How to Talk to Your Child About Sex: It's Best to Start Early, but It's Never Too Late -- A Step-by-Step Guide for Every Age

How to Talk to Your Child About Sex: It's Best to Start Early, but It's Never Too Late -- A Step-by-Step Guide for Every Age

by Linda Eyre, Richard Eyre

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Linda and Richard Eyre stress that it's never too soon-or too late-to start discussing sex and values with your children, and they've got proven strategies to make it easier. For parents who want to go beyond the birds and the bees talk, How to Talk to Your Child About Sex provides thoughtful, clear, specific guidance on when and, most important, how to help children begin to learn and understand sex, love, and commitment from the most positive viewpoint possible.

Preliminary "as needed" talks with three-to eight-year-olds

The age eight Big Talk

Follow-up talks with eight-to thirteen-year-olds

Behavior discussions and guidelines with eleven-to sixteen-year-olds

Discussions of perspective and personal standards with fifteen-to nineteen-year-olds

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781582380575
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 11/29/1999
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 617,847
Product dimensions: 5.48(w) x 8.27(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Linda and Richard Eyre live with their family in Washington, D.C.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The mission statement of their nonprofit foundation EYREALM is "Popularize Parenting, Validate Values, and Bolster Balance." They are hard at work on their next book, Turning the Hearts: Re-Value-ing the American Family.

Read an Excerpt


Preliminary "As Needed" Talks with Three- to Eight-Year-Olds

* * *

This section outlines discussions to have with preschool and early elementary age children in preparation for the "big talk." The suggested dialogues deal with the physical body, awe and wonder in nature and the physical world, family commitment, loyalty and love, and "modesty" based on respect. Ideas and instruction are given on how to answer younger children's simple questions without going beyond the questions.

* * *

Answering Questions Without Going Beyond Them

A mother told us a funny (but point-making) story. Her five-year-old son came up to her one evening at home and said, "Mom, where did I come from?" She thought of trying to detour or escape the question somehow, but there was no ready excuse. The two of them were alone at home that night, and she figured that if her son was asking, she'd better summon up her courage and tell him.

They sat down in the living room, and the mother launched into it, not too smoothly and feeling a little embarrassed, but giving it her best shot. The little boy's eyes got wider and wider as he listened without a word, just nodding his head slightly whenever his mother said, "Do you understand that?" and shaking his head slowly whenever she said, "Did you know that?" When she was finished, she said, "Does that answer your question?"

The little fellow squirmed around and said, "Well ... I just meant ... you know ... where did we come from? Like before we moved here last year. I forgot the name of our other town."

While usually not as dramatically as in this story, it is easy to tell very young children too much. The best policy, until they are seven or eight, is just to respond to their questions, their real questions, with simple answers, always deferring detail to later and using the interchange as a way to build a positive anticipation for when they turn eight.

So if a five-year-old says, "Where do babies come from?" say, "Sometimes when a mommy and daddy love each other, it helps make a baby." If he says, "But how?" say, "It's like a miracle, a wonderful, unbelievable magic. When you're eight, we'll tell you about it."

If your belief or faith supports it, an even better answer might be "Babies are a gift from our Heavenly Father. He puts them into our families." If there is a persisting "But how?" say, "Well, it happens in a really wonderful, awesome way, and when you turn eight, we'll tell you about it."

Then change the subject unless you detect that the child is troubled or worried or has heard something that is causing him to persist. If this is the case, probe. Find out what he has heard or what has happened. If it's just a word or term he's heard that he doesn't understand, give your best explanation and say, "That's one thing we'll talk about when you're eight." If he has heard a joke or an off-color story about sex, you may want to say, "Some people joke around or say weird things about stuff they don't understand. But don't worry, we'll tell you all about it when you're eight. And believe me, it is wonderful and really cool!"

