Ask Caroline

Caroline Manzo tackles questions on wedding planning, having "the talk," and keeping the spark alive.

on Jul 26, 2011

Alicia from Yuma, AZ says: Caroline – I am a mother of a nine-year-old boy. I have watched you and truly respect how down to earth and realistic you are. My question is concerning the topic of sex. I was wondering at what age do you feel it appropriate to discuss the topic? Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time.

Caroline says: That's a tough one, Alicia. Depends on the child I think. Some kids mature faster than others both physically and emotionally. Watch your son as he develops and gauge the talk based on his maturity level, not his age; remember age is just a number. Look for signs. He may start asking questions, and if he does, answer them honestly. If you see a change and he doesn't ask questions, that's fine too, but keep an eye on him and lob out a comment here and there to provoke a conversation or get a point across. The method doesn't matter as much as the message.

When my kids were in grade school (5th grade) they had a program designed specifically for mother/daughter and father/son. The school nurse explained human anatomy, puberty, etc. The program was very tastefully done, and although it was awkward for the kids, at least they were with a parent and the boys and girls were separated. Is there something like that in your school system? If not, suggest it. 

Once your son is ready to go into junior high school, he should have a basic understanding of things. Trust me, kids today are more advanced than we believe, and it's our job as a parent to guide them down a responsible road. I've heard horror stories about sexual activity going on in middle schools, be aware and proactive.

I was lucky enough to have a good partner in Albert. There are some things that a dad needs to talk about with his son, not mom. Al always kept me in the loop and we worked as a team, but the kids never knew it. To this day there is a mom version and a dad version of discussions. I'm fine with that, and it's worked well for us. 

Al and I were (and still are) very vocal with our kids when it comes to using protection and acting responsibly. We talk openly and honestly as adults, and they know we're always there for them. The bottom line is this -- I would rather have an uncomfortable conversation with my child regarding sex than have an issue with my child because I didn't.