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jamielynn2328's avatar

Is 8 too young to talk about sex?

Asked by jamielynn2328 (4710 points ) July 6th, 2009

Okay, my six year old daughter told me the other day that my 8 year old son laid on top of her and asked her to open her mouth while he kissed her. I dealt with the situation by talking to him immediately. I explained that it was inappropriate behavior and he started crying so hard. He felt so bad, and it is so confusing as a parent because I don’t want him to feel ashamed. He doesn’t know why he would do that to his sister, and of course he wouldn’t, he is 8. They don’t watch adult television, but have seen some kissing scenes before. I know that it is just curiosity, but should I explain sex to an 8 year old? How would I do that? I don’t want him to feel like he is a bad person or anything.

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58 Answers

Darwin's avatar

You can start explaining sex to a child of almost any age as long as you remember to keep it simple. You can elaborate more as the child gets older and expresses curiosity.

In terms of this behavior it may be sufficient to explain to your son that brothers and sisters never do this sort of thing to each other, and that boys always stop kissing or touching girls when the girls say no, whether a sister or a friend or a stranger.

tadpole's avatar

i don’t have children so please bear that in mind…..

but i think i would tell my children from the moment they asked, no matter how young, because sex is natural and not something to be hidden or dealt with in a special way, and that way they would accept it as natural too…and if children grew up thinking this they would be less inclined to go exploring and rebelling…

so if your children don’t yet know maybe now’s a good time…maybe your son is telling you he would like to be told about it so he could understand what is going on….

hope this helps but i’m not yet a parent so i’m not going to claim i’m right or anything…

meadowmuffinbluez's avatar

It’s never too early to talk to them about it. Keep it simple though.

Jack79's avatar

I explained sex to my daughter when she was 3. Except that this is something different, they were not really having sex or trying anything like that, they were playing without realising what they were doing. Which is actually very tough, when you have to explain something is bad when they don’t even know what that something is. I think it’s one of the rare cases where you’re allowed to say “don’t do that because I said so”.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

That kind of a situation is common between siblings, no matter their sex…you have to talk to the oldest, yes, explain that this is not something acceptable in our society and also not the age they should do things that adults do, like kissing…as the person that had a brother molest her for 2 years, I can tell you, it affected me then…it affects me a lot less now but those years were not good and I don’t think he meant any harm by it but it harmed me

xBRIANx's avatar

@meadowmuffinbluez I agree. Why wait? The longer you wait, the more awkward some feel it is to talk about it.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I would tell him only what you think he’ll understand. I definately wouldn’t go into the specifics. When his eyes start to glaze over, you’ll know you’ve gone far enough for now.

YARNLADY's avatar

This is exactly the kind of situation where I would go straight to the computer and take advantage of the dozens of websites that can give you some great tips and ideas.

JLeslie's avatar

No too young to talk about sex, but I would want to be sure that someone is not imposing that behavior onto your eight year old? Where is he getting that from, “lying on top of her?” I guess with media today it could be anywhere, but since he burst into tears, lets make sure he is not ashamed of something that may have happened to him unwantingly. I don’t mean to be paranoid, or anything like that, could be totally innocent, but just thought I would mention it.

Leanne1986's avatar

I was five or six years old when my mum told me about sex. Of course she kept it very simple but I’m glad she explained certain things to me at such a young age. When we came to do sex education at school (starting at eight years old) I remember seeing some shocked faces among my fellow classmates and I was thinking to myself “I knew that because mummy told me about it so it’s all fine”.

jamielynn2328's avatar

@JLeslie – I understand your concern, but I am a stay at home mom and the only place my kids have been without me is school. He tends to be a perfectionist, and when I try to parent him in any way, he cries. He doesn’t like to disappoint. He is a sensitive little soul and this is just so hard. Thanks so much to you and to everyone, I just joined Fluther and this seems like a great and safe community to get honest and helpful opinions. I am very grateful.

tadpole's avatar

@Leanne1986 exactly..it was perfectly natural…but did you still go for a grope behind the bikesheds? later on i mean…

tadpole's avatar

@jamielynn2328 i wish you success…i really don’t think it sounds like anything to worry about…if he didn’t know then he didn’t know….he’s only 8….and welcome, it’s a nice place….

