Show Transcript for Episode 19: Talking to Your Children about Sex

Laurie Watson: Welcome to Foreplay Radio, Sex Therapy with your host, Laurie Watson, sex therapist and author of Wanting Sex Again. And my co-host, Dr. Adam Matthews, couple’s counselor. Today, we are going to be talking about how to tell your children about sex. This is going to be a great topic. And you can find us any time on iTunes at Foreplay Radio, Sex Therapy or Stitcher. Or you can send us a question if you like on the web, which is www.ForeplayRST.com. And we’d love to hear from you about what you want us to talk about at any time.

Dr. Adam Matthews: And Laurie, I am just excited about what we’re talking about today. Because personally, I am right in it.

Laurie Watson: That’s right. You are telling your children about sex.

Dr. Adam Matthews: That’s right. I have a seven –

Laurie Watson: My children are probably having sex.

Dr. Adam Matthews: — a seven year old, almost eight year old. And we are just in the midst of talking actively about what and how we are going to talk to her about this topic.

Laurie Watson: Yeah.

Dr. Adam Matthews: So, I want to be a learner today. I just want to listen and help you let me figure out what we’re supposed to do. And how we are supposed to do it.

Laurie Watson: Okay. You know, I think that this is such an interesting thing that this incredibly human wonderful experience becomes the parent’s most anxiety provoking experience, right?

Dr. Adam Matthews: Well, even if you know that it’s not supposed to be, you know, like both me and my wife or therapist and we talk about sex all the time. And then we start thinking about what we’re going to say to our daughter. And we just like that’s true. It just arises right in the pit of our stomach. Like I can feel all that anxiety. Especially when they just catch you off guard with questions. Like in our head, it’s a sit down conversation. It’s this big moment, big event. For us, often, my wife just had a baby. And so, we get questions from the eight year old and the four year old exactly how that baby got in there. And also, about, I think my four year old asked her the other day, why in the world would our son look like me, at all? How does that mix?

Laurie Watson: Yeah, how does that work? When it came from mommy.

Dr. Adam Matthews: That’s right. When it came from mommy and the baby just got in there somehow. How does it work? So, like it is this anxiety producing.

Laurie Watson: But see, you are in the midst of those perfect questions.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: I mean, that is absolutely when I started talking to my kids about sex was, you know, I was pregnant and my older ones were asking about, you know, well how did that baby get there? I remember my oldest son said, “Yeah, I know there’s an egg and a sperm. But how does the egg and the sperm get there?” You know, which is like the question, right? It’s the leading question that you want your kid to ask so you can tell them.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Tell them about how that works. Well, and then like that’s just the reproductive part of it, right?

Laurie Watson: Yes, yes.

Dr. Adam Matthews: And that’s not even talking about the pleasure part of it or how to do that well or how to connect well. Like that’s just even — that just doesn’t even — I can’t even make that compute in my head right now.

Laurie Watson: Right.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Thinking about my daughter. And talking to her about that. And also, try not to advocate that role. And give it over to my wife completely. And just say, “Here you take that.”

Laurie Watson: Absolutely. I think daddy’s have to have a say too.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah, that’s right.

Laurie Watson: Should have a say because they have so much to contribute. And so, many times I think we relegate the talk of the birds and the bees to the parent of the same gender, right?

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: And you know, because we think it will be awkward. But I think the opposite gender has something to say too. And you know, there’s lots of things that they need to learn from us about it. I just felt like it was a natural conversation. And that’s what I want to talk about today is that I think it ought to be something that we just weave into conversation. It’s a conversation throughout their childhood that it’s not one moment.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yes, I think that’s key.

Laurie Watson: It’s not the big talk. It’s a talk that happens spontaneously. And it happens intentionally. And there are certain times that we need it to happen intentionally.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. And certain times where it can just be a part of our relationship with our kids rather than this one big event. I know you said something to me that really changed my thinking about this.

Laurie Watson: Oh, good.

Dr. Adam Matthews: I want you to talk about it a little bit more. And that was when we were talking about this before, thinking about the idea that my kid, once I had this conversation that she was going to lose something. That she was going to lose her innocent.

Laurie Watson: I remember you saying that.

Dr. Adam Matthews: That it was going to burst something for her.

