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Sex talk help

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Reading up on birds and the bees

One of the more challenging conversations you are likely to have with your child -- more challenging for you, that is -- is that first "birds and bees" talk. No matter how comfortable you are with the topic in the grown-up world, communicating the information to your child in an age- and developmentally-appropriate way is a different beast. Books -- the right books -- can help.

Girl Reading Book

Several years ago, I went on a quest for books to have on hand to help my children learn about the birds and bees. I was daunted. Some books were too graphic, and some were too vague. Some treated it like a joke, and some read like boring academic tomes. It took some time -- more than I thought it should take -- but I finally found some that fit our needs.

Who is the book for?

First of all, you have to decide who you want the book for: Yourself, your child or both.

  • If this is a book for you, do you need a book that will suggest ways to bring up the topic with your child or how to respond to her questions? Or do you need a book for brushing up on details and the science behind puberty and reproduction?
  • If the book is for your child, will this be his only source of information, or will it be a companion volume for your talks?
  • If the book is for your child, what age group should the book target? The younger child asking more basic questions, or the older child who might be experiencing some of the issues first-hand?

I personally think that having a couple or three strategically located books around the house as companion volumes (and for different developmental levels) to our talks is an excellent way to reinforce the information I need to convey for my kids' basic knowledge, health and safety. As we've arrived at that age for each of the kids, the books have also been a good refresher course on scientific details for us parents -- and a reminder of what is age-appropriate information.

What do you want it to talk about?

Once you have determined who the book is for, you have choices as to what the book discusses. You can choose books that discuss the mechanics of reproduction only, books that discuss puberty and what happens physically when the hormones arrive, and books that discuss emotional topics surrounding both issues. Here is where we get into issues of family values and the books selections get trickier.

Some books on reproduction and puberty have a definite moral angle -- one that may or may not mesh with your own. You may want a book that spells out right and wrong in parallel with your own beliefs, or you may want a book that lays out facts and suggests ways to help the reader decide his own path.

Get recommendations... then start reading

One of the best ways to find helpful books is to ask your close friends with older children for recommendations. Guidance counselors and pediatricians are also good sources for ideas.

After all this, it's time to acquire a book or two and then start reading, Especially if the book is meant for your child at some point, you must know everything the book has to say. You probably know much of the information in these books, but you may be surprised at what you don't know!

The birds and bees conversations are some of the most important discussions we'll ever have with our kids. Books can help you get it right the first time.

Tell us: Have you found a book that has helped you talk to your kids about sex? Comment below!

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