There are many reasons grandparents are the ‘go-to’ people for questions about life, and sex questions are no exception. Maybe you’re caring for your grandkids while their parents are working or maybe the parents aren’t ‘askable’. It may simply be that your grandchild’s first questions about sex are while they’re spending time with you! So, you might want to be ready when the topic arises, but don’t worry – it won’t be as tough as you think!
The topic of sex can happen when you least expect it but young children usually ask short questions that require concise, to-the-point answers. Louanne Cole Weston, PhD, author as well as marriage, family, and child counselor advises families that children are ready to talk about sex younger than we may think. Weston suggests starting to talk with them from the beginning of their use of language, that way you’ll not need to dread the ‘birds and bees’ talk later on. She says that you’ve given the child in your life a valuable gift if you’ve become their trusted ‘go-to person’ for life’s questions and you established that trust through your ongoing series of small conversations over time.
Avoid nicknaming parts of the body
Meg Hickling, Author, Registered Nurse, sexual health educator tells parents and grandparents that even the youngest of children should know the proper names for their body parts. If kids know only the slang, they may fear talking about it when there’s a problem. Hickling tells of a young boy who was afraid to tell his mother about blood in his urine because he worried she’d be upset at him for using the slang term, the only term he knew, for ‘penis.’ Meg suggests that parents and grandparents take a ‘scientific’ approach to speaking about the body and to teach kids the ‘polite’ or ‘scientific’ words for their private parts. She says that for young children, discussion of ‘body science’ sounds friendlier than ‘sex education’ after all, kids love to be young scientists!
Stay on topic
If the child is old enough to ask the question and trusts you enough to ask, answer frankly and concisely. If for example, your grandchild asks how his baby brother will come out of mommy’s tummy, avoid delving into the history of sexuality and just answer the question. You might explain that the baby will come out through the special opening between mommy’s legs – but if the child didn’t ask how the baby got there in the first place, don’t begin your answer there, just stick to the topic.
Take advantage of teachable moments
Kid’s don’t like hearing, ‘we’ll talk about it when you’re older,’ the time to talk is when the child is curious – within reason. If their curiosity is peaked at the grocery store you may be wise to defer an explanation to the privacy of the car or during the walk home.
Don’t shy away from a ‘teachable moment’ – if your grandchild mentions for example, his school friends laughing about sex on the playground, you might offer accurate information and clarify in terms they will understand rather than letting schoolyard speculation become the source of confusion. It’s not always necessary to wait for a direct question.
Sex Education Books and DVDs
The fact that your grandchild trusts you enough to come to you with his or her questions speaks volumes about the relationship that you have established. If their questions will involve more explanation than you are prepared to give, be ready to offer books or DVDs. Well-written sex education books can help cover the topic thoroughly and for times when you feel at a loss for the right words we recommended the following:
- Meg Hickling’s books may be found through most public libraries and at kids’ book stores.
- Books by Robie Harris include: It’s Perfectly Normal and It’s So Amazing.
For parents and grandparents
- Author Deborah Roffman: Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense About Sex.
This article was written by Alice Lucette, a blogger from Canada. Alice writes for SeniorsZen.com – a free resource for finding local senior housing in Canada.