Laurie Watson: Right. Like it was going to burst her innocence in some way.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Like, I was in the same way telling her —

Laurie Watson: Taking something away.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Telling her that there was no Santa Claus, right? That was what I was going to do right?

Laurie Watson: Right. This is the opposite, no Santa Claus talk, Adam.

Dr. Adam Matthews: That’s right.

Laurie Watson: That there is an orgasm. Come one.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yes, yes.

Laurie Watson: Come on.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yes, it’s a good thing. There’s presence. It is real. And you said something of looking at it as not as a curse that we’re inflicting on our children. But rather looking at it as a gift that we’re giving them.

Laurie Watson: Yeah.

Dr. Adam Matthews: And that really began to change my thinking and wondering if you can just say some more about that and how you’re thinking about that.

Laurie Watson: I mean, I think that what I heard from you was all this angst about, “Oh, you know the fear.” And so, many parents do approach the conversation of, I’m opening the door to something where my child could get hurt. I mean, we know there’s heartbreak, right? I mean that this is about love and romance and giving yourself and getting your heartbroken. And then there is the fears of molestation and violation and rape. And I mean it’s like there are terrible things having to do with sexual touch, also, that we worry about his parents.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. And those are, we’ve actually had those conversations with our kids. About trying to protect them from against touch.

Laurie Watson: Okay, okay. I’m going to tell the other parents out there how to do it, right? No I’m kidding.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Well, I know, I know. And I think that that started to change my thinking because we need to separate those conversations. Do you think those are separate conversations or do you think they are?

Laurie Watson: I do. And I really feel strongly that the first conversation, the first messages have to be about pleasure and joy and love. You know that this is something delightful and wonderful and the gift. You know, so that there’s a context. And then there’s this tiny little shadow over here. But so many parents think, “Okay, I don’t want to tell my children about sex.” Because of their fear, right? “If I tell my children, their minds are going to be thinking about it, and then there’ll be promiscuous. Then they’re going to want to experiment.” You know, it’s such a temptation. But children are at different developmental ages. They don’t think about it in that way. And I mean, I think really the conversation starts in infancy.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: I mean, we lay down when we’re taking care of our children, we’re changing their diaper, we’re looking at them and gooing at them. We lay down a capacity for intimacy. The mother holding the baby, you know, that perfect distance from the crock of her elbow to her eyes. You know that gaze distance actually lays down the sense of self-esteem. And because babies are their bodies, you know, they are one with the body still. They think of themselves as intrinsically good when they feel that smiling face, that warm sunshine. And I know that sounds crazy, but those really are the beginnings of the touch, the sense of giving them that that love comes physically. And their needs, which are many physical needs, hunger, needs to be changed, they are wet. Need to be held. All of that, we tell them it’s good when we meet those needs.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. And so, you are saying that beings to become almost a foundation of emotional intimacy, which is a foundation of physical intimacy as well. And so —

Laurie Watson: Yeah, right. I mean, the body and the mind are just one at that point.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: And I think, too, you know, those are the years that we’re starting to name parts of the body. It’s like forehead, nose, chin, penis, clitoris, vulva, vagina. Yeah, I mean we actually need to say all the right words. And you know, babies reached down, they touch themselves. And I mean, many parents get real anxious about that. I mean, first of all, they’re changing they may be changing a dirty diaper. And they are like, “Wait, wait, wait, don’t put your hands there.” But many times, they are not changing a dirty diaper and parents are still anxious about a child reaching for their genitals. But the children are just kind of exploring their bodies.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yup.

Laurie Watson: You know, trying to touch everything. And it turns out that touching their genitals feels good, you know? And that’s natural, surprise. You know, so we just need to smile at them. And say, “Yes, you know, that’s what this is. This is, you know, this is your penis. This is your clitoris. You know, that’s a special place.”

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: And then smile and then change the diaper. I mean, no big deal.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. And that has to do a lot with our own anxiety as parents, right?

Laurie Watson: Yeah.

Dr. Adam Matthews: And our own anxieties about our sexuality and being able to just talk about it in normal everyday terms. Like almost by making it, by not, by calling the penis by I don’t know, what do you call it? Your bobo or your, I don’t know.

Laurie Watson: Wee-wee.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah, like it’s almost like making it foreign. And almost making it something that we don’t talk about like we talk about everything else.