JLeslie's avatar

@jamielynn2328 I understand. I guess this is maybe an opportunity to explain to him that you don’t touch other people unless they want to be touched. Of course, your 6 year old at the time might have just gone along with whatever her brother asked, so you need to explain to the 6 year old that she has the right to say no. I think a lot of it is normal curiousity.

Facade's avatar

If he’s doing things like that, then it’s definitely time to explain it to him.
My paerents never told me about sex. I found out on my own. So whatever floats your boat

skfinkel's avatar

I think you have seen that he has some kind of curiosity and interest—and I would definitely explain to him about sex—it’s okay to talk about it and clarify that sex is something that adults do with a special person they love, and children do not do this.

And for sure, help him over the shame of the situation—he didn’t hurt his sister, and acknowledge his healthy curiosity. Also, it is not out of the question to make sure that no one is doing this kind of sexual activity to him—he can understand that no adult should be doing this to him, and no children should be doing this to or with each other.

But no matter what, do use this as an opportunity to teach him about sex.

Darwin's avatar

There is always the bathing suit rule – you don’t ever touch other people in the areas normally covered by a bathing suit, and you don’t let others touch you there unless you want them to.

cwilbur's avatar

Explain it in terms he’ll understand. The things he probably needs to know at this point are that there are different kinds of kisses, and that some of them are appropriate for brothers and sisters, and some of them are not; and that it’s never okay to touch another person in a way that they don’t want to be touched.

The main points are that you don’t want to overwhelm him with details he’s not ready for, and that you don’t want to make him feel shame about his curiosity. You just need to satisfy some of that curiosity, and channel it into constructive pathways.

tadpole's avatar

@Darwin that’s a neat idea to remember….i’ll use quite a conservative bathing suit if you don’t mind…

Thammuz's avatar

The time is right when they’re old enough to ask about it. It’s better if you tell them early rather than let the curiosity go on to its practical and obvious consequences because of some unanswered questions.

laureth's avatar

My mom explained sex to me at age 3 or 4, actually drawing out the ovaries and uterus and everything. It was never some kind of hush-hush thing, just one more part of being human.

My husband’s father taught him about sex indirectly by leaving Playboy and Penthouse out downstairs for him to stumble upon, during those awkward teenage years. I know which one of the two of us is/was better informed when there were hard choices to make, and it wasn’t him. ;)

charliecompany34's avatar

nope. because of technology, videos and cable TV and all the luxuries of home entertainment, children are exposed to certain things we weren’t at that age. we as older adults from the baby-boomer age or one generation next to that have to make adjustments as our children become more inquisitive and sophisticated.

alive's avatar

i don’t think your question is about sex per se. the act that your son did was “sexual” so to speak, or trying to mimic sex. but really what seems to be at stake here is what is too far and what is inappropriate, and ‘not nice’.

like others have mentioned you need to teach your children that it is not ok for others to touch their “private” areas, and they cannot touch other people. how to say ‘no’, and how to ALWAYS tell an adult no matter what. and that they will not get in any trouble for telling, even if someone else said not to tell.

that should be something everyone teaches their kids as soon as possible.

as for sex. i would google some child psychology websites that can give you expert advice. as far as i know, children at a young age should be introduced to the biological aspects of the reproductive organs (the same way you teach them “head shoulders, knees, and toes”), and the like (as laureth said). this is a great site for advice, but also check some other sources, like some PhD’s in Child development etc.

susanc's avatar

You’ve already had advice from a PhD in child development and from an MA-level psychological counselor with years of experience with sexually-abused kids, and who knows what other experienced adults. Never hurts to learn more, but if you look at the consistency of the advice you’re getting, and realize that at least two of the people giving it are the kind of experts who have given courtroom testimony on this kind of thing, you can probably trust it.
A good question. Welcome!

DrBill's avatar

My mother told me nothing about sex, my father thought it was great I liked girls and would often ask things like did you get to first base? and would openly brag about my finesse with the girls.

I started having sex at 10, with a 9 year old girl next door.

I recomend talking now, before he starts learning on his own.

