Teaching Children About the Facts of Life: 4 Moms

moms of many manage

If you are a child  this is another post that you should get your parents permission to read. :)

Welcome to this weeks edition of 4 Moms, 35 Kids: How Moms of Many Manage.  This week we’re talking about the birds and the bees and how we talk about them with our children.

Mark and I had one main goal when it came to how we wanted to talk to and relate to our children about these topics, we wanted our children to come to us (rather than peers) when they had questions and to feel comfortable talking to us about anything. To accomplish this we didn’t want to schedule a big “let’s-sit-down-and-talk-about-this” session, rather we wanted to give them the facts gradually over time as they were ready.

We did this by encouraging and answering any and all questions that came our way. Questions have come our way easily for a number of reasons:

  1. We’re with our kids all the time.
  2. We’re constantly talking with our kids about all types of subjects. (Some people call this homeschooling.  )
  3. Our kids read the Bible, they read the whole Bible and they read it frequently.
  4. We study the Bible with our children, we study the whole Bible with our children and we study it frequently.
  5. We’ve had a lot of babies and our kids are no strangers to pregnancy, birth and nursing.
  6. We have animals and plants.

From the time our children were 3 or 4 years old we’ve been getting questions, questions  like “How does the baby get out of mommy’s tummy” and “What is a virgin”. As our children have gotten older so have the questions, “What does, ‘he wasted his seed on the ground’  (Gen. 38) mean?” and “What is ‘the manner of women’?” (Gen. 31:34-35) We’ve actually gotten each of these questions.

If you’re going to take this track then you need to be prepared to answer the questions when they come and trust me, sometimes they come at unexpected times.

Tip: Once your children are old enough to understand that some of these things are not dinner table topics, it may behoove you to suggest that when they have a question and really have no idea what the answer will be, that they wait until they are alone with you to ask it. :)

How we answer the questions:

  1. We answer according to what they’re asking. We do not want to burden our children with information before they are really ready for it, so our policy has been to completely answer their question without going into more detail than we think they are wanting. For example, when our three year old asks, “Mommy how does the baby get out of your tummy?” I may say something to the effect that God has created a special passage for the baby to come out so that it doesn’t hurt the baby and it doesn’t hurt mommy. However when our five year old says, “Mommy, where is that special passage?” then it’s time for more information.
  2. We give the information to all of the children who are interested and it is appropriate to give it to. Some children will ask questions more easily than others, so when one child raises an issue we make sure to address it with any other children who may be wondering. Not only does this allow us to convey needed information, we also hope that it makes our more reserved children realize that it is fine and appropriate to discuss these things with us.
  3. We answer biblically. Some questions require a biblical perspective, when those come up we give it to them and include other passages that may apply.
  4. Don’t be afraid to stall, gracefully. There have been a couple of times when a question came up at a bad time (company/children outside our family around) or it was a question that I wasn’t prepared to answer cold turkey. At these times we may put them off, but not for long and we are the ones who bring the subject back up. We don’t want them to think that we aren’t willing to answer their questions.
  5. If they’re asking for specifics, it’s probably not too early. Our children have different influences and exposures in their lives and my suspicion is that they have more exposure than we, as their parents, assume, so if they ask,  answer.

Despite our (we thought) well laid plan and all of the questions we fielded there did come a time when we felt our children needed more information than they had asked about. So at an appropriate time I brought the subject up with a group of our children. I read over From Girl to Woman for ideas on what to cover and how to cover it.  This conversation fueled more questions and conversations and we’ve handled that as they’ve arisen. Based on current trends, I doubt that this will be needed with the boys or with any younger siblings.

I certainly don’t consider that we are experts in this area, so feel free to share your thoughts, ideas and resources that you’ve used.