Laurie Watson: Yeah. And I think, I mean I think parents are a lot better at calling a boy’s penis a penis than they are about calling a girl’s genitals by their right names.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: I mean, I gave this talk once, and I give this talk a lot and I talk to college students and I talk to women’s groups and sometimes mixed couples groups and I often ask the women, how many of you had your genitals named by your mother? How many of you had your clitoris named? And you knew the name of the specific sexual spot on your body? You know, hardly anyone ever raises their hand. And one woman kind of looked at me funny and she just, I mean, you know, “Like my mom would have called it like Josephine or Susie?” Like how boys name their penises. Like did my mother name my clitoris. I just thought that was just a hilarious comment. But no, no, I mean named it saying it was a clitoris, which is, you know, the sexual universe for a little girl. And how many parents do it? And like, you know, sometimes there’s euphemisms or there’s generalities. A lot of parents called the genitals, like that’s your vagina. Well, it’s actually not their vagina. The, you know, canal is the vagina. And the whole thing is the vulva. And they’re like, “Oh, that just sounds so sexual.” And I’m like, “Well, that’s what it’s called.” And I had friends who had a baby girl and they were naming, you know, telling me what they were doing when they were giving her a bath. They said, you know, we wash the front bottom and the back bottom. And I said, “Oh, no, no. You’re not going to call it that.”

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. Not the front bottom.

Laurie Watson: No. No, you are going to call it by the right names. And I explained kind of why. And I mean, I think this brings us to about age two and three. You know when the child is learning mastery over their genitals right there. You know they are toilet training. They’re learning how to use the bathroom all on their own. And you know that to me should be long and slow. Like especially if parents cannot be anxious about, “Well, my kid got toilet trained faster than your kid or this brother or you know.” I mean kids by and large are toilet trained by kindergarten. And I think parents should just relax.

Dr. Adam Matthews: And with the process, go slow.

Laurie Watson: Yeah. Because it actually developed sexual problems later on when you rush toilet training.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. Well, and it seems like part of what we have to do as parents is a lot of what we’re talking about is just relax about this whole process.

Laurie Watson: Yeah.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Name things what they are. Go slow. Let it be continual. Breathe through this process, so to speak. Because just take a deep breath and just allow this to happen naturally. And in specific moments where we can reinforce positivity around our kids sexuality seems to be a place to really start. And it sounds like it’s almost starting from birth.

Laurie Watson: I think so.

Dr. Adam Matthews: That we are reinforcing a lot of what we think about sex.

Laurie Watson: Yeah. And I think your kids asking, you know, where babies came from at these tender little ages. It often does start with reproductive questions. I think that we should tell our children how they were made first. You know, because children are made differently these days. And so, we should talk to them specifically as parents about first how they were made. And then oftentimes how intercourse works. I remember, then I think four year old asked me, how did the baby get into your tummy mommy? And I said, “Well, it’s kind of like a puzzle. Remember how boys have special boy parts? Like a penis. Well a woman has a special part called a vagina. And it’s kind of like a puzzle. They fit together just like a puzzle. And it feels very nice. And you know, this is how parents make love and how they express love. And then that’s how a baby is made.” And they’re like, “Oh, okay. Okay, I’m going to go play with some blocks now.”

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. When it is natural to us, it is natural to them. And it fits into their world of play and look at that squirrel. And let’s, you know, let’s go play.

Laurie Watson: Yeah, I mean it’s all integrated in their mind. As long as we let it be integrated. And we don’t get too embarrassed or anxious. I mean, you said we’ve had that conversation of protection. And I believe that in the early years, the parents are the protector. We don’t want to psychically burden a child with the need to protect themselves.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: I mean, we can give messages like — I mean, I think we need to be very careful about who are their babysitters. Probably more than especially family members. Because molestation more likely happens from somebody you know, than from somebody you don’t know.

Dr. Adam Matthews: I believe it’s 95%.

Laurie Watson: Yeah. I mean, it’s crazy.

Dr. Adam Matthews: There is a great resource by the way, for parents about that, about how to talk to your kid.

Laurie Watson: Oh, good. Tell us.

Dr. Adam Matthews: It’s called Darkness to Light. They an organization and they have some great resources on their website. I believe it’s Darkness2Light.org.

