand Rapids. You can find your stuff in Rockford also, now, too, which I might need to check out that little baby store. What’s it called?
Cindy: It’s called Bridge Street Baby, and they carry primarily baby clothing through 24 months. Super cute store. They’ve got Cindy’s Suds products there.
Alyssa: Well, thanks for joining us. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can listen to our podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud and we are also on Facebook and Instagram.