Appreciation for Bodies

A healthy attitude about sex starts with how a child feels about his own body. At a very young age children become aware of their bodies and what they can do. In fact, studies have shown that over 80 percent of what we learn about our physical bodies is learned in the first eighteen months of life. We see this when watching our four-month-old grandchild realize that the thing attached to the end of his arm can be used to move things that are in front of him and that he can see a different view by pushing off with one leg and one arm while balancing with the other two appendages to make the magnificent effort to turn his whole body over! Babies learn more about how to manage their physical bodies in that short time than they will for the rest of their lifetime.

As children grow, they often maintain their childlike spontaneous delight in the interesting things that are happening around them, but without our help they don't fully understand the marvelous miracle that is called their body. They take for granted that they can see their mother's face and hear cars racing by as they mutilate a piece of bread while sitting in their car seat.

We've seen how older preschoolers continued to find awe and wonder in their bodies while observing thousands of kids go through our Joy Schools (a series of do-it-yourself preschool lesson plans designed for three-, four-, and five-year-olds), especially the unit called "The Joy of the Body." This preschool curriculum, based on Teaching Your Children Joy, is an alternative to pushy, early academic approaches. Included are hundreds of creative ways to help young children appreciate the magic of their bodies, from dancing in the leaves to classical music to taping their thumbs to the rest of their hands for a short time to help them appreciate how valuable their thumbs are. Kids revel in appreciating all that their body can do.

As children grow older, their basic attitude about their body and how it functions becomes part of their reference for how they feel about using their bodies as an adult to show love and to feel joy in a physical sexual relationship. Learning how the body can conceive and produce a child fits their framework of the joyful, miraculous nature of the body.

In dealing with young children, every available opportunity should be taken to point out how lucky we are to be able to see the beauties of the season, to hear creative and inspirational music, to taste different and unique combinations of food (a couple of our children would not call this a joy), to touch a baby's cheek or a kitten's soft fur, and especially to feel the love that we have for the others in our family. The list of things to point out and be grateful for is endless. The more a child can appreciate his own body as a preschooler, the better foundation he will have for feeling positive about the greatest of all physical miracles.

Awe and Wonder in Nature

I (Linda) think our appreciation for nature peaked during our first year of graduate school in Boston. I was working long, hard hours and coming home with just enough energy to make a dinner, prepare a lesson plan for the next day, and drop into bed beside Richard, who was working day and night on his assignments for the Harvard Business School, where he was slogging his way toward a degree. Newly married and with a brand-new baby, we were woefully poor, and the only form of recreation we could afford was to observe nature. We sat by the Charles River and watched the crews go by, stroking in unison through water so calm that it looked as if they were gliding through unset Jell-O. By October we were appreciating the intricate workings of nature that produced an incredible fairyland of autumn color. It was there that we made a pact with each other to teach our children the awe and wonder of nature and appreciation for how a loving God made things work together for our enjoyment. Through the years we made a conscious effort to point out to our children the ever-changing beauty of the natural world. We later realized that our emphasis on nature and its beauty made it easier and more natural to talk to the kids about the miracle of the functions of their bodies.

If anything, we may have gone a bit overboard with the "beauty of nature" emphasis. Sometimes we wondered if we were just a little bit crazy as we heaped giant piles of leaves together at the city park on Richard's birthday in October and stuffed them down each other's backs and threw them in the air with wild shrieks of delight. Our first son-in-law-to-be must have wondered what kind of family we were as we screeched to a stop just outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, one summer evening, to jump out of the car and do a little jig when we saw the clouds lift to reveal what we were treating as our long-lost relatives: the Teton Mountains.

Interestingly, a letter came from our oldest daughter, Saren, yesterday as I was contemplating writing on this subject. She was our babe in arms as we started our life together in Boston. Things have now come full circle, and she is just finishing her own Harvard graduate degree. Our sixteen-year-old son, Noah, went out to visit her for a few days last week. Excerpts from her letter about her present life and her adventures with Noah demonstrate just what effect those long-ago talks about nature are having now on this twenty-six-year-old daughter. (So you won't think she is obsessed with nature, please know that I have extracted only the parts that deal with the subject at hand.)

