In fact, my son first learned about sex, when he was only in kindergarten. Since I've previously blogged about my son's kindergarten sexuality lesson, I won't say any more about it, except to provide the link to that old post.
At home, I have also talked to both my children about sex. I think of it as my personal responsibility to do so. However I do not think of it as a special sort of parental responsibility. It is just part of my overall parental responsibility to teach my children about the real world, which comprises plenty of things other than sex.
The book that I have used to teach my children about sex is entitled "Who Am I? Where Did I Come From?". It is written by Dr Ruth Westheimer, an 81-year-old sex therapist and grandmother of three.
As you might expect of any other children's book, the book has many bright colourful pictures and is written in simple language. A reasonably literate six-year-old should be able to read most of it on his own.
The book does contain various words and phrases which would not be in the average six-year-old child's vocabulary. So I think that it is best that a parent reads the book with his or her child. The words and phrases I am referring to include penis, vagina, having sex, making love, sperm and so on.
To give you a better sense of what the book is like, I'll give a few excerpts:
1. "Sex is a word that causes some people to become shy, to hide their feelings. But you're not bothered by such a little word, are you? Why don't you say it out loud right now: sex."The book also contains a full frontal picture of a naked man (to explain what is a penis) and a full frontal picture of a naked woman (to explain what is a vagina). There is also a picture of a man and woman cuddling under a blanket, and a pop-up picture of sperm cells approaching an ovum (the pop-up also has a movable part to demonstrate a sperm cell successfully penetrating the ovum). Additionally there are pictures of a foetus developing in the woman's womb.
2. ".... so the man puts his penis inside the woman's vagina. This is called having sex. Having sex is also called making love, because the adults love each other very much."
3. "It feels very good, and mommies and daddies only do it in private, when they are alone."
4. "A woman's vagina is very special. The vagina is made to stretch and stretch, after the mommy pushes and pushes, until it gets wide enough for the baby's head to pop out."
Based on my own experiences, I think that talking to your children about sex when they are still quite young is probably a lot easier than waiting till they reach puberty. If you wait too long, they might have picked up too many misconceptions by then and it becomes difficult to explain things. Or worse, if you wait too long, then one day you might discover that they already know much more about sex than you.
When I talked to my little children about sex, they were curious and interested. They pointed at the pictures, asked questions and made comments. But they were not any more curious and interested in the topic of sex, than they would have been if I were talking to them about dinosaurs or outer space or the life cycle of a butterfly. To them, the most remarkable thing they learned from the Ruth Westheimer book was that a woman's vagina could actually stretch wide enough for something as large as a baby to get out of it.
As the years pass and my children grow older, there will of course be more occasions when I will have to talk to them about sex. It is nothing to be dreaded, or to feel awkward about. It's all just part of life - in fact, there would be no life, if there was no sex.