Laurie Watson: Yes.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Highly recommend. There is some trainings you can find out to go to. But there’s specific things. Because I think there’s two directions that you go there. You want to talk to them about safe touch. And about being able to talk to you about if somebody else does that. Touches them in a way that is inappropriate. But you always want, like you’re saying to know, that is one of the things that Darkness to Light talks about is that no alone time with an adult. And being able to talk specifically about that. Then your conversation is able to kind of talk also about pleasure.

Laurie Watson: And I realize this is sexist. But by and large, the statistics show women do not molest, you know, children. It’s male. And I mean there is a 2% kind of thing where a woman would be a molester.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: So, you know, just for me, because I knew that I always use female babysitters. And I never even let my sons babysit. Not because I didn’t trust my sons. I did. But simply because of this crazy world. And what if there was an accusation, I just, you know, like what if the boy was trying to help the child go to the bathroom. You know, and the child got it mixed up. I just never wanted that to happen. And I always also used girl babysitters.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: I was very careful about it. You know, many times, unfortunately we know that molestation passes generations. So, the grandfather who molested the daughter is somehow or another, my God, babysitting the children, you know?

Dr. Adam Matthews: I know, still.

Laurie Watson: And, and it’s like either repression or, “Oh, well he wouldn’t do that to the babies.” It’s like, “Yeah, well he did it to me, you know?” I mean, so I think we have to wake up, we have to face what there was, and set really good boundaries around family, you know, if we know that that’s a possibility.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. And I think that’s an important — that is part of a larger whole conversation of recognizing that sex is out there in the world. Our kids are going to learn about it. We’re not going to be able to protect them from it. And so, we have to intentionally step into it. And I think when we come back, I’d love to hear more about how to really unpack this gift for them in a way that’s developmentally appropriate. And that we can begin to really make this something that is positive for our kids. As we’ve talked about, becomes really integrated and a part of their life. And it’s a gift to them rather than a curse.

Laurie Watson: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Then just the fear?

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: Okay. Well you are listening to Foreplay Radio, Sex Therapy with your host Laurie Watson, author of Wanting Sex Again. And my cohost, Dr. Adam Matthews, couple’s therapist. We’ll be right back.

Commercial: Wanting Sex Again, how to rediscover desire and heal a sexless marriage by certified sex therapist, Laurie Watson. Each chapter is designed to fix one of the problems that caused low libido from early marriage through the childbearing years, even all the way through menopause. I’ve also had men read it and tell me that for them it was the most helpful thing they read about resolving sexual problems. Look for Wanting Sex Again on Amazon.com. You can also talk to Laurie Watson for therapy in person or via Skype. I offer couples counseling and sex therapy and I think about both aspects of the relationship, emotional intimacy, and sexual technique. And that combination together helps marriages be happy. Improve your sex. And improve your relationship with awakening center for couples and intimacy. Find out more at AwakenLoveandSex.com and sign up for their next couples retreat weekend hosted by Laurie Watson. AwakenLoveandSex.com, awaken what’s possible.

Laurie Watson: Welcome back to Foreplay Radio, Sex Therapy with your host, Laurie Watson, author of Wanting Sex Again, certified sex therapist. And with Dr. Adam Matthews, couple’s therapist. Today, we’re talking about how to tell your kids about sex. And we’re kind of taking a long conversation here. But right now, we’ve left off at age about two, three. And we’re talking about mastery when children are mastering their toileting functioning. And this is an age, I think, Adam, that parents get really twisted up because kids are now free from the diaper. And so, they’re starting to self-stimulate. And I get more questions than anything else, “Oh my gosh. You know, what do I do? They’re starting to grab themselves. They won’t stop playing with themselves, you know?”

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah, hands are down their pants.

Laurie Watson: Yeah, hands are down their pants. “They won’t stop. They’re doing it in the living room. What do I do?”

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: And you know, they tell me sometimes parents say, you know, “I get real mad at them and tell them to stop that.” And my whole thing is, this is very natural. They are discovering their genitals. It does feel good. It’s not really sexual for them at this age.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Right.

Laurie Watson: It’s about their body.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. It’s about exploration and discovery, right?

Laurie Watson: Right, right. And little girls actually can come to orgasm at that age. You know, they can actually have orgasms believe or not from the womb.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Really?