September 30: It's almost midnight and then it will be October. I'm excited. I think October is my favorite month. ... The hecticness of starting new things that generally comes with September is over and the weather is soft and crisp and the leaves are lovely. I'm trying to get back to my poetic self to some degree because I've just been losing track of the forest for all the trees. A friend of mine shared with me a quote that has really helped me: ("There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear." I haven't been hearing the music lately and I haven't felt like I'm in a garden at all. My heart's been feeling burdened and tromped on and stretched and certainly not quiet. I haven't been appreciating and savoring the beauty all around enoughthe evening light on my favorite sycamore trees along Memorial Drive, the pink sky over the Charles as I drive home from work, the fuchsia and gold leaves boldly taking over a brazen branch here and there, the crunch of new autumn leaves underfoot, the spontaneous smile and hug of a small child.

Overview of my time with Noah:

Thursdaylate night pickup at the airport, driving back along Storrow Drivethe Citgo sign and the lights in the river. Taking a walk on a perfect fall night along the Charlestouch of rain, crossing Weeks Bridge, looking at Peabody Terrace and walking around the Business School, talking about Mom and Dad and thinking about how things come full circle.

Fridaywe walked through the Public Gardensthe perfect flowers and still pond. We picked gingko leaves and collected fresh fallen chestnuts. Talked a lot about ambiance. Ended up at a Thai restaurant with some friends. Noah passed the time by playing with his chopsticks, sticking them up his nose or using his lips to maneuver them. He sort of reminded me of this crazy fish in the tank behind hima big goldfish with two big funny teeth sticking out.

Saturdayborrowed bikes and went on a long bike rideup the Charles and all over the Harvard campussuch a perfect fall day! Went on a drive out to the end of the peninsula to climb around on the rocks and watch the sky turn pink as the waves crashed against the rocks. I love the ocean. And waves crashing on rocks just fills me with joy for some reason.

SundayNoah was quite taken with Trinity Churchwe marveled at the beauty, rich colors, golds, rusty reds, dusty blues, interesting patterns, beautiful stained glass, wonderful carvings. So good to see anything beautiful created for the glory and worship of God. Walked home after churchgorgeous day again. Talked until late at night about dating, kissing, the whole thing. Noah's so fun to talk to.

Mondaywent to see the new OmniMax movie "The Living Sea" at the Science Museumamazing. Noah LOVED it and decided to become a marine biologist. Got lost trying to find gas on the way to the airport. Beautiful colors emerging on the trees. I LOVE FALL!

Appreciation and love for the miraculous creations of the earth have everything to do with the groundwork needed to have a successful first discussion with your child on the most amazing, powerful, miraculous thing in the world — the process of bringing a new child into it. Look for the opportunity to have frequent little discussions like the following:


Wow, Tom. Come out here on the balcony and look at this amazing sunset!

Tom: I'm right in the middle of a computer game.

Guess what, Tommy! This big surprise that nature has provided outside right this very minute is more fantastic than anything you will ever see on a computer! I need a friend to enjoy it with. You're so good at noticing colors and beautiful things in nature. I want you to come and tell me what you see! That game will still be there a few minutes from now, but this sunset will happen only once. Let's go!


Hey, Jill. Do you notice anything different in our backyard?

Jill: No.

Well, the oak tree is just starting to turn slightly green and get little buds. It's gorgeous. When you go out today, see what else you can notice and tell me about it when I get home from work, okay?

Your enthusiasm and positive attitude will heighten your child's awareness. Take the opportunity to point out the beauties that you see in the colors, contrasts, shading, and textures as you experience nature with your children on walks, bike rides, campouts, and hikes. Your observations will make them think and will stimulate them to think of their pleasure as they observe nature. When your child is seven, you can turn your comments on nature into anticipation builders for the big talk, such as:

Jill, when we go out for our special talk on your eighth birthday, we're going to tell you about something that has to do with nature. But it's even more amazing than the beautiful things you always notice about the trees and rocks, plants and animals. Do you realize that everything in nature is absolutely unique? No two leaves are alike, even on the same tree. Every flower is different from any other flower. No two people are alike, either, and that's part of what we'll talk about when you're eight. Nature is truly awesome!