Tink's avatar

@DrBill wtf? 10?!!!

mzdesigns's avatar

just reading some of the responses,^^^ do you really, honestly, remember anything that was taught to you when you was 3 or 4…cmon now

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Kids are already asking about why girls are different than boys at the age of 5.
Talking to them in an age appropriate fashion doesn’t sound like a problem. If parents don’t talk to their kids about sex on their own, the kids are going to experiment, and no parent wants to be called into school because their son or daughter did something inappropriate.

DrBill's avatar

@Tink1113

Yes, 10. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing, but we did it anyway

Tink's avatar

@DrBill Uhm wow… Disturbing sorry.

DrBill's avatar

That is what can happen when children do not get sufficient guidance.

Tink's avatar

I know…

JLeslie's avatar

I remember my dad telling me the basic mechanics of how babies are made at age 5. I had asked the question and he gave me a matter of fact answer. A couple of years later they bought me the book “Where Did I Come From,” which I remember reading several times. I told my mother when I lost my virginity, I always felt like I could go to her about sex.

sweetteaindahouse's avatar

My parents never told me about it. I learned about it from the Health book in 6th grade.

jamielynn2328's avatar

Thanks for all the answers. My experience growing up was that sex was nasty and you shouldn’t want to have it unless you are married. Religion was a big factor in my upbringing and I don’t want to repeat what I experienced. Thinking that sex is a dirty thing causes affection issues in the future and I don’t want that at all. Not talking about it at all is obviously not the answer. If i don’t tell him, then someone else or something else will guide him into an opinion about sex that may be damaging. My husband and I are discussing our next steps and I know that my end goal is to be as open and honest in our communication with him. I want him to be able to come to me about sex in the future as @JLeslie states.

alive's avatar

@jamielynn2328 good job! and good luck!

MissAusten's avatar

I can suggest a couple of really good books for you and your son. Boys, Girls, and Body Science is an excellent book about how babies are made. It’s the story of a nurse who visits a classroom to talk about “body science.” I read this book to my daughter when she was 8 and started asking more pointed questions about exactly how babies come into the world.

Another book I love as a resource for all things (and I do mean all things) related to sex is It’s So Amazing. It discusses the facts of sex, along with topics ranging from puberty, STDs, molestation, homosexuality, and pretty much anything else. It is geared toward kids, but might be too much information all at once. I read a chapter at a time with my daughter whenever a relevant issue comes up.

One of the best things about these books is how they help you find the right words to discuss sex with a child, give you a bit of confidence about the conversation, and make it easier to answer questions. I’ve always felt that sex shouldn’t be a “dirty” topic or source of embarassment, but when it’s your own kid looking up at you with those big eyes, using words like vagina and masturbation immediately gets a lot harder. Also, like I said, my daughter was 8 when we had “the talk.” She giggled a bit, asked a couple of simple questions, and that was it. Turned out to be not such a big deal.

Leanne1986's avatar

@tadpole Of course I did, I’m not a nun!!!

JLeslie's avatar

If your kids go to religious schools that don’t teach about “sex” which is really mentruation and other puberty things, I think it is very important to teach these things. My girlfriend grew up in Catholic schools, her parents did not talk about sex at all and she had no idea about her body. No idea when she was most likely to get pregnant in her cycle, idea about anything. I know a lot of adults like this and it gives you less control as a woman over your body. I like MissAustins book suggestion.

I think I mentioned this once another time on Fluther. I know a young girl that when she was in her early teens she was thinking about having sex, and when asked what birth control she was going to use she said, “that is like a double sin, sex and birth control.” So again, if your kids are in religious school look out about how they might be thinking about things.

tadpole's avatar

@mzdesigns don’t you think you might vaguely remember the tone of the conversation that happened at some level….

i too shall be looking to read MissAustens book recommendations to see what i missed…

@Leanne1986 good to know good to know…just checkin’

Facade's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t think kids that are taught to abstain from sex are going to have a screwed up view about it. I certainly don’t. But it is a case to case thing.

cwilbur's avatar

@Facade: I think it depends on how you teach the kids about it. If you answer their curiosity and treat sex like a natural thing that should wait until marriage (or at least seriously committed relationship), you’ll encourage one set of responses. If you refuse to answer their questions and treat sex like it’s a dirty disgusting thing, meanwhile saying that they’ll understand it all when they get married, you’ll encourage another set of responses.

