“The Talk”

ABC’s of the Birds and the Bees

Let’s talk books and resources to start discussing sexual health and reproduction with kids. I break it down by target groups but there is overlap.

MUSLIM YOUTH: I had the incredible opportunity to attend a study group hosted by Sameera Qureshi, the Director of Sexuality Education & Training for a trailblazing group called HEART Women and Girls. HEART (health education, advocacy, research + training) promotes sexual health and sexual violence awareness in Muslim communities. This is SUCH a critical undertaking and these incredible women are changing lives. Their publications are evidence-based, priceless resources for Muslim parents.

Let’s Talk about Sex: A Muslim Parent’s Guide to Having “the Talk” with their Kids is a must read!

Check out their site for more critical resources such as Talking to Kids about Sexual Violence & Sex Education for Muslim Youth.

ELEMENTARY AGE: With their limited attention span and concrete thinking picture books are useful. You may opt to review some of the pictures based on your comfort and work up to reading the entirety as your child grows.

These books were recommended by my brilliant colleague/sexual health educator Dr. Carolyn Gorman (who was also my work-roommate/bestie AND Obstetrician…love her!):

Amazing You!: Getting Smart About Your Private Parts by Gail Saltz

“…a picture book designed especially for young children who are becoming aware of their bodies, but aren’t ready to learn about sexual intercourse.”

What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg

“…a book for every kind of family and every kind of kid…about conception, gestation, and birth, which reflects the reality of our modern time by being inclusive of all kinds of kids, adults, and families…”

Sex is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and YOU by Cory Silverberg

“A resource about bodies, gender, and sexuality for children ages 8 to 10 as well as their parents and caregivers.”

AGES 10+: the focus shifts into more adult topics such as responsibility, peer pressure, confidence and dispelling myths.

It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris

“Providing accurate and up-to-date answers to nearly every imaginable question, from conception and puberty to birth control and STDs, It’s Perfectly Normal offers young people the information they need—now more than ever—to make responsible decisions and stay healthy.”

The Care and Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls by Cara Natterson “This book covers new questions about periods, your growing body, peer pressure, personal care, and more!”

Using these books in conjunction with open communication will help guide conversations with children.

Please share any books or resources that you recommend!

“The Talk”

(Original post 4/11/17)

One the most fulfilling aspects of being an ObGyn is educating and empowering young women about their bodies. No topic is taboo and facts are our currency.

When I remove my white coat and assume my role as mom (yoga pants and a t-shirt…amirite?), the topic of reproductive health must be tailored to my audience. While I’m negotiating with a 4 year-old not to eat a week old Skittle from under the couch, concepts of consent and body-image are a bit abstract.

As a parent, it may be confusing how to approach sensitive topics like puberty, periods and reproduction – sometimes referred to as “The Talk.”

A potential pitfall of the phrase “The Talk” is the notion of a singular sit-down. Developing an open and trusting relationship about reproductive health requires the same efforts as any childrearing issue, early and continued dialogue.

Talking to your child about their bodies is necessary and it can be done! Starting young is important, as external influences and gender disparities begin as early as age five based on a study published in Science.

Over the following weeks, I will cover topics important to establish a healthy dialogue with your child:

– Feed their curiosity
– Normalize, normalize, normalize,
– Be prepared: resources and experts
– Consent
– Use anatomic names
– Body image
– Reproduction

As a Muslim, I am conscientious of balancing my personal concept of modesty while staying true to scientific facts. Studies have shown medically accurate, age-appropriate sexual education better arms children. Examine your biases and boundaries, practice your dialogue with an adult and prepare your child with the knowledge for a safe and healthy future.

Start Early, but It’s Never Too Late

One of the greatest challenges in parenting is knowing when to approach heavy-hitter topics with your child. The answer for reproductive health is simple: start early and follow your child’s cues. Children are naturally curious. By toddlerhood they begin exploring their bodies and asking where babies come from. Giving them useful and accurate information is key.

The advantage of starting discussions early is not only to establish a safe space, but to arm them for an ever-shrinking physiologic childhood. Girls are entering puberty sooner. The average age of bodily changes is 11 with periods starting at age 12. Some children enter puberty at ages 6 or 7, a condition called precocious puberty – a topic I’ll discuss further in a post dedicated to menstruation. What all this means is that in elementary school, your child will likely experience and/or be exposed to bodily changes, pads, tampons and periods.

So, the temptation to “let my baby stay innocent” (as my husband worded it) is understandable, but the priority is to meet your child’s needs. Ignorance is not innocence and knowledge is power.

Here is a sample age-based guideline from Parenting magazine. Every parent-child relationship is unique, so tailor it to your child. I’ve modified when to start discussing puberty and added my input in italics.

Ages 2 to 3: The right words for private body parts. This is important. Nicknames for body parts can cause confusion and shame. These are key to emphasizing consent, which will be covered in another post. Check out the resources at the bottom of the page about this critical issue.

Ages 3 to 4: Where a baby comes from. A simple answer will suffice “babies come from their mother’s bodies, they grow inside the belly in a place called the uterus.” If your child is expecting a sibling, pregnancy is a perfect opportunity to discuss this topic.

Ages 4 to 5: How a baby is born. Examples are “when the baby is ready, Mom’s uterus pushes it out through her bottom (or vagina)” or if like me, your child was born via c-section you can explain that as another way babies enter the world. As an ObGyn I am excited to share my day-to-day work with my child, who has a working knowledge of labor and delivery 🙂

Ages 5 to 6: A general idea of how babies are made. I’ve said: “Mom has an egg and Dad has a seed. When they joined, it made you!” Now my daughter’s favorite comment when seeing our wedding pictures is “that was when I was a seed!” – yes kid, you got it! For parents in LGTBQ relationships, the discussions may be the same or nuanced. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Ages 6 to 7: Which changes happen during puberty. Review hygiene, bodily changes such breast development, pubic hair, body odor.

Ages 8 to 9: A basic understanding of intercourse. To explain heterosexual intercourse “Male and female body parts fit together like puzzle pieces.” It is important to normalize sex between consenting adults and remove the secrecy/shame often associated with its discussion. From a faith-based perspective, you can emphasize the sacred nature of intercourse.

Ages 9 to 11: That sex is important, which your child has probably picked up from the media and her peers. Review that sex is not just intercourse and that safety/STD/pregnancy prevention is critical. Example “Sex includes all forms of touching private parts and can carry the risk of causing diseases.”

Age 12: By now, kids are formulating their own values. Many girls will be starting their periods and will need support. Continue to foster a healthy dialogue by checking to see if they have concerns or misconceptions you can help sort out.


Based on your child’s age, begin thinking about these topics and I encourage you to start talking with them casually during bath time or when changing clothes. You’d be surprised how receptive and inquisitive young minds can be. What may start off as uncomfortable will soon be much easier. You can do this, I promise!

Why teaching anatomically correct words matters
The Case for Teaching Kids ‘Vagina,’ ‘Penis,’ and ‘Vulva’
Continue reading “Start Early, but It’s Never Too Late”