Talking to Your Kids About Sex

Talking about sex is often uncomfortable, but it can be especially so when you are talking to your children. Basic sex education is very important though and can help protect your children. We want our children to have the correct information and to know our values, and they will not get that from peers, teachers or media…only you as a parent. The conversation can take place at any time but it is most optimal as a preventative conversation rather than a reactive. Kids need to know things that are age-appropriate. Basically, preschoolers need to understand boundaries, correct names of private parts, privacy, safe adults, good and bad touches and good and bad secrets. Information about reproduction can be very basic. Utilizing books is an excellent way of discussing body parts and reproduction with young children. We highly recommend “Amazing You” by Dr. Gail Satlz.  For school-age children, expand the conversations above and include information on puberty for both sexes. Puberty conversations should start as early as 8 or 9, as many children’s bodies begin to change at that time. You can also add information about healthy relationships and be more specific on reproduction. Talking with school age kids while playing a game or doing another activity can make for a comfortable atmosphere and a better conversation. For middle schoolers, they should be fully aware of sexual behaviors, healthy media usage, protection and contraception, and healthy dating practices. Kids are discussing sex and seeing it in the media at this age, so more education means better choices on their part. For high school students, discussions should add dating violence and health sexual practices. For both middle school and high school students, car conversations are the best. They do not have to look at you and that often makes the conversation easier on everyone. Please realize that even if a kid went through health or sex education in school, they did not get everything. In fact, many do not listen well in that environment as they are embarrassed or uncomfortable in front of peers.  This is not a one-time conversation. It needs to happen over and over again.

No matter what though, emphasize safety and your values. Kids listen, even if they pretend they don’t, and if you are willing to have the hard conversation, they know they can come to you and trust you.

Other tips to help:

1. One way to help instill values or to correct what kids might think/say because of what other kids have told them is: “In our family…” You can distinguish that some families talk about or believe in things differently.

2. If kids ask questions, first find out what they already know and why they want to know that. Answer only what they asked. So, if a kid wants to know where babies come from, they may only want to know the actual place a baby comes out, not about sex itself. If they have further questions, let them know it’s okay to ask.

3. When you do discuss, remind kids that this is a private matter, and that it is not their job to teach other kids. See #1. Everyone does it differently, and hopefully that will prevent your child from being the “informant.”

4. If kids refuse the conversation, don’t give up. It is too important. Say, “I understand you are uncomfortable about this, but we need to discuss it. I need you to be educated so you can make good decisions. We will try again on Friday.” Don’t let it rest. Discomfort is not a reason to avoid the talk on anyone’s part.

There are many great books on the topic, so please check in with ABC staff for additional referrals or suggestions on how to handle the conversation.

By: Teri McKean