The Birds and Bees Talk — Without the Awkward Part

Jan 5, 2022

by Camille Everett

Creator of Be That Place

Handwritten notes and lunchtime chats from students kickstarted Camille's mission to help families teach sex ed at home. She is a graduate of Utah State University with a bachelor’s in Secondary Health & English Education. She loves having real conversations while devouring bowls of chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

The birds and bees talk without the awkward part

Does the thought of the birds and the bees talk make you nervous and anxious? You’re not alone. Many parents have felt this way. But it’s not for the reason you might think.

It’s not because the conversation actually is awkward. It’s because parents have been told for years that it will be awkward. This has been the perspective promoted for so long that it is ingrained in parents. It’s not your fault.

But we’re going to change that. I think it’s time to move past this pre-conceived expectation of awkward. Don’t you think you should decide what these conversations are going to be like in your home without being told what to think and how to feel?

It may be surprising to some parents to realize that the birds and bees talk can easily happen throughout normal conversations with your child. Once you see the connection and conversation opportunities, you’ll know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.

Besides, I’ll show you just how easy kids make this topic.

The birds and bees talk made simple

Intercourse is just one small part of the bigger picture — and yet it’s what most people think about when talking about the birds and the bees. 

But really, the birds and the bees is so much more than an explanation of intercourse.

It should cover:

  • The beauty of reproduction — the bigger picture and its effect on individuals, families, communities, countries, and the world.
  • The incredible design of both male and female bodies.
  • The loving act of intercourse.
  • How values guide our sexual behaviors to help us achieve our best future self. 
  • How puberty and adolescence prepare a child’s body to become an adult body capable of making babies and connecting with others in special and intimate ways.

The great thing about puberty is that it lasts a long time, which gives you lots of opportunities to talk to your kids about the birds and the bees. 

How to start the conversation

Kids should be learning (and re-learning) this information in smaller pieces, over many conversations, over a long period of time. Open, continuous and easy-going conversations are what keep the birds and bees talk natural. 

So, how do you start? By talking about the changes that inevitably come with puberty.

Parents aren’t embarrassed to talk to their kids about why they need to shower more often, or when their daughter should start wearing a bra, or why the neighbor boy’s voice changed. 

We talk to our kids about how they’re getting bigger and stronger. They run faster and are catching up to you in height. You probably point out these things without thinking about it. We also tell our kids that they are more capable and more independent. We give them more responsibility at home, like helping with younger siblings. They are beginning to have the privilege of biking alone to their friend’s house or staying up late on Friday night. 

And doesn’t every kid talk about “when I grow up?” Kids easily bring up conversations about where they’ll go when they can drive, or what career they’ll have, or what they’ll buy, or what chores they’ll never do as a grown-up. They talk about getting married, and having kids, and living next door to their best friend. 

Kids bring up these conversations all the time. It’s time to take advantage of these natural conversation starters. 

Kids create perfect conversation opportunities

The magic of these conversations is connecting the birds and bees topics to what your kids are already talking about. Here are a handful of conversation examples to help you see just how easy and open these conversations really can be.

When kids…

Talk about their future kids or families.

  • Parents can answer: Did you know that kids’ bodies aren’t yet able to make babies? 
  • Which leads to conversations about…
    • Puberty allows humans to reproduce.
    • They’ll be going through puberty too.
    • When does a person know they’re ready to have kids?
    • Explanations of intercourse.

See people kissing in a movie or in public.

  • Parents can answer: People can show they like each other in lots of different ways.
  • Which leads to conversations about…
    • Many different levels of intimacy: hand holding, kissing, hugs, touching, intercourse.
    • Explanations of intercourse.
    • What level of intimacy is appropriate for what age?

Notice parents being affectionate.

  • Parents can answer: Healthy adult couples behave in healthy ways.
  • Which leads to conversations about…
    • How you’ve modeled healthy behaviors between adults: respect, communication, caring, appropriate physical touch in public, service, sacrifice.

See animals mating (or “acting funny”).

  • Parents can answer: Did you know that animals have to bring their bodies close together to make babies? People do too.
  • Which leads to conversations about…
    • Beauty of reproduction.
    • Explanations of intercourse.
    • Why sexual behaviors should be thoughtfully considered beforehand.

Help take care of younger kids.

  • Parents can answer: This is good practice for when you might become a parent.
  • Which leads to conversations about…
    • What qualities or skills should a person have before they become a parent?
    • How old do you want to be before becoming a parent?
    • The practice that kids need time to experience before taking on adult responsibilities.

Are exposed to pornographic images, video or commentary.

  • Parents can answer: People engage in sexual behaviors for lots of different reasons. What did you think about what you saw?
  • Which leads to conversations about…
    • Family values and behaviors around pornography.
    • Healthy and unhealthy examples of sexual behaviors.
    • Explanations of intercourse and its ability to bring unity to caring and committed couples.
    • How media uses sexuality to stimulate people to consume — it’s all about money.
    • Where to find information about sexuality that is accurate, honest and respectful.

Comment on adult underclothes or bodies.

  • Parents can answer: Your body will be changing soon. After a few years it’ll start to look a lot more like an adult’s body too.
  • Which leads to conversations about…
    • Physical changes during puberty.
    • Correct names for body parts.
    • Everyone experiences these changes.

Thoughts on explaining intercourse

Intercourse is a normal and natural human process. We have to remember NOT to connect our sexual understanding and personal experiences to our kids’ knowledge of the topic. Hopefully, they are a blank slate, waiting for us to bring context to sexuality before they start learning the wrong things from other sources. This is the time to set the foundation. Be positive, calm, simple, brief, and aware of their reaction.

Take time to craft how you would like to convey your family’s values and limits regarding sexuality and sexual behavior. Include these values and limits when explaining the bigger picture of reproduction and the act of intercourse.

Nine-year-olds, ten-year-olds, and eleven-year-olds will most likely want different amounts of information about the birds and the bees. Start with just a simple explanation. This explanation doesn’t even need to come all in one conversation — it can come in pieces.

Don’t be the only one talking either. Ask your child during the conversation what they think about it. If they’re not asking questions or making comments, it may be time to stop the conversation and just allow them to think through what they heard. There’s nothing wrong with this — it’s actually what a good teacher does.

Make sure you let your child know that you are always available to continue the conversation at a later time and that you’re happy to answer questions. Keep the conversation open.