The Guide to
Getting It On


Talking to kids about sex

Dear Paul,

I just read the chapter in your book about talking to kids about sex but I need to know some things. Next month I am expecting a new baby. This does give me a perfect opportunity to talk about sex with my sons who will be 7, 8 and 9 years old within 3 weeks of my due date. My question is can I explain everything to them in the same way? Or should it be different and not so detailed for my youngest than for my oldest? The only question asked so far is my middle son wanted to know where the baby comes out. My other question is what if I am explaining something about masturbation or oral sex and they ask if I do it or like to do it. What should I say? I don't want to tell them the details of my sex life with their father and I'm not sure he'd like that either. Thank you for your time.

Mother Hubbard

Dear Ma,

Congratulations! Three boys in three years must have been an extreme physical challenge. And this time around, I suspect you might be hoping for a girl!

If the new baby is a girl, this would be most helpful in explaining the differences between boys' and girls' plumbing. Plus, it would give your boys plenty of time for each to ask in his own way.

I can't give you a set answer for what to explain to each boy, as the seven-year-old might be more precocious than the nine-year-old! Much depends on their personalities and level of sexual curiosity. One might be very curious, another not curious at all. So you'll need to play it by ear.

If the baby is a girl, you can explain to your sons that her genitals are called a vulva, and you can also name her clitoris and the opening of her vagina. This seems to be a much more civilized approach then calling her genitals her "pee area", or worse yet, referring to them as an extension of her bottom. Mind you, I'm sure to get angry letters from the rear-end lovers who will say I'm inferring that there's something unappealing about the human bottom.

Even if your boys see you naked, they're going to get a much closer look at female genitals when you are changing the baby with her legs wide open than they would from seeing you without your clothes on, or at least I hope that's true. So this is a fine time to help them learn about and respect female genitals.

If the baby is a boy, you can use diaper changing to open conversations about balls and penises. You can say something like, "I don't think his penis gets hard yet, but I'll bet yours does..." If the son you are talking to gets shy or bashful at this point, you can simply say, "Well daddy's sure gets hard; all boy's penises get hard. They even have a special word for it when it gets hard." You can also use this as an opportunity to say, "Do you know what the new baby would look like between the legs if he were a girl?" This would be a good time to show them a book like "It's Perfectly Normal" by Robie H. Harris (1994, Candlewick Press: Cambridge, MA).

As for masturbation, you can explain that "it's when you rub your penis in a way that feels really good". It would be nice if their father could say to the boys, "I started to masturbate when I was a boy. It felt great then and still does!" On the other hand, he might not feel comfortable saying this, but such an admission on his part would help your sons feel more comfortable talking with the two of you about sex. That way, you might be the ones they turn to for information about sex rather than their friends.

If you don't want to answer directly about your own masturbation, it never hurts to give a big wonderful smile and say, "Let's just say I think a lot of grown women enjoy doing it, just like a lot of grown men do." If they push the issue further than that, I think Mother Nature gave you the perfect out by making most children ticklish. When you've had enough, you can always start chasing them and tickling them. It seems to be a fine way to say "Enough!" without making them feel bad about their curiosity.

I wouldn't explain oral sex at these ages unless your kids listen to the nightly news and start to ask. I would pay attention to the conversations your boys have with each other and with their friends. If you hear references to oral sex, then it's time to explain. By the time they are in the sixth or seventh grade, you'll need to explain what oral sex is in addition to intercourse and hand jobs, and hope your sons get a lot more of the latter instead of intercourse at least until they are eighteen. Also, if you need to explain oral sex when they are younger, consider saying, "It may seem kind of gross right now, but it's one of those things you might like when you get older."

The birth of a new baby opens all sorts of doors and possibilities for talking about sex in a way that is natural and uncontrived. Your sons are lucky that you are concerned about this.

Also, what I've written are simply ideas to help jump start your own thinking. There are no perfect answers. You know your boys, your husband and yourself far better than I, and only you can determine what's best.

My very best wishes to you.

©2008 by Paul Joannides

Related Issues: Talking With Kids About Tough Issues, Relationship, Sexuality
Relationship, Sexuality

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In America, sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it is a fact. - Marlene Dietrich

Paul Joannides is the author of the Guide To Getting It On!--the Universe's Coolest and Most Informative Book On Sex. You can contact him at by clicking on the cover of the Guide that appears on his web site. All columns are the property of Paul Joannides and Goofy Foot Press

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