At what age do you think your child should know?
From another question I wondered what age you think is right for your child to know about PIV details about sex? Or would you just let them learn on the playground? Would you include any kinks to watch out for or warnings about homosexual desires?
A sexual discussion with a child should begin when they area able to handle it and that would vary from child to child. I would not dump the whole load on a child but inform them progressively over a specified period of time . In that way he or she can chew on it and develop questions that they could come back to ask.
Every kid is different and you have to pay close attention to when each individual is ready for AND in need of the information. If a child is in public school, he or she will be in need of the information sooner than not–at least if you want him or her to know the truth. We felt like we were informing our daughter almost too young, only to be shocked by what she had already heard from kids at school. [Regardless, I absolutely defend the benefits of her public school education, but this is not the forum in which to do so.]
I knew of one elementary aged boy who was approached in his school bathroom by an older boy and subjected to graphic comments about homosexuality. This has been a while, so my memory is spotty, but there was an added element I can’t remember: either a physical come-on or verbal abuse, or intimidation or something; I just can’t recall for sure. Fortunately this child was able to tell his parents what had happened and there was definite Mama Bear defense on his behalf, (supported by school response) but in light of this experience, I always felt it was good to stress to our daughter that no one had the right to touch her in a way that made her uncomfortable and that although she should first try following school policy (use her words, tell a teacher, etc.), she should never allow someone to hurt her because she followed the rules and they didn’t. We promised to support her 100% if she felt the need to use force to keep herself safe, and put her in karate so she had tools to defend herself if necessary. (Incidentally, she did once use her karate–to subdue, not to attack–on a boy who was behaving inappropriately and we would have defended her as far as we needed to, but it was unnecessary because the teacher saw the whole thing and never batted an eye. Sadly, the boy in that case was just as much a victim; he had learned his behavior from older boys on the bus and just repeated it without having any idea what it actually meant, just that it was a way to upset girls.)
It is sad that she had to learn about some ugliness younger than I would have liked, but better that she know and be prepared than to be caught off guard and harmed. We still tell (and show!) her how God designed sex and relationships, how they should be, but she also knows how the world often is, and she is prepared to stay out of the muck.
As has been noted, the age will vary from child to child. For us, the main factor we considered was the questions they asked. They indicated what they were thinking of or being exposed to at school or in the neighborhood.
Also, what their social environment was outside of the home – for example when they switched schools and such. We figured they’d be exposed to new things in the new situation.
Speaking as someone who doesn’t and isn’t going to have children, I know that I wouldn’t want my kids learning about basically anything important from other children, so my inclination would be to get out ahead of it and ensure that they have an understanding of the basic biology. But then, I’ve also been in the medical field, so I tend to view sexual topics with a bit of a clinical perspective; if not for the societal taboos, it wouldn’t bother me to answer any child’s questions on the matter.
I think many of us waited too long and our kids just sat there thinking they knew all this years ago. I know talking to my son was difficult especially questions about masturbating. How a woman’s body responds. Oh how I wished his father had been alive to have the talk with him. It’s great that he felt he could be open and honest with me but I wasn’t prepared to be open and honest with my answers.