I’m certainly going to go visit the other moms of many to read their thoughts:
Smockity Frocks
Life in a Shoe
The Common Room

For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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30 Responses to Teaching Children About the Facts of Life: 4 Moms
  1. Annie @ Beauty In The Surrender
    May 5, 2011 | 9:00 am

    Excellent and wise information, especially in today’s society. It pains me to think of the counsel my children would be getting from teachers and peers relating to this very private and precious subject had they remained in public school.
    I have been receiving many more questions regarding this subject from my soon to be 10 year old son. I praise God that He has been able to provide me the wisdom at that moment to speak truth to my son’s questions.
    Thank you for the link to the Queen Homeschool site. I will have to check into the “From Boy to Man” book!

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  2. Rachael
    May 5, 2011 | 9:23 am

    great article! with 4 girls at home I know this will be coming up as they grow (the oldest is 7) I like the booklet that you shared too. I think I’ll probably order one soon so I can share it with my older two!

    thanks!

    Rachael

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  3. Samantha
    May 5, 2011 | 9:32 am

    We want them to stay young as long as possible. I had a dose of TMI too young when I asked one question at a young age. My step-mom felt that when one was asked, I might as well know it all. We are taking things on a as needed basis, planning on talking with my 11 year old about periods next year, and go from there. Our 13 old knows the basics, but he was in public school longer and had a talk with us, and school had a thing.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Great point and worth reemphasizing. As I stated in point #1 answer what they are asking, but don’t give them more information than they want, need or are able to handle. Thanks.

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    Samantha Reply:

    I hope you don’t think I was saying you were giving TMI, I was just saying we say less, mostly because of my TMI. It causes me to be very conservative, as I know I was mature, but not ready for all of that! lol You are doing fabulous!

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    No, not at all. I was trying to make that same point (and perhaps didn’t state it as clearly as I should have) in #1.

    When our little ones ask, “How does the baby come out of mom’s tummy” I don’t think they want to know or are ready for all of the details and they certainly aren’t asking about how it got in there. I agree with you that less is more. I think giving our kids little bits of information all along the way and adding to it as they get older can help reduce the TMI problem.

    I really appreciate your input!

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    Stephanie Reply:

    Please, please, please rethink the timing of the period talk. I was 12, my friend was 10, almost 11 (our moms were bringing the younger siblings somewhere and we got to stay home alone for a little while) she started bleeding at our house. We called her house but no one was home of course. Her parents never told her anything and she thought she was dying. I didn’t want to give the “sex talk” but she needed to know what was happening. My parents had given me a very good book so when I was able to calm her down, I got my book and we looked at the section on periods and self care (pads, etc…)while her clothing was in the washer. She felt much better but didn’t understand why her parents never told her what to expect.
    The scary thing was her mom was upset with me for telling her child how her body worked and sending some of my pads home with my friend! The poor girl was convinced she was going to die- did her mom really think I wasn’t going to tell my friend what was happening? Later I found out her parents had planned “The Talk” for when she was 11.
    That is a lousy position to put a 12 year old in and solidified my position of giving my kids a generic heads up before they begin puberty and going into more detail as they get older.

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    Leigh Reply:

    I agree on not waiting so long. I was 10 1/2 yrs old when I started my period. The only reason I knew about periods beforehand is b/c my country grandma happen to blurt out about it when she was over one day. And they never had “the talk” with me!

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  4. Taryn
    May 5, 2011 | 9:34 am

    I see that Mary Pride’s name/review is mentioned in the link. I love her book-The Way Home-and its sequel. I enjoy reading articles at her web site home-school.com.

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  5. Katie E.
    May 5, 2011 | 9:57 am

    Thank you for this. The extent of “the talk” with me consisted of uncomfortable brush-offs, signing me up for health class in school, information from my peers and magazines, some crude comments from my father, “You’re not allowed to be sexy and you better not have sex before marriage” from my mother. The word “sex” was tripped over, almost gulped as if she were avoiding saying the f-word instead. Any time I tried to talk about sexual things, had questions or even just talk about my femininity, that’s the statement I heard. As a result, I had a messed up idea about sexuality in general, was afraid of my own body, and had a false sense of morality. It didn’t bode well for me in my late teens-early 20’s. Parents, it is VERY important to answer your children’s questions honestly and Biblically. It is VERY important to establish a relationship where they feel comfortable coming to you with such questions.