Laurie Watson: Yeah. Through the, just about the grave. Yeah. That is a female capacity, which is phenomenal. Boys —

Dr. Adam Matthews: I’m not going to lie, I’m a little jealous.

Laurie Watson: Yeah. I know. There are a lot of good things about being female. But I mean, I think what we want to do is smile. Say yes, that’s your body. It feels so good. You know, but something that you do in your own bed. Everybody does that and everybody does that in their own bed at night. We don’t do that in the living room. So, we redirect for privacy. But we don’t necessarily say no. I mean we can say, you know, it’s not the appropriate time for that. Take your hands out of your pants, you know? I mean, unfortunately my kids were always telling on each other. “Mom, you know, he’s got his hands down his pants again.” So, it was always easy to just say, “Okay, you know, that’s something you need to go in your own room for or whatever.”

Dr. Adam Matthews: So, that’s just giving it some context. It’s not saying stop it. Stop it now. What are you doing? Or being shocked at it. It’s just giving it context.

Laurie Watson: And it’s also saying, you know, giving a message, this feels good.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: And it’s your body. It belongs to you. You know, now when they’re four and five and they might be exposed more to stranger danger or two people coming over or you know, they’re going off to school. That’s kind of when I might be saying, adding in the protective measure, this is your body. It’s only for you to touch. Or maybe a doctor, if they had a very good reason to look at you, or mommy and daddy when we’re helping you with a rash. Or getting you cleaned up. You know? But no grownup ever ask you to touch their private place. That’s really not a right thing to do. And if they ever did, you would tell mommy right away. You would tell daddy.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Right.

Laurie Watson: So, we add in a protective message. But hear the tone of my voice. It’s not full of dread and angst and fear. You know, it’s information. And we do repeat that information a lot by, I think four or five.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Well, and that’s how they learn. I think have to repeat it. I think that’s one of the keys to me that I’m hearing a lot, is that we have to be able to say it over and over again and be okay with it. But then adding that piece, not just the protective piece. But adding the piece that it is your body. And that it is for you, especially at this stage.

Laurie Watson: Yeah, I think so. You know, but I think that us still being very protective.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Sure.

Laurie Watson: And not giving that whole burden over to them that, they have to protect themselves. Because there can just be, you know, a lot of dread. I still remember being four years old, seriously, and being afraid of the man at the park. I’d never seen the man at the park.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Stranger danger.

Laurie Watson: But I knew about the man at the park at four years old. And I was terrified, you know, to go on the swings or whatever. My mother watched me like a hawk. She was right there. But I still had this anxiety about it because the man at the park that did bad things to little girls. And you know, it was inappropriate because my mother was a really good watcher. But I think my mother was afraid, you know? And so, consequently, what we don’t want as our children to grow up with anxiety. We want them to learn proper boundaries.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. That intention of parents is really good.

Laurie Watson: It is.

Dr. Adam Matthews: The intention is so good to protect our kids. And you want to protect them. We want to do it good. We just don’t want to do it at the expense of healthy sexuality and healthy development for them.

Laurie Watson: Right.

Dr. Adam Matthews: And it’s such a fine balance. And I think we’re going to air on one side or the other, like we’re not going to do it perfectly, right? But I think what I hear you saying is that we have to give it context and add in that component. Do the protective piece, but add in that component of healthiness as we go.

Laurie Watson: Yeah, I think, no, it’s we do the joy piece add in the protective piece, you know, so —

Dr. Adam Matthews: There you go. The joy comes first.

Laurie Watson: The first message is joy in their bodies. And then starting to bit by bit give them information. Well, and we’re also, you know, three and five is definitely kind of the phallic stage. When they do have a special curiosity about their own bodies, about their parents’ bodies, you know. They start to explore each other’s bodies as children. You know, and again, you know, if you find your kids in child sex play, you know the message is, “Okay, everybody put their clothes on. And we’re going to go downstairs for a snack.” And we say, you know, “When you’re playing together, you need to keep your clothes on.” And you know, but every kid plays doctor. Every kid explores. And don’t get hysterical about it. Just kind of redirect. I think that that’s the important thing is just reinforce the boundaries of keeping dressed. But not shaming them for their curiosity about each other’s bodies.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: You know, maybe now directing them, okay, this is definitely the time to bring out the books and show pictures of the opposite gender body or their friend’s body. I mean, a lot of same sex kids play sexually, sex play together. Because the reality is most kids are playing with the same sex kid. Most little girls are playing with little girls. And little boys are playing with little boys. So, at this, you know, boom curiosity stage, they’re just curious about other bodies. And they’re curious about their parents’ bodies. And really about this time, four or five, that’s about the age, I suggest parents like button up a little bit.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. And for the most part, there’s an innocence about it. And so, it’s really about our reaction to that when we discover what they are doing and how they are playing. And so, regulating our own anxiety about it seems to be key there.

