Sex talk for an 8-year-old

My bright and bashful 8-year-old daughter becomes 9 in a few months and I had promised to explain to her one of the most important life mysteries as part of her ‘coming of age.’ The mystery – How did she and her other 2 younger sisters get into my tummy and how did they come out exactly? I was hoping to have a nice little countdown with weekly clues and treats about the ‘birds and the bees’ and go into more detail than before about sex, gender, menstruation and marriage. What an exciting mommy and daughter time we would have had and what awesome bragging rights she would possess over her younger sisters who simply are not as ‘grown up’ as she is – all of 9, the last year before the big double digits.

But sadly I didn’t have an all-seeing eye to know that sex of all kinds and dimensions with the attendant issues and rights would be plastered all over the media and that all these messages would slip through my now ineffective filter designed to guard and restrict them from inappropriate sex content. Furthermore given the curious photographic reading mind that my daughter has, she had no way to escape.

For the past few weeks, sex has been in between and on the covers of the newspapers, on morning, midday and evening newscasts, on talk shows and in random discussions everywhere. And it’s not just sex, it is also all the various versions, conjugations and affiliations of the word – rape, anal sex, oral sex, sexual rights, sexual orientation, sex workers and the list goes on. To make matters worst, many of these words are being used in the same sentence with the word children and children’s homes, which naturally peaks my daughter’s interest.

So with this charged atmosphere about sex it is no wonder that my 8-year-old and her friend decided to look up the word sex in the dictionary at school the other day and started talking about how the penis and the vagina ‘interact.’ Given our great relationship, my daughter was thankfully sharing this moment with me, with her face pressed against the sofa, giggling and squirming, as she struggled through her shyness and the awkwardness to share their discussion. Of course simultaneously my little plan to have our countdown sex talk came tumbling down. But I kept a calm smiling face to encourage her to tell me everything they discussed. I also had to seize that moment to confirm the dictionary definition but to also give the context that sex is for grownups, ideally in a marriage.

Even though this media ‘sex shower’ has cramped my plans and exposed some of the mystery on the subject, I will still take the time to have the talk with my daughter in our upcoming special mommy and daughter time. Here is part of what I’m going to tell her:

  • Sex is a good thing – it was specially designed by God for men and women who love each other to enjoy.
  • Sex is designed for grownups; highlighting the fact that grownup bodies are best suited for this activity and that children’s bodies are not built for it and can suffer tremendous harm physically, emotionally and psychologically.
  • Sex is God’s plan to continue generations. That’s how wonderful children like you and your sisters came about and how we grew our family!
  • Sex should never be forced. It is something that has to be agreed between adults. When it is forced it becomes an ugly thing with spiritual, physical and emotional harm and can send the person who forced it to jail.
  •  Any ideas, fears, questions or discussions about sex should not be shared with friends or others (even grownups) but only with mommy and daddy for now. We actually know quite a bit about the subject and will always tell the truth!

After covering as much of the topic as she can handle and dealing with additional questions, we will take a break and go for ice-cream and maybe play a game of scrabble. I get the feeling ‘sex’ will be one of the first words on the board!


Mother of 3 girls, Shelly-Ann Harris is a blogger, communication specialist and women’s empowerment advocate who sits on the board of a local women’s development organisation.

6 thoughts on “Sex talk for an 8-year-old

  1. I need to find out what my son knows and fix it. He is already 9 and I am not sure what he has found in the dictionary. Only thing I really want to tell him is get married first, then ask questions hahahaha. Okay, I concede that process may need some extra steps.

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