Friday, February 23, 2018

The Birds and Bees: What Time is the Right Time?

Even in 2013, the topic of the birds and bees can still stir up a buzz with parents, so we’ve gathered some suggestions to help parents through this important maze related to health and emotional development. As many a parent has said before, “Sit down, honey, I have something I want to talk with you about.” Here we go.

If you take advantage of the multitudinous opportunities that present themselves to you and your children on a daily basis, you will be able to make meaningful, yet subtle off-the-cuff comments that are age-appropriate from the time your child is verbal. Keep in mind, experts suggest that children know and sense everything in utero, so what you think, say and do is a constant teacher from the womb onwards, even when you are unaware of it. If playing Mozart pre-birth affects your children, so does every other vibrating part of your being and the world that surrounds them as they grow up.

You might want to keep that in mind before you randomly slap in a video. If you observe carefully, you will find sex often laced throughout children’s media. These situations provide food for thought, and an appropriate comment here and there from a caring parent can gradually help your child learn discernment.

Therapist Lesley Cunningham, born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, now works as a Program Manager for Mental Health Partners in Colorado. Cunningham suggests the topic of sex not be covered in one big conversation.

“It’s not a single conversation, but a series of age appropriate, child-initiated conversations,” said Cunningham. “Children will ask certain questions all along the developmental path; many parents get nervous and answer too much or distract the child because they are uncomfortable.”

“Simply answer the question that was asked as best you can, and then ask if they want any other information about the subject, or if they have any more questions,” suggested Cunningham. “Let it go if there are no more questions.”

“By the time it’s important for them to know more, they will have had a history of these conversations that were easy and just enough so they will be receptive to more information, again, usually because it is initiated by them,” explained Cunningham. “Sometimes a book, age-appropriate, can be given, read together - or not - which will spark more questions.”

So, there we have it. We learn about sex and self gradually. There doesn’t have to be a “big talk” anymore, nor should there be; if you wait for that, a child’s perceptions may have long-since been formulated.

The good news is parents can serve as clever, observant guides through the sometimes murky waters of the complex culture in which we live, and help their children develop solid states of mental, emotional and physical health and a strong sense of confident well-being.


Elizabeth A. Phelps is a certified teacher, national award-winning youth program designer, speaker, and writer. Elizabeth was born and raised on the Gulf Coast.

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