At any age, a parent can get caught off guard by the "birds and the bees" questions. My kids range from 3 to 10 and I haven't yet stepped into the fire of the teen years. Still, I feel that the facts-of-life talk should be given at all stages of childhood. The discussions will differ depending on a child's age and how you answer their questions. But keeping the lines of communication open at all ages is very important. You are letting your children know it is OK to talk to you about anything. Plus, if your child has questions about sex, you don't want anyone else giving them the answers.
When I give my two girls baths, they begin to ask love questions. My 8-year-old asks the first question. She is smitten that mom and dad go on dates and always asks about our wedding day. From all the Disney movies she believes that daddy is the prince and mom is the princess. (I remind her I'm more like the queen at this point in our marriage!)
My girls also begin to ask questions about childbirth by asking did it hurt when mommy had them and how exactly did they get out of mommy's belly. I don't want to scare my daughters with the truth, but also don't want to lie. I feel like ignoring a question only leads to more curiosity and more questions. So I attack each question head-on, but leaving out much detail and keeping it simple. I tell my girls: "Mommy pushed you out." Then comes the next question (because it never ends with one): "Did it hurt?" I reply: "Yes, but it's worth it!" There's a silent pause. My 8-year-old then replies, "I think I'm gonna go to an adoption place and get a baby." My 5-year-old adds: "I'm just gonna get a dog!"
Yes it's a laughing matter at this age, but when does it become appropriate to start having the talk about love, relationships and sex? I asked my 10-year-old son if he had a girlfriend and he told me not yet. My sensors went off immediately that this reply was not the same as last year. Just a year ago, the same question resulted in an embarrassed "Ewwww." Are we tip-toeing into the pre-teen stage and should I have "the" talk now or wait until he comes to me?
As a mother, I've learned to never wait to be approached. Feel your child out by asking questions. Get the answers, and then see what stage your child is in. I believe the line of communication should always be open and your child should always feel comfortable asking questions. If your child feels comfortable talking to you at 8, and they know it's OK to ask, you may not get the shy teen who's afraid to ask at 15. It's our responsibility as parents to teach what's right and wrong. We do with all other issues, so why not sex?
Always remember who you want your child's teacher outside of class to be. It's the teacher's job to teach on an academic level, but if the child can't come to you with the other questions, then they lean on their friends and siblings to learn.
When I see a family with teen children, I say I can't wait till mine get older. The kid stage is so hard. Those parents tell me: "It doesn't get easier, you just deal with different issues." Assuming the birds-and-bees talk is one of those issues, I'm hoping by keeping the lines of communication open now, the teen years will be easier.
Please remember I'm not an expert... who is? I'm just a mom of four who wants you to know you're not alone. We've all gone through it and we can go through it together.