My dad friend from high school suggested this topic. He has three boys; the oldest is in 4th grade. He said that he attempted “The Talk” but his son was really embarrassed and shouted him out of the room. That got me thinking: 1) I need to The Talk myself. 2) Why re-invent the wheel? I don’t know exactly what to say either, but why do we parents always try to do everything ourselves? 3) ugh!
This is a big topic of discussion among the 4th grade moms that I know. Whenever I’m at a mom event and I run into the moms of my oldest daughter’s friends, we all confer among ourselves … have you had the sex talk yet? It requires lock-step coordination because we all know this information will be widely shared among the group of about a dozen girls who run a in a loose pack. There are several mom worries: I don’t want my daughter to feel left out or ignorant; I want to give my daughter correct information because who knows how distorted the information will become; I don’t want to overwhelm her with too much information; and I want the information to be at the right level given that my daughter is less sophisticated than many of her friends (she is the oldest, after all). Whew! Add that to an uncomfortable topic and you get … procrastination!
I’m a book girl, and I bought an appropriate book years ago and squirreled it away for the right time. But when is the right time? Does it need a preface introduction, i.e. Sex Ed 101 before handing it over? Finally, after realizing that 3rd grade is probably the right time, I’m now a bit behind.
So I just handed her the book (Understanding the Facts of Life) and said, “This is an interesting book. Read it over and then I’ll go over it with you.” My husband was alarmed by the fascination my daughter had with the book. Finally, I sat down with her to answer questions. She immediately turned to the sex section, but … phew! she was mostly confused by the illustration in the section. I had to admit, it was confusing, albeit, a scientific illustration depicting the uterus, vagina, and penis in cross-section.
My mom friend who is an elementary school psychologist did not get off so easy. She gave her daughter several books. Her daughter read them diligently and then asked her, “It says in my book that adults have sex for fun. Do you and dad have sex for fun?” This mom is the unfazed type. Her response: “That is an inappropriate question and I’m not going to answer that.”
This is the book I used: Understanding the Facts of Life. It’s very matter-of-fact and science-y in a Biology 101 way. I find that I just read the chapter in question and answer questions, typically related to the science-y vocabulary. It’s not embarrassing in any way, covers all the necessary topics, and is very informative. I do recommend it. And a neighbor’s mom friend borrowed it several years ago for her son and it worked well for her so it’s a unisex sex book!
I would love your comments and advice on this topic!
The Uncomfortable Birds and Bees Talk with Your Kids
For those who want a Birds and Bees “Lite” book, several moms have recommended the American Girl Series It’s a Girl Thing. I’m told the body changes are limited to body odor. The bestselling “It’s a Girl Thing” has a new little sister that’s just right for younger girls curious about what puberty will bring.
A thank you to reader Nancy, who recommends The Care and Keeping of You by American Girl Series for an elementary school girl, and It’s So Amazing!: A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families for a middle schooler and elementary school girl.
The Care and Keeping of You
The bestselling guide has sold more than 3 million copies! It answers all the questions preteen girls have about their bodies, from healthy eating to bra buying to periods. It offers guidance on basic hygiene and health without addressing issues of sexuality.
It’s So Amazing!: A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families
How does a baby begin? What makes a baby male or female? How is a baby born? Children have plenty of questions about reproduction and babies — and about sex and sexuality, too. IT’S SO AMAZING! provides the answers — with fun, accurate, comic-book-style artwork and a clear, lively text that reflects elementary-school children’s interest in how things work, while giving them a healthy understanding of their bodies. Created by the author and illustrator of IT’S PERFECTLY NORMAL, this forthright and funny book — newly updated for its fifth anniversary — covers similar territory but with an eye toward younger children’s concerns.
Here are two books for boys:
What’s Going on Down There: Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask by Chava Castro
My Body, My Self For Boys, revised 3rd edition (What’s Happening to My Body?) by Linda Madara
Usborne Flip Flaps: How Are Babies Made?
Perfect for siblings who are getting a new brother or sister. [picture book, ages 2-6]
It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley
My Mom Friend loaned these books to me. Turns out that our neighbor, Preschool Director Mom Friend, had a hand in them. This covers sex, and masturbation, and has lots of pictures of naked bodies. It’s perfect for middle school age, Mom Friend and I agreed. Not all the sex-ed books cover sexual intercourse and masturbation to such a degree as this book. It’s a classic and still relevant. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
It’s Not the Stork! A Book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley
I like this book for 2nd graders … roughly around age 7 or 8 particularly for kids who are very inquisitive about this topic. I’m thinking of my middle child. It’s by the same author as It’s Perfectly Normal, but this book is more targeted at answering the question of how are babies made? This would be especially good for families with big spans between siblings. Other nice features of this book are All Kinds of Families and Okay Touches, Not Okay Touches. The trio of books by Robie H. Harris is nice to have. (The third book is It’s So Amazing above.)
Girlology: A Girl’s Guide to *Stuff that Matters (*Relationships, body talk & girl power!) by Melisa Holmes, M.D. and Trish Hutchinson, M.D.
This is an excellent book for phase two of the sex talk (i.e. when your daughter is sexually active or on the precipice). Yikes, did I say that? That is freaking me out! And, that my friends, is why we need this book. [for ages 8and up]
Author Melisa Holmes left a comment about her latest book, Girlology’s There’s Something New About You: A Girl’s Guide to Growing Up, appropriate for girls 8-11 (i.e. Middle Grade).
You-ology: A Puberty Guide for Every Body by Melisa Holmes, MD, FACOG; Trish Hutchison, MD, FAAP; Kathryn Lowe, MD, FAAP
Review from Lee Wind:
“What if learning about changing bodies wasn’t secretive or shameful? And what if it could even be inclusive, fun, and, well, kind of adorable? A new kind of puberty guide, You-ology embraces an inclusive approach that normalizes puberty for all kids. For curious kids and parents looking to talk about puberty in an inclusive way, You-ology offers fact-based, age appropriate, and body positive information about the physical, social, and emotional changes ahead for all kids.” [for ages 9 and up]
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.