Laurie Watson: I think so, too. And I think, you know, it is an age though to start with privacy that, you know, they need to learn to knock on a closed door. They need to learn to not burst in on mommy and daddy taking a shower. They need to respect that. And you know, you don’t screech or something. But definitely drawing a towel around you. Because seeing naked bodies is so stimulating at that age. We just kind of want to minimize that. We also need to give the children the idea that no is a legitimate answer. So, that means when we’re tickling them and they say, “Stop, stop.” We actually do stop.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Or when we’re were kissing all over them and loving on them and they say, “No, I don’t want that right now.” Not being offended by that. But say, respecting their no. Even if it’s a little bit painful because they don’t want to cuddle with us, or they don’t want a hug right now. But making sure that we respect what they’re doing.

Laurie Watson: Exactly, exactly. And certainly, you know, no hitting and all of that. I mean, I just think we need to teach our children that they can say no. And it will be respected by an adult. Not necessarily know to eating your peas, right? But no to things that are voluntary that we’re maybe doing to them. And again, I’m talking about kissing on them, hugging on them, tickling them. Things that, you know, for whatever reason in that moment they don’t want. I’m not talking about they get to say no, I won’t get dressed, right?

Dr. Adam Matthews: Right.

Laurie Watson: Right, okay.

Dr. Adam Matthews: And that’s a good distinction because that feels like a lot of times parents get in the habit of we say no a lot. And/or the kids say no a lot. And then we have to say, no, you do have to eat your vegetables or you do have to get dressed or you can’t wear your dress up shoes out everywhere we go. Like I think there’s things like that that we get in the habit of saying having to fight back against. And so, then that response becomes almost automatic. And so, when kids are saying no to things like you are talking about hugging, tickling, kissing. That we not get offended and say, you know, respect that and have a different response than we do when they say no to eating peas.

Laurie Watson: Exactly. And I think that you’re right. I mean sometimes you know, your kid can go through that no stage. And it’s like, “Oh my gosh,” you know, they say no to everything. You know, but by and large, a four year old is going to say no. You know, I don’t want to be kissed because I’m mad at you. But you know, when you go to tuck them in at night, of course they want kisses and hugs and cuddles and all that stuff. And I definitely think the nighttime routine should be something soft, full of cuddling and kissing from the parents and affection. I mean, children need a lot of affection all the way through. You know, we need to be comfortable with that. And you know, even if they go through a stage where they, you know, they can’t be hugged. Like maybe adolescents where they don’t want to be kissed goodbye before they go to school. You know, still you can ruffle their hair, squeeze their shoulder, or some way of touching that is acceptable.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Or even ask. I think that’s one of the things that we’ve started doing with my four year old. Is she wants to say, “No Daddy, no kisses, right now.” And so, I’ll say, “Well, can I have a hug then?” And then of course, she gives me a big squeeze and hug.

Laurie Watson: Aw, Adam. You are such a good daddy.

Dr. Adam Matthews: I hope so. But yeah, I mean I think asking them also is empowering as well for things like that. Because that gives them some element of control over what happens to their body, you know? And so, as a parent, I want to be affectionate with my kids. But I also want them to be able to say, no. Or to ask to say, you know, “Can I give you a kiss right now?” Or I really want to hug you. “Can I hug you?” Like that also just communicates that there’s somebody that wants to do that. And so, doing that I think really like gives them some control, empowers them, and helps them later on to be able to say no when they need to say no. And make that clear.