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  6. chantelle
    May 5, 2011 | 10:51 am

    Thank you for the help. I am terrible in this area. I love my mom, she is the best mom ever, always a very Godly woman, the best example of how a mother and wife should be. But…..when I asked about this subject as a girl, the only answer was that I would find out from my friends. Her mom refused to ever speak to her about the subject at all. I feel like I don’t know how to talk about it, it’s almost painful to discuss it. Thanks for the tips. :)

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  7. Brit @MomAnswersWithBrit.com
    May 5, 2011 | 11:13 am

    Thanks for being brave and talking on this subject. You gave some very useful information.

    A book that my husband read and will be working with our son when his age permit’s is “Preparing your son for every man’s battle.”

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  8. Deven
    May 5, 2011 | 12:46 pm

    Samantha,

    ;-P As a girl who began her period at age 10, I kindly advice you to rethink your timing. My neice also began at 9. AND had not had any preperation.

    I agree that children shouldn’t be told too much too soon. And I’m not saying sex has to be included in the talk.

    BUT, it could be horrible start your period and not know what was going on. At the very least, watch your daughter for changes.

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  9. Christine
    May 5, 2011 | 1:30 pm

    I agree Deven (& with this post!). :) I began my monthly cycles at age 12, but had had no preparation, so it was very embarrassing to me. And it was very difficult sitting through premarital counseling at age 19 with my soon-to-be-husband & our pastor when my parents hadn’t even talked to me about things. I was introduced to puberty in 6th grade, but I can’t tell you how oblivious I was to everything else! And it wasn’t because my parents were afraid to show affection, and they never relayed that sex was inappropriate (within marriage), but just the fact that they never spoke about it left a lasting impression. (And this is even with being very involved in my public high school!) Kimberly, I think you have a great approach! :)

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  10. RG
    May 5, 2011 | 2:34 pm

    I agree with Deven. I had that experience as well – started during a soccer game, and my parents wouldn’t talk to me about it. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. It was scary. My friend filled me in and then I felt dirty. This is important.

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  11. Celestie
    May 5, 2011 | 4:09 pm

    I think both you and your children should learn that fetuses do not grow in tummies (stomachs), they grow in uteruses. You can call it what ever you like, but it can be confusing to children who know that food goes into tummies and is digested.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    LOL, you give my children too much credit. Since this question is coming from very young children I’m not sure they understand enough about the process of digestion to get confused. :)

    However, since the definition of the word “tummy” is “A person’s stomach or abdomen” it’s a perfectly appropriate use of the term.

    Thanks for making me smile!

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  12. DHM
    May 5, 2011 | 6:14 pm

    As a mother of six girls over the age of 15, I can tell you that the signs that girls are about to start their cycles come several months before hand- if you are an attentive, informed mother who had the advantage of being home with her daughters all day. We have never been taken by surprise when a daughter started- and so, neither were they. I would guess that Kimberly assumes this is understood by ‘at the appropriate time.’

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    Serenity Summers Reply:

    May I ask how you are able to gauge when your girls were getting ready to start having periods? I have three girls (7, 5 and 2) and I am very interested in this information…. Thank you :)

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    DeputyHeadmistress Reply:

    Serenity, that is a fabulous question! In fact, I realized as soon as I hit send that this is something I should have addressed in my post for the Four Moms. I’m going to work on a ‘part 2′ to go up some time later this coming week- I’ll try to remember to come back and tell you when it’s up.
    (there are several signs, and I was going to answer you here, but today just suddenly became a crazy day- I popped a crown off a tooth last night, and the minute I got back from the dentist’s office, propped my feet up and got online, I was reminded that we are having company for dinner in five hours!)

