Parenting has good days and bad days. Some days you look forward to. Other days you dread!
Discussing the Birds and the Bees doesn’t have to be one that you dread.
In fact it can be one you look forward to if you do it the right way. Discover how you can teach your kids about maturation, their bodies and have THE TALK in an easy manner where they will actually listen and participate!
Maturation Birds and the Bees Talk Guidelines
1. Don’t say birds and the bees!!
Whatever you do, don’t say, “Hey Let’s talk about the Birds and the Bees!”
There is an absolute association with the phrase “Birds and the Bees” that instantly makes the situation awkward. So just don’t say it.
Don’t even hint or joke about it being awkward. Kids pick up on that. They need to know that you take it seriously. That maturation and puberty are perfectly normal so they aren’t ashamed.
The more embarrassed you act the less they want to be there talking with you. They need to know you are confident enough that they can come to talk to you about ANYTHING!
2. Remove distractions
You want to make sure you have an environment that is friendly for communication. That means no TV running, no radio playing. No distractions like other kids playing at the park. Turn off the phones!
Also, make it comfortable. Maybe gather on the favorite couch in the house. Or on their bed with lots of pillows. If they are comfortable they will be more apt to open up and discuss with you.
3. Make it special
Don’t let this be a day they dread. Make it a special day. A right of passage if you will. I take my kids out to lunch. I let them pick out where they want to go. We do “to go” or drive-thru and take the food home and enjoy it while we talk.
It makes it special and gives them something to look forward towards.
4. Start with what they know & their questions
The hardest part is just starting the dialogue. I’ve been lucky because our school actually does a maturation day. So that is the day we pick. I take them out of school after the maturation class. we pick up the special lunch and then when we get home, I have them tell me what they learned.
I let them tell me all they can remember. And let them ask any questions that they have. You might need to prompt them and offer some encouragement because it will be a little embarrassing for them. Or they may have forgotten something that was covered.
You can ask “did they talk about….” (keep it vague). If they did discuss it then it prompts them to remember what was discussed and they can tell you.
Example: “Did they talk about your voice changing?” or “Did they talk about acne?” or “Did they talk about periods?” You get the idea.
Once they finish a topic, ask them if they have any questions about it. If you don’t say “Do you have any questions” they won’t ask. So make sure you ask them if they have questions.
5. Emphasize open communication encourage them to discuss, this isn’t a lecture.
One thing that all communication training will share is that it is more about listening than actually talking. Try to have the kids do most of the talking and you listen.
Prompt them on topics. If they aren’t sure what to talk about. Answer their questions. But let them lead the discussion.
Remind them this isn’t a lecture. It’s a discussion. And it’s a 2-way street. Which means they should be just as much involved in the conversation or more than you are.
6. Use proper terms
While it may be a little awkward, but in the long run, it will actually be easier and less embarrassing than if you use “nicknames ” for body parts.
This is one time when being blunt is a good thing.
Use the proper terms. It will break down the stigma that they are bad and shameful and something to hide.
You want your child to talk with you. So don’t give them extra grounds to be embarrassed and keep things to themselves.
7. Let them ask questions.
It’s been mentioned before but I’ll say it again. Let them ask questions. This is how they will really learn about Maturation and the birds and the bees. And it will help lead the discussion without it being too embarrassing.
Ask if they have questions- often. Sometimes they will be too embarrassed about the question they have. So ask them. Prompt them to ask it.
My 2nd son, I could SEE it in his eyes that he had a question he wanted to ask. But he was too scared to ask it.
I just kept coming back to it. I didn’t over push. But I knew he wanted to ask it. He just needed some encouragement.
We ended up talking about 3-4 different topics about the birds and the bees before we circled back around to the question he wanted to ask.
Ironically, he was most concerned about “What happens when the emotions change you and kids become mean?”
He was most worried about the personality changes that come with hormones coming, friends becoming moody and he didn’t want to lose his friends.
But had I not kept circling around and encouraging him to ask questions I never would have known he was worried about that. We talked about it and now he isn’t worried anymore.
8. Give them time
Sometimes it is hard to ask questions. Especially of the sensitive nature of the Birds and the Bees. Maturation is hard for kids and adults to talk about.
So build up their courage to ask embarrassing questions. Don’t push, but still encourage.
