The Body Talk. The Coronavirus pandemic has caused our kids to miss out on so many milestones and rights of passage. For our town’s fifth graders, they are missing out on the “body” movie and talk that one of my daughters refers to as the “deodorant talk for boys” and the “period talk for girls.” More importantly, we parents are missing out on this important “nudge” opportunity to raise these topics with our kids. For so many reasons, it’s critical that we parents share age appropriate information (which is usually way more advanced than you would think) and have these, often uncomfortable, conversations with our kids when they are young.
Having an open dialogue builds a relationship that sets the stage for open communication with our kids for when they are older, at a time when topics are potentially even more awkward, more important and risks are much higher.
When parents start the conversation early and provide facts, we reduce the potential embarrassment a child may feel, help protect our children against sexual predators and most importantly, parents become the source of the factual and correct information rather than some random older kid on the bus—or on the internet.
In our house, I have used an easy and minimally painful trick of conveniently leaving the relevant book in their room or on the coffee table. Doing so meant that the books could be picked up and perused by my daughters on their own. I knew they were reading as the book would migrate from the coffee table to various spots around the house -- under their bed and in the bathroom. Once they had had a look, I would ask them if they had any questions or we would read parts of the book together. I’ve attached links on Amazon to the books that have been very helpful to our family, along with the “boy” book that American Girl published a few years ago.
It’s very hard to imagine our little ones growing up. My own eye opening experience was when one of my daughters was in 6th grade. I monitored her texts and was horrified to read what a class mate had text her.
And trust me, I know it’s hard. Some of the most uncomfortable questions I’ve had to answer in my entire life were when my girls were in 4th and 5th grades. Yes, answering those questions made me SQUIRM, but my kids know they can ask me anything and I can safely give them the info they need.
Remember, it’s never too soon!
The Care and Keeping of You, Book 1 – For Girls ages 8 and up
The Care and Keeping of You, Book 2 – For Girls ages 10 and up
Guy Stuff Body Book - For Boys aged 9 and up
It’s Not the Stork! – For aged 4 and up
It’s so Amazing! For aged 7 and up
Web Resource: Sexual Development and Behavior in Children: Information for Parents and Caregivers – including guidelines on appropriate ages to discuss under “What to Teach When”
About the Author
Vanessa Elias is a mental health activist, certified parent coach, speaker, and writer featured on NPR, PBS, and in the WSJ. She is the founder of Thrive with a Guide, LLC and serves as a group facilitator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Block Party USA is her passion project. Vanessa helps parents achieve healthier family relationships and lasting, meaningful connections.