Let’s Talk About the Birds and the Bees

Soon-to-be big brother/ sister asks, “Daddy, how did baby get in mommy’s tummy?” Crimson-in-the-face daddy looks at mommy for help. Mommy grins and shrugs the ball back into daddy’s court.
And then we fill the poor child with fairy tales about storks and chimneys. Really? And for this reason, ‘sex education’ gets tip-toed around, ignored, swept under the carpet, you name it. Very few parents actually seize the bull by the horns, see this as a learning opportunity for the child, and give
them the facts of life in an age-appropriate manner. This stems from the way we treat the very topic of sex. If we want our children to grow up to be informed, respectful, responsible adults, we need to make sure that they have the information they need. And they need to feel comfortable enough to come to you with any query, no matter how delicate. This is the single most important skill every parent should try to develop.

Wait, isn’t it the duty of schools to impart ‘sex education, you ask? Why is that? The school system did not beget your children. You did. Sex is a part of life and life is what families go through day in and day out. Ipso facto, home is the best setting to talk about the facts of life. So, here’s grabbing the bull by the horns. Forget about the traditional “we need to talk” method.
One big talk is not going to cover all the important things. Besides, it is likely to be a cringe fest, is it not? Rather, slip in bits of information in your daily conversations with your kids. It’s not just talking about the so-called ‘mechanics’ of it. It is also important to talk about being respectful of
your own bodies and others’, pregnancy, contraception, STDs, being sexually responsible, sexual harassment, rape, pornography – all of this is relevant. Think hard about what you want your children to know and take away from your conversations and give them age-appropriate information on the same.

Before you stick your head in the sand and say, “No, I cannot do this…”, there is good news coming
your way in the form of a very informative, funny, and wonderfully illustrated book titled ‘It’s Not the Stork!’. Written by Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Michael Emberley, It’s Not the Stork! is for kids aged 4 to 7, but is actually applicable for anyone above the age of 4.

It is a picture book (hooray!) and it gives simple yet detailed information on anatomy, the physical differences between boys and girls, how body parts work, sex, pregnancy and so on. No, you cannot just hand over the book and tell your children to read it. You need to sit down with them and read
this together. Talk about things openly and freely (any awkwardness you feel will go away in a bit, so keep at it). Here are a few things to make sure of before you sit down together with this book.
1) Use the actual names of body parts in your daily conversations with your kids. You should be using the words testicles, penis, vagina, breasts, etc., like you would any other body part like elbows or toes.
2) If you are not a family that reads to the kids, get into the habit of reading to them bits and pieces from books, magazines or newspapers that you are reading. Otherwise, when you suddenly sit them down with this book, things won’t seem quite comfortable for either party.
3) Go through the book before you read it to your kids – being familiar with the contents is a great confidence booster. You can also point out the funny bits because on every page of this book there are 2 really cute characters – a confident bird and a timid bee – who provide comic relief.

Now that we’ve set the stage, go ahead and draw your kiddos around you and go through the pages, a few at a time. Read the book to them in multiple sittings because it is pretty comprehensive. Have many, many conversations and discussions about it. Let your children go through the book when you are not reading it together (the illustrations are a real joy). Read the book multiple times over the years. They will pick up something new with each reading. Be accessible to your kids, answer any query appropriately and if you don’t know the answer to something or are unsure how to answer, you can always say “I really don’t know but I’ll find out and let you know, OK?” It also helps bring home the fact that dad and mom are not perfect, omniscient beings after all. There is the common belief that if you talk about sex to kids, they will be more likely to experiment early on in their lives. Is this really true? Think about it. As with any other socially relevant topic (like climate change or teen suicides), the more you have honest, open conversations with your children, the more likely they are to understand and form intelligent opinions of their own. The more understanding there is, the more they’ll be capable of making informed decisions. So parents, let’s take a pledge to be more available to our kids, to have more conversations with them, to incorporate critical thinking in their lives and most important of all, to listen to our kids without judgment and answer their questions the best way we can. Remember, it’s called parenting,
not perfecting. We’re all in this together.

– The author is an independent researcher in the fields of alternative education and self-directed learning. Besides being a homeschooling parent, a lover of libraries and a lifelong learner, the author is also passionate about minimalism, cats and tiny homes. Go figure!
The book It’s Not the Stork! is available at schoolkutti.com children’s library. So are the second and third parts of the series – It’s So Amazing, for ages 7 and up and It’s Perfectly Normal, for adolescents and those approaching their sexually active years.