Sex is one of those topics that can be hard for parents to bring up with their kids. I often hear how someone dreads the birds and the bees talk when their child gets older. I used to dread it, too, but then I figured out how to avoid THAT conversation. Ready?
Do it now.
No, I don't mean sit your infant down and give them all of the gory details. That would go over well, wouldn't it? I'm sure they would care so much... :P What I mean is, don't wait until a certain time to lay it all out for your child.
With A, the "talk" has been ongoing. We often go over body parts and what everything is for. However, since she is 3 years old, we do it at her level with her language. She doesn't know what sex is in detail, but she does know that a girl has ovaries and eggs and a boy has testicles and sperm. When the sperm and the egg meet, they can form into a baby. She knows that breasts are for feeding a baby; that one day she will get a period. We don't shy away from information, we just give it to her in small bits that she won't be confused by. She has books that have illustrations of the body, and specifically the reproductive systems. She is allowed to look at those as much as she wants and ask questions. Her questions are answered in a way that she can understand.
For us as parents, we believe it is important to teach A about her body but not in a way that she would feel ashamed by it. I think a lot of people have trouble talking to their kids about sex (especially older children or teenagers), and sometimes I think it is due to society portraying sex as a healthy part of life, as shameful. I do not want A to feel ashamed. For that reason, we don't use other names for her or anyone else's body parts. She knows the words vulva, vagina, and penis and uses them regularly (and always has). She knows that those are private areas and that it's not okay to touch anyone there and that no one should touch her there.
I used to be so scared for this aspect of parenting. When you think about sitting your pre-teen down and giving them all of the information they need to make a good decision regarding their sexual health, it can be so scary. That is why I decided that I wasn't going to wait. A needs to know these things now, not when she's hormonal and going through puberty. Kids learn things so young these days, and usually from a source that is neither knowledgeable or appropriate. I would rather teach her things the right way at a young age than to try and have that conversation with her later when she has already "learned" it all. That way, I feel that if the topic comes up elsewhere, she will feel comfortable to bring any questions she has to me without fear that she shouldn't know that stuff. We will have also already created a bond of trust regarding sex and her body and she won't feel like anyone is keeping anything from her. Most importantly, she will have all the information she needs to make a smart decision if anything ever comes up with friends or a boyfriend, or anyone. (Of course, that doesn't mean she will MAKE a smart decision, but she will have the ability to.)
I think, in the end, it is just important for us as parents to be the ones to teach our children what is right. Like I said, they are learning this stuff at a younger and younger age. The time frame most parents think they have before this topic comes up just isn't there anymore. We don't want to have to try to fix what someone else might have told them. Why not just do it now, while you still can safely?