Family Commitments, Loyalty, and Love

There is no argument about the fact that it is easier to teach your small children about family commitment, loyalty, and love if you grew up with it in your childhood and if you feel it now with your spouse. Those who were raised with these idyllic qualities will most probably teach them to their children rather easily and naturally.

On the other hand, those who have been touched by the tragedy of a parent who had an affair or did not follow through on commitments or, hardest of all, did not show love may find it harder to teach these concepts. Yet it is often these very parents who do a more conscientious job with their own children because of their burning desire that their kids not experience the same thing.

Recently I (Linda) spent an evening with friends who had recently married and were attempting to blend a new family. As I asked questions of this vibrant, happy couple, I discovered that the father of the family had been an Olympic athlete in the recent past. Knowing the requirements of self-discipline, hard work, and dedication to be an Olympic athlete, I said, "Your parents must be very proud of you!"

"I don't really have much of a relationship with my parents," he said. "They are very tight-lipped about everything. If they were proud of me, they never told me about it. As a result, my family has been pretty fractured. We just don't communicate much."

I was devastated by his comment, but he went right on talking about his eight-year-old son and his wife's seven-year-old son and their delight in seeing them become "suddenly brothers." This man was obviously making a concentrated effort to provide the commitment, love, and loyalty for this new family that he had lacked in his own childhood.

What do commitment, love, and loyalty have to do with talking to your children about sex? Everything! Whether you are reading this as a loyal, committed, loving spouse and parent who was also lucky enough to grow up in a close family, or as a single parent who has had no role modeling for these qualities now or in childhood, you can talk to your kids about them. Whether your model is something you've experienced or something you've wished for, you can share your feelings with your children. If you have always been exposed to loyalty, love, and commitment, tell your child about it. Share some of the childhood experiences you can remember about how your parents showed their love for each other and express how much you love your spouse, their other parent. Add stories of family loyalty — cheering at your brother's games even though you were a little jealous that he got all the attention, your dad showing up at your birthday party even though it was difficult for him, the love you felt from your parents as they tucked you in bed and praised you for a job well done. Kids love to hear stories about you as a child with their grandparents as parents.


Excerpted from "How To Talk To Your Child About Sex"
by .
Copyright © 1998 Linda and Richard Eyre.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION: What Parents Face Today,
1 Preliminary "As Needed" Talks with Three- to Eight-Year-Olds,
2 The Age Eight "Big Talk",
3 Follow-up Talks with Eight- to Thirteen-Year-Olds,
4 Behavior Discussions with Eleven- to Sixteen-Year-Olds,
5 Discussions of Perspective and Personal Standards with Fifteen- to Nineteen-Year-Olds,
AFTERWORD: Why Parents and Families Are the Answer,

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How to Talk to Your Child About Sex: It's Best to Start Early, But It's Never Too Late -- A Step-by-Step Guide for Every Age 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Linda and Richard Eyre's perspective on 'the big talk' is a wake up call for parents who think all they need to discuss are the mechanics. Their morality-centered, responsible approach focuses on open lines of communication between parent and child about issues of sexuality and beyond. A must-read, this book helps parents to clarify their own feelings about sex and morality, and relate to their children with confidence.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is unique because it provides the moral element in teaching kids about sex that is so often left out. Many of us parents know that sexual experimentation is beginning at a increasingly younger age in today's society, and are terrified for how much trouble our kids can get into so easily. This book teaches the necessary self-control that kids need to develop, yet also depicts sex as the profound, joyful act that it is. It gives specific ideas and suggestions for how to teach kids in an age-appropriate way that won't take away their innocence too soon, yet that will pre-empt what they learn at school. It encourages an openness between parent and child about this important topic, with the goal that your child will always come to you with questions and to clear up misconceptions they may have received from friends. I found it quite helpful.
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Busy__Mom More than 1 year ago
I started out with this in summary form from ParentsDigest, and saw that this is full of straight forward helpful information. It doesn't tip toe around issues, it just gives good useful advice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not what I expected...too much to read