Laurie Watson: Yes. Yes. And I think about six and eight, I think children are still sexual. But it kind of goes underground. And we call that latency, where they don’t seem to have as active of interest in it. Like they do at five. Five is curiosity. You know, six, eight not so much.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Is this when boys have cooties? Girls have cooties? Is that this stage that we are talking about?

Laurie Watson: Absolutely. Absolutely. And they don’t — they don’t seem to want to talk about it. But this is something I said in a talk the other day and I terrified everybody. I said eight is too late to tell your children about sex. Because the way the media is today, the way you know what they could see on a computer, maybe not yours. And God forbid, let’s mention that as a protection, right?

Dr. Adam Matthews: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

Laurie Watson: We desperately need to put screens on our computers, screening software, so that the children are not exposed to pornography. And the children should not be exposed to violence and sex on television.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah, absolutely.

Laurie Watson: And so many kids programs, especially if you’ve got an eight year old watching television with a junior higher, right? I mean the junior high or might be listening to high school television shows where they’re talking about sex all over the place.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. Or things are hyper-sexualized and in subtle ways to where that becomes something that introduces concepts way too early for kids.

Laurie Watson: Yeah. So, I mean eight is too late is about — I mean some parents were like, “Well, you know, I’ve got my kid in a Christian private school and they’re not exposed to these things.”

Dr. Adam Matthews: They absolutely are.

Laurie Watson: You know, actually those Christian private schools still, I mean those kids, we don’t know what’s going on in their homes. And I think the issue is we want as a parent to be the first resource. We want to tell the story. This is one of the greatest stories that we can ever tell our children. You know, it’s a story about love and connection and excitement and desire. I mean, that’s a great story. And we want to tell them. And we want it to come from us, I think.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Because the messages that are coming from other places, like you said, we don’t know, they’re going to be twisted. They could be repressive. They could be hyper-sexualized.

Laurie Watson: You know, they could be wrong.

Dr. Adam Matthews: They could be wrong, yeah. Just wrong information. And so, yeah, I think that’s just really good of wanting it to be from us and wanting it to be from the story that we get to unpack for our kids. That’s just, I’m coming around to your way of thinking of seeing it as just a beautiful thing that we get to get to give to our kids.

Laurie Watson: You know, it’s a great, exciting story. And I mean, I think, what do you tell your kids at eight? I mean, by eight, definitely, you want to start talking about love and desire. You know, when people love each other, you know, they feel these really strong feelings for each other physically. They want to touch each other. And you know, they want to share that. You know, I started introducing the idea of respect that this is something that, you know, people do when they love and respect each other. And I think, by 10, I know I had told my oldest son, you know, all these ideas about, you know, girls really need respect. And they like romance. Something or another. But his feedback to me, he said, “Well, boys like the sex part? And girls like the romance part?” And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I totally blew that. No, no, no, no. Girls like the sex part too.” And I remember him saying, “They do.” And I went, “Oh, no, I way over killed that.”

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah.

Laurie Watson: You know, because obviously I want to give him the expectation that girls enjoy and love sex too. And we want to, you know, give our daughters that expectation too. So, I mean, even people who are studying in this, you guys, we can do it wrong too. You know, there’s no right answer. There’s no perfect way to do it. Everybody makes mistakes. The good thing is, it’s a long conversation. And so, we’re going to keep having that conversation.

Dr. Adam Matthews: You’re in a conversation with your son and he’s comfortable enough reflect back what he’s thinking about sex. And so, then you’re able to begin to balance that out. And say, “Oh no, I unintentionally, sent the wrong message.”

Laurie Watson: I gave you the wrong idea here.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. And so, then you can balance it out. But that continual conversation that you started weaving in them from a very early age allowed that kind of correction to take place. That wouldn’t have been there otherwise if it was just a one off conversation.

Laurie Watson: Right. And I think by eight, you know, that’s an opportunity to add your context as a parent. When do you believe sex should happen? You know, is it, you know, just with marriage or is it, you know, when they grow up and go to college? And I mean, my sense is we want to push out the sexual experience until, this is my own idea, until the self is formed. And I kind of believe that in high school, it’s not likely that the self is formed yet. Because what happens is when teenagers love each other and we’re getting there, you know that it can be integrated as something good. But I think that overall the self is not formed. So, at eight, what I’m telling my children is, this is something that adults do or this is something that mommy’s and daddy’s do, you know, with each other to express love. So, that it’s pushing that framework way out. Even though their culture is pushing them, right? For it to be a teen experience.

