Why 'the talk' should be an ongoing dialogue with your child

Posted April 10

About a year ago, I had “the talk” with my daughter. It was awkward, but I was super adult and suppressed my inner 9-year-old giggles every I used anatomically correct words. This was pretty much a colossal achievement for me. The conversation went off without a hitch. No major trauma to either party.

Sex talk. Check. Parenting win.

So why didn’t anyone tell me that “the talk” is not a one-and-done kind of situation? Since that original conversation, my daughter has had follow-up questions, which lead to clarification questions, which lead down paths I’m not sure I’m quite ready to follow just yet.

We had another one of these follow-up chats the other night, and I put on my best big-girl face and made it through another conversation. The topic this time: Why do people do that thing we talked about if they don’t want babies?

Red alert! Red alert! She’s on to us!

In my head, little me’s ran around in a panic, jumping into lifeboats to save themselves and rolling on the floor in the fetal position. Outwardly, I remained calm.

I pondered this question for a moment, mostly to buy time because I was fully aware that my answer would have a ripple effect throughout my daughter’s formative years.

I proceeded with caution and answered her questions the best way I could, trying to ignore the look of complete repulsion on her face. I’m not going to write exactly what I said because I don’t want to rob any of you parents out there from the joy of coming up with your own unique way of totally grossing out your kids and making them look at you with judgy disgust to say, “Why? Why would you do that?”

But here’s the thing I keep learning every time we have one of these heart-to-hearts about the more adult side of life: What I say is far less important than how I say it.

While the information is important, I don’t believe it’s this colossal life-changing moment where she is either destined for success or doomed to failure. What matters most is that I’m there, listening to her and respecting her enough to answer her questions honestly.

Sure, a big part of me wants to run screaming from the room or just burst out laughing because inside I am still that immature kid in health class laughing at the ovary picture on the chalkboard. But I don’t. I force myself to sit calmly and answer my daughter’s questions with love and respect. Even though my mind is buzzing the whole time with doubts of whether I’m saying the right thing, the most important thing is that I’m saying something. I’m equipping her with the information she needs to know to make informed decisions in the future, and I’m hopefully laying a groundwork of open communication between us.

And the reason I know it’s working? When we finished our conversation, I wrapped her in a hug and she said these magical words: “Mom, you’re really easy to talk to about this stuff. Thanks.”

Be still, my mothering heart.

I’d sit through 10,000 awkward sex talks for feedback like that. And hopefully, I will sit through many more chats like this with my children. I may not always have the answers, but I’ll be there — no matter the topic or the time of night — with a hug and listening ear.

Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, she discusses it all while her 9-year-old and 5-year-old daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her.


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