Like I mentioned before my son had a question. I knew he had a question. But he wasn’t ready to ask it yet. So we visited other topics about Maturation and I gave him time to build up his courage to ask his question.
9. Go Deeper
As your child discusses what they learned, there will be a lot of it that is very vague and general information. This is the time when you as the parent can go deeper.
You can explain exactly how things work and what will change with their body.
Maybe your child wants to know how babies are made?
Maybe your child wants to know WHY they get pimples?
You can go into more detail than what was covered at school. Build on their foundation but give your child more information. Enough to answer their questions.
This lets your child know that you are proficient on the topics. You can be trusted to answer their questions. It lets them know you won’t just push it away because it is embarrassing.
But keep it appropriate for your child. Each child is different and some may not be ready for the FULL explanation of how a baby is made. So keep it appropriate to what your child is ready to hear. Which leads perfectly into rule #10…
10. Set ground rules
Let your child know that these are important topics. And they are always welcome to ask Mom and Dad any questions. It’s ok to have questions.
BUT they need to know it’s not ok to talk to their friends about these topics.
Kids can often be immature and make light of heavy subjects. They can also spread misinformation if they only hear part of a story.
Not to mention maybe kid #1’s parents went into DEEP detail on how his body works. But kid #2’s parents knew he wasn’t quite ready to hear that much information. If Kid #1 started spouting off all his parents said to kid #2, you could have a big problem.
We just say that these things are great to discuss in the proper place and time. And anytime they have questions they are more than welcome to come discuss them with Mom and Dad.
Let them know it’s not ok to joke about or make fun of maturation and what happens with our bodies. Teach them to be respectful towards their own body and other’s bodies.
Topics to cover in THE TALK about Maturation
1. How their body changes & what they can expect to happen from a science perspective. If you keep this part very science-based and biological it makes it a little easier for the kids to not feel embarrassed about it.
2. Hygiene changes and how to use deodorant, why it’s important to shower more often, etc.
3. What happens to the other gender. You don’t have to go into deep detail, but guys SHOULD know very basics of what happens to girls. And girls should know very basics of what happens to boys. So when they see it happening, they aren’t left wondering. And so they can have proper respect.
4. Teach respect for the other gender – don’t let them think it is OK to make fun of the boy whose voice is changing or the girl who started a period and it leaked onto their pants.
I also went into detail teaching the boys how to show respect for girls like holding doors open. Not because they are stronger or girls are weak, but because they need to show respect for girls.
5. Talk about hormones. Discuss how they affect attitude, emotions, some friends may change and you won’t be friends, bullying because of emotions or someone changing at different times.
Let them know that hormones can make you feel isolated or trigger feelings of depression. And what to do if that happens.
6. Pornography. This is also an opportune time to discuss Pornography with your kids. The dangers, your stand on pornography and how their hormones may entice them. But you can also help them know what to do WHEN they encounter it.
Learn more at Fight the New Drug for ideas on how to approach this topic and why it is so important that kids know about the dangers of pornography.
If you follow these guidelines you will be able to turn the dreaded Birds and the Bees Talk into something positive.
Above all, you need to keep the communication open and flowing. Be confident.
Don’t let them feel that you’re squirming and you don’t want to talk about it.
They need to know that you are confident enough that they can trust your judgment.
They need to know they can talk to you when something arises.
They need to know that you will be there for them.
They need to know what is happening is NORMAL! They are normal!
They need to know they don’t have to be ashamed.
They need to know they have someone to talk to.
Make sure you end the Birds and the Bees discussion on a positive note. Nothing says “let’s not do that again” like ending in an argument or on a topic that makes them very uncomfortable.
Then teach them how to ask for more time to talk.
Maybe next week or a few months later they will experience something or have a question. Let them know you DO want to talk about it. They just have to make sure it’s an appropriate time.
I.e. Mom making dinner while the baby is screaming and siblings are fighting is not a good time to chat. But what they can do is say, “Mom I want to talk about something important, when would be a good time?”
This way we know they want to talk, this way we can affirm to them that while now isn’t a good time it doesn’t mean they aren’t important. It shows them that they are important. And you want to hear what they have to ask. You are setting an appointment.
Usually, I say something like, ” How about after we put your siblings to bed. We can put aside some time and you can stay up and we can have that talk uninterrupted.”
They know they are important, and the line of communication stays open which is half the battle to surviving puberty.
PBS Kids has a great basics resource about puberty to help you get started.