Being honest with my kids about sex & relationships, death and faith
I am quite keen on being honest. That’s probably not a surprise given the name of my blog but I am keen to always be a person of integrity, speaking the truth, particularly when others are not. This doesn’t mean I always speak every honest thought I’m thinking, rather I try my hardest never to lie or to be ‘creative with the truth.’
When it comes to parenting I am keen to always be honest with my kids. When they ask questions I tell them truth, sometimes a slightly more age appropriate version, but never a lie. There have been a few examples in conversation this week that have made me really think about how I share the truth with my kid when his questioning of the world is constant.
Often we end up going down a path in a conversation and I think goodness me I’m going to have to explain something massive here but more often than not, thankfully, he loses interest! However, I’m finding the whole honesty thing particularly interesting when it comes to sex, relationships and death and I’m kind of curious what people are telling their kids if they’re not answering their questions.
So, here’s how it’s looking for us to be really honest in a few areas which Big brother is really interested in at the moment…
Sex and Relationships
We made a conscious decision whilst Big brother was still a baby that we were going to use the correct anatomical names for body parts. Growing up with a Mum who was a nurse we’d always been quite anatomical in our talking about the body but I also listened to a podcast which shared some research on how children were more confident talking about abuse when they felt confident talking about their body and naming it which convinced me of the importance.
So, when Big brother started asking about his body and our bodies we told him about penises and vulvas (which is actually the correct term for the outside part of a female’s reproductive parts, the vagina is inside!) I don’t think there are that many three year olds that know that the areola isn’t just the name of a French footballer (I didn’t know that until Pete told me recently!) We’ve taken an approach of talking honestly about all our body parts so that, we hope, he learns to do the same and isn’t ever embarrassed by it.
This has led to interesting conversations and reactions like in the Doctor’s surgery recently where Big brother watched an animated video on the surgery TV screen and commented, “why is there a penis Mummy?!” (It was supposed to be a virus or something but it was pretty phallic to be fair!) I was fascinated by the response in the room, some stifled giggles but even more horrified faces. I know people don’t expect a three year old to say it, but penis isn’t a rude word. It’s a part of the body and I want him to be comfortable talking about it.
We have got some really great body books (we particularly love Look inside Your Body – for younger kids – and See Inside Your Body – for older kids – neither do the reproductive organs so that’s next on our list to buy) which he loves learning facts from, particularly about the heart and bones. He also talks about those but people don’t seem so shocked to hear veins or the skull being discussed!
As he’s getting more of an understanding of relationships that starts to all combine with the body chat. We’re talking more about private parts and how males and females are different. Earlier this week we were listening to the soundtrack of Into the Woods (it’s such a good one!) and he started asking why Cinderella wasn’t kissing the prince and I ended up having to explain that he was choosing to kiss someone who wasn’t his wife and then trying to figure out how to explain that well to a three year old. We ended up talking about how Daddy had chosen to marry, and kiss me, and if he kissed someone else it would be hurtful and he’d break the promise he made to me which seemed to satisfy his questioning.
We haven’t yet talked about sex but we’re not far off as only a few days ago we had a conversation that went something like this:
Him: “Mummy, why do they have a baby?”
Me: “They wanted one so they made one.”
Him: “No they didn’t! God made it.”
Me: “Well yes God made the baby using their bodies.”
Him: “Not the Daddy’s body. Just the Mummy’s.”
Me: “Well actually the Daddy’s body was also important…”
Him: *runs off into soft play*
Me: *breathes a sigh of relief that we stopped there for now!*
I don’t think it’ll be long before he asks some more questions and we end up having that conversation in full!
We’ve always talked fairly openly about death in our family but now that I’m working as a Funeral Pastor I guess it’s just more frequent. I think sometimes there can be a fear of being honest with our kids when they are little about death but again we’re keen that it becomes a really normal thing, not something mysterious or scary.
Our conversations around death have been fascinating and listening to him process them in his play even more so! Sometimes when he talks about death so naturally I have a moment where I wonder if we’ve made it too normal but he still gets that death is sad but he just isn’t scared of it which is ultimately what I wish for him to feel.
Death and loss is in so much of what he’s seeing and learning, particularly TV. Watch any Disney film and there’s probably an orphan or someone dies with very little explanation of what’s going on so we’ve done lots of talking when watching films.
We also talk as a family about how we hope to adopt in the future and why and recently I heard him express his heart for this when he said (talking about when he grows up), ” I can be someone’s daddy. If their daddy dies, I’ll be their daddy.” Through our open and honest conversations about death and adoption he’d then been able to share something incredible on his own heart.
He’s in that phase of questioning how old people are and therefore if they’ll die soon which kids go through as so often we explain death away as something that happens when people get really old. But, he also knows that people can die before they get old. This has come mostly from conversations following times when friends have died of cancer. I don’t want him to be scared of death thinking that anyone could die at any moment but I also don’t want to shield him from the fact it’s not only very old people that die so that he has to experience knowing about that at some point without us being part of that.
So much of our conversations around relationships and death link into the wider conversation of faith for us. In particular, in amongst all the death chat, Big brother is really into the story Jesus’ death and resurrection and the story of Lazarus.
When it comes to our faith I’m also keen that we answer his questions and tell him the truth. There are parts of of the Christian faith that may seem big to talk to a three year old about but how do we talk about God’s incredible love for us without talking about how people walked away from him? How do we talk about God’s incredible rescue plan without talking about the cross?
I love Big brother’s questions and it is a privilege to be able to answer them. I don’t always launch into full on, big answers. I always try to ask him, ‘what do you think?’ first (particularly as this clarifies if really his question isn’t quite on the big topic I think it is!) and I explain and let him keep asking. I am really keen never to shut conversation down or fob him off with unnecessarily dumbed down answers. And I hope that this will mean that he always knows that he can ask me anything and expect me to listen and be honest with him.
How do you find being honest with your kids about these kind of topics?
What have been your favourite honest conversations with your kids?
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