Dr. Adam Matthews: For it to be even sooner. I think I want to underscore something you said there too because I know we’re going to have a lot of people have that. Everybody has a different idea about when sex “should happen.” And I think that as a parent you get to introduce whatever the context is.

Laurie Watson: Yes. Your idea.

Dr. Adam Matthews: And that idea to your kids. And so, this is when you’re saying in that kind of an eight year old range that you get to begin to introduce that. And that begins to get to form. And tell them why you think that’s appropriate.

Laurie Watson: A better way.

Dr. Adam Matthews: A better, yeah.

Laurie Watson: Sure, sure.

Dr. Adam Matthews: So, I think that’s really important.

Laurie Watson: Right. And you know, I think that like from nine to twelve, certainly at that age, you know, but really by six and eight they need the good touch, bad touch talk.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Right.

Laurie Watson: And by that age, I mean they need to know the slang words. They need to know that they can ask us all the questions.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Which means, we need to know the slang words.

Laurie Watson: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that would be good. That would be good to know that. I think parents worry though. They really worry, if I tell my kids about this, are they going to want to go experiment? Are they going to be promiscuous? And I got to say the research shows, the statistics show, this is particularly for mothers and daughters, if mothers tell their daughters about sexuality and the word comes from the mother. The daughters are less likely to be promiscuous because there’s an open conversation.

Dr. Adam Matthews: You mean like the actual word?

Laurie Watson: Not the actual word, but though the word about sex. The conversation about sex.

Dr. Adam Matthews: The conversation about sex, okay.

Laurie Watson: Comes from the mother, I think what it’s saying is obviously if a mother can talk to a daughter about, she has a relationship with her, right? And oftentimes kids who are promiscuous are looking for something that is missing at home, right? They are looking for love and bonding and attention. You know, sexual pleasure, certainly. But what we want to do is have the conversation early, our way, our sense of it, good information, the right words, decoding what’s out there. And that kind of relationship is a relationship where kids are growing up in safe and secure. And probably not necessarily going to need early, early sex.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah. So, Laurie, if we think about kind of like the main idea of what we’re talking about today. What are your kind of like takeaways? A couple of takeaways overall from our conversation today that you would want people to know?

Laurie Watson: Okay, good. Okay. So, number one, I think, you know, joy comes before protection. That’s the big one. Number two, I think give them their body as a gift. This is their body to be enjoyed by them and that’s a great thing. And number three, it’s one of the greatest stories we have to tell.

Dr. Adam Matthews: It’s so good. That’s so good. I think the only thing I would add to that, as adults, we have to deal with our own anxiety about talking about sex.

Laurie Watson: Yes.

Dr. Adam Matthews: If we cannot talk about it, our kids are not going to be able to talk about it. And they’re not going to talk to us about it.

Laurie Watson: Right.

Dr. Adam Matthews: And so, that’s one of the things that I’m taking away as well is that our own anxiety has to be dealt with. And we have to kind of deal with that so that we can talk appropriately to our kids in the ways that you just described.

Laurie Watson: One last thought, as you said that I think, is that you know, if the kid is nine and 10 and hasn’t asked any questions, they already know something. And you need to introduce the subject. If they don’t ever introduce it, you’re the parent. It’s your responsibility to bring up the greatest story that you have to tell them about their bodies.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Because you’re not saying that it’s too late and we should just forget it.

Laurie Watson: No, oh my goodness.

Dr. Adam Matthews: If we haven’t done it by eight.

Laurie Watson: No, I’m saying, that’s kind of the marker. That if it’s eight and they haven’t asked any questions.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Get in there.

Laurie Watson: Get in there.

Dr. Adam Matthews: Yeah, start talking about it.

Laurie Watson: Exactly.

Dr. Adam Matthews: It’s been such a fun conversation.

Laurie Watson: I know. And we’re going to talk, our next podcast is going to be about teens and sex. So, listen up and that’ll be coming next. This is Foreplay Radio, Sex Therapy with sex therapist, Laurie Watson and Dr. Adam Matthews. Thanks so much for listening. Find us on the web, on Twitter and Facebook, and ForeplayRST.com.

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