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    Serenity Summers Reply:

    Thanks! I am excited to get more info on this :) Hope you feel better!

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    DeputyHeadmistress Reply:

    Serenity, and others who may have been interested, post’s up. Just click on my name above.

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  13. Laura
    May 5, 2011 | 9:27 pm

    This is one area where I feel like my mother did a very nice job. Her approach was much like yours, minus the Biblical references. (I didn’t grow up in a religious household.) She was a Lamaze teacher and LLL leader,which helped- the books and information were laying around the house and I played with the doll used to teach childbirth classes. While I read some, um, feminist literature (Our Bodies, Ourselves) I also felt like I could ask my parents any questions.

    My oldest began asking questions when I was pg with my third. I’ve actually enjoyed watching them figure out “the facts of life” and how their minds work. My daughter (then 3) was horrified when she learned where babies came out of- because the clothes they wore would be dirty! (And even more bemused when I told her that babies are born naked!)

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  14. Jennifer
    May 6, 2011 | 4:27 am

    DHM, your anecdote makes me giggle. I had my first cycle at church camp, where my mom was chaperoning, at age 11. I went into the bathroom to change for swim time and yelled for her. Thank goodness she was in the dorm at the time! But I heard her laughing with the other woman after I finished yelling. I couldn’t figure out why she was laughing. Several years later I asked her, and she said “when you went into the bathroom and yelled, I knew what you were yelling about.” I could not figure out how she had seen it coming! Of course, now as I look back, I had been in a bra for nearly a year, and there was hair in places I’d never had hair before, but at the time I just couldn’t figure out how she knew that!

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  15. abba12
    May 8, 2011 | 7:25 am

    Lol, my grandma told me once that when she first got her cycles, she thought she was dying! As for me, I’ll probably bring up the basics of periods at least when my girls start growing hair and other things. I knew a girl as young as 6 with hers, so they can come early, so it’s important to watch for signs

    (I’m assuming though, that that works in perfectly with the philosophy presented here, since a girl is probably going to ask why there is hair there! It’s one instance where slightly more infomation might be helpful.)

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  16. Kim
    May 18, 2011 | 11:37 am

    Just out of interest… why do you teach your kids that childbirth doesn’t hurt the mother or the baby?

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Because when our little ones are asking this question it’s usually in the context of wondering how the baby gets out without the mommy being ‘hurt’ as in being cut open. The regular result of the child birth process is that neither the baby nor the mommy is ‘injured’. That is what we convey to our children.

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  17. Holli
    August 23, 2011 | 10:23 am

    I know this doesn’t quite have to do with this post, but it came to mind as I was reading it. How do you go about nursing your babies around your boys? My son just turned 3 and has seen me nursing his brother. Just curious how you handle modesty as your boys get older.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I just nurse the baby in front of them. I nurse very modestly and if I’m wearing something that doesn’t allow for modesty, I cover up with a nursing cover or blanket.

    When we had all little ones this was a big question for me because it was difficult for me to nurse modestly, but I’ve gotten better at it and the boys are aware that when I’m nursing it’s not the time to come over and snuggle with me. :)

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  18. Molly Plumb
    July 12, 2012 | 3:59 pm

    We loved the book When You Were Inside Mommy by Joanna Cole. It has illustrated pictures of what a baby looks like at different gestational ages and talks about everything Mommy and Daddy did to prepare for the coming baby. It was fantastic to be able to read it to my 2 1/2 year old while I was pregnant. She had so many questions and that book helped a lot. Baby brother is out and almost 2 now, and she still likes to read it. It isn’t biblical per se (it doesn’t say God knit you together in the womb) but it gets general, kid appropriate facts right. It also lays the foundation for “the talk” because you can easily relate menstruation to being a woman’s body preparing to nourish a baby. But, since you don’t have a baby, you shed the lining of the uterus. Super easy…and the foundation was laid a LONG time ago.

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