It’s not whether you teach them to abstain or not; it’s the context in which the teaching happens. Many people seem to think that giving kids information about sex is the same as encouraging them to have sex, and thus conclude that if they want their kids to abstain, the thing to do is to give them no information about sex. That just means that they’ll get their information about sex from their friends and the television instead of from a source that has their best interests at heart.

Darwin's avatar

@Facade – Being taught to abstain is not the same as being left in the dark about the whole subject. The approach we have taken is to teach about the biology of sex as well as the emotional importance of waiting for the right time and person.

And now @cwilbur has said what I meant to say, only better.

Facade's avatar

You’re right. There’s a right and wrong way to go about it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Facade I am all for teaching abstinence, I am just saying know how your body works and if you are going to have sex know how to protect yourself. There is some stat, which I couldn’t find right now that states that kids taught abstinence only have just as much sex as kids given information about sex and birth control, but that the abstinence only kids are more likely to get pregnant or sick. personally, I would rather my kid have safe sex.

It is a HEALTH issue…I have to go off on this tangent. My father worked for the surgeon general during the Reagan Bush years when aids hit the scene. C Everette Koop was a conservative man, responsible for the health of the nation. He wanted to put out service information about condoms and facts about HIV on TV, in schools, etc. The administration wouldn’t do it, didn’t want to talk about sex and saw it as a fag disease (I use fag because it is the tone they used, I don’t mean to offend anyone). It makes me sick when I think that our puritanical ideas actually endanger the health of people. We see this also with HPV, I have known for at least 20 years that you catch cervical cancer from your boyfriend, yet no one really talked about it, not until Merck could make money with the vaccine, we have to wait for corporate greed to let us know about things affecting our health or read it in Cosmo magazine, shouldn’t we know through school, our doctors, our government? Now it continues to surprise me that people still have not put together that HPV can lead to cancer of the tongue and anus. People die.

Lots of kids who are terrified of getting pregnant still engage in oral and anal sex. Personally, I think they are less likely to use condoms for those acts, but I am not a teenager I don’t know what they are thinking these day.

laureth's avatar

@mzdesigns – I do remember a few things that happened at 3 or 4, but in a sort of distorted (childlike) way. Regarding this conversation in particular, all I really remember was seeing the picture. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know the mechanics of sex, though, and other members of my family assure me that this conversation occurred.

mzdesigns's avatar

I wish I could remember back that far cleary *sigh :(

laureth's avatar

Actually, now that I think about it, that conversation is probably an item of public record somewhere, as I believe it was brought up in court during a custody case. My grandparents thought that teaching me about sex that young was grounds for her to be declared an unfit mother, among other things. Mom won the custody battle, btw.

mzdesigns's avatar

interesting…...

mbubbles's avatar

no. thats when my parents talked to me. My friend learned when she was six.

MissAusten's avatar

@laureth My mom had “the talk” with me when I was 3 years old. The only thing I remember about it is a picture in the book of a cartoon man and woman in bed, covered with a blanket. My mom has told me the story of how she took me to the library to read me books about how babies are made so many times though. I don’t know why she gave me the whole story at that age, when a simpler answer probably would have satisfied me. Like I said before, I gave my daughter all the details when she was 8. When she was younger and asked how babies get into their mommy’s tummy, I just said that when the mommy and daddy love each other, their love makes a baby start to grow. Once kids get old enough (and watch enough Animal Planet), they figure out there’s something missing from that explanation. Then, we have the talk. :)

JLeslie's avatar

The cartoon book is “where did I come from”

tiffyandthewall's avatar

sex doesn’t have to be explicit. if it’s explained in a matter of fact way, there’s nothing dirty or shameful about it. if your kids are curious, inform them of what they want/need to know – nothing more, nothing less.
(:

jamielynn2328's avatar

If anyone wants an update, we had the talk, it was hard at first. He started crying and I realized that by not talking about it for any longer would have caused him to have more shame about the whole thing. After I reassured him that the changes happen to everyone, we had a great simple conversation. I feel so much better. He feels so much better, and now I know how to deal with in the future with him and my younger child.

tadpole's avatar

@jamielynn2328 that’s lovely..

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