Why is it so hard to talk to kids about sex?

I consider myself a pretty open mom. My girls and I have had conversations about everything from bowel movements to bullying. And with my background in the sciences, I know my way around an anatomy diagram and should easily be able to explain the ABCs of the birds and the bees.

Note that should is the operative word here. Because the bottom line is that I stink at having this talk with my daughters, ages 12 and 9. Not to say that I haven't started the conversation, or hinted at the fact that I need to start having this conversation, but I certainly haven't sat down with a book and a diagram and explained things the way I would any other topic in our homeschool curriculum.

I know I'm not the only parent who struggles with this. And if there is anyone who understands this struggle more than most, it's Julie Metzger, aka The Puberty Lady.

Metzger earned that moniker thanks to the classes she offers for preteen boys and girls and their parents. Through her organization, aptly called Great Conversations, Metzger has helped hundreds of thousands of parents and kids start an open and honest conversation about puberty and sex.

A registered nurse, Metzger was in grad school when she started looking into data about how women first learned about their period. From her website:

"I remember laughing out loud thinking, picture all those conversations. Some were a torture test, some lasted one second, some six hours, some were in total embarrassment, some were critical, some were completely mythical. And wouldn’t it be great if there was a place you could sit together and hear the truth? I thought this would be so great for parents and kids. And I thought: That’s me. I could do that."

Metzger held her first puberty class in Pittsburgh in 1988, and she had so many families sign up to attend that she had to run the course twice. In 1990, she moved out West and began offering the course through Seattle Children's Hospital. Last year, Metzger taught more than 14,000 preteen boys and girls (they attend two separate classes,) and their parents about the facts of life.

In each class, Metzger not only talks about the nitty-gritty of puberty, but she also delves into the puberty issues of the opposite sex as well as reproduction and decision making. She also gives each kid a chance to ask questions (anonymously via index card) on anything puberty or sex related. All the while, Metzger approaches the topics with levity — sticking a pad to her clothing to prove to girls that it won't slide around or pantomiming pulling a tampon out of her ear (in answer to an anonymous attendee who was concerned about putting a tampon in too far.)

Unfortunately for me, Metzger's Great Conversations are held primarily in the Seattle or San Francisco Bay areas. But she has a lot of great resources for starting an honest and open puberty conversation with your own kids on her website.

Then again, I've always liked Seattle. Maybe it's time for another visit.

Related on MNN:

Let's talk about sex
Talking to children about sex can be hard. Fortunately, the Puberty Lady can help.