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Sex talk for an 8-year-old

Published:Wednesday | July 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Shelly-Ann Harris, Guest columnist

Shelly-Ann Harris, Guest columnist

My bright and bashful eight-year-old daughter becomes nine 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 two 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 nine, 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.

Changed atmosphere about sex

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 worse, many of these words are being used in the same sentence with the word 'children' and 'children's homes', which naturally piques my daughter's interest.

So with this charged atmosphere about sex, it is no wonder that my eight-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 grown-ups, 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 grown-ups - highlighting the fact that grown-up 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 grown-ups), 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!

A mother of three 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. Email feedback to and, or tweet @Harrisshellyann.