How to talk to your kids about sex

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How to talk to your kids about sex

Emily Rhoads, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Expert,

explains how to talk to your kids about sex


When my son was 10 months old, I had to deal with his frantic screams when I didn’t get his cereal made quickly enough.

Soon, though, the time will come when I’ll have to deal with more than cereal.

That’s because our kids need to know about sex – the information will come from somewhere; wouldn’t you rather it be correct information from you instead of myths and misinformation from peers?

Talking to our kids about tough topics – especially sex – can terrify even the bravest parents. Follow these tips to make it easier for you and your child.


The “talk” doesn’t have to be as scary as you might think.

1)    How old is old enough?

Do it now. Kids are never too young to start learning appropriate words for their body or about consent. As you change your child’s diaper, say, “Mommy is going to wipe your vagina now.” Or, “Daddy is going to put some diaper rash cream around your testicles, OK?” You may think that your child won’t pick up on the information, but by teaching and reinforcing the importance of someone asking before touching them and them being OK with the type of touch — you’re showing the difference between good touch/bad.

Also, the danger of silly nicknames for body parts such as “pee-pee, wee wee, etc” can make it difficult for your child to express their discomfort if someone touches them inappropriately. For example, if they walk up to their babysitter and accuse someone of touching their “nee nee,” the babysitter may have no idea what this word means and how to address this issue.

It is up to you as a parent to decide how much, and how soon, to start addressing sexual issues such as puberty, how sex works, etc. Every child’s maturity level varies. They will ask questions. It’s OK to give a small amount of information (appropriate to their age) and then tell them you will talk about it further when they are older.

2)    Pick the right time and place

Waiting for your child to ask, “where babies come from,” then maybe bring up the topic as they approach puberty. As they grow and change, they will need the reassurance of what’s “normal,” and that the changes they experience are all a part of growing up. For some children, the mere mention of puberty or the opposite sex will lead to red faces, stammering, and maybe even embarrassed anger. Don’t be surprised if you get a “MOM/DAD, I KNOW!” Because of this, pick the right time and place to address this issue.

Take them out for a special “date.” Take them somewhere for dessert, and let them ask their questions freely. Ask what they think they know, and correct any misinformation. Take your close-to-puberty daughter shopping for a training bra or a “period kit” full of pads, Midol, and some chocolate. Make it a fun, funny excuse to talk about what they’re experiencing.

3)    Make your talk judgment-free

When your child asks you a question, try your best to use your poker face. Don’t laugh at them. Don’t assume by asking about sex they are going to have sex. They’re likely simply curious. Fear and becoming angry or frustrated with them will deter them to ask you questions in the future.

4)    Keep the lines of communication open

Don’t press them on the subject of sex. If they become visibly uncomfortable tell them, “OK, that’s probably enough for now. If you have more questions, let me know and we will talk later.” And then let it go. Don’t continue to ask if they have any more questions (trust them to tell you if they do!) Let them make the next move.

What now?

Following the conversation, make sure they know the lines of communication stay open. If you feel they’re too uncomfortable talking to you, offer the name of another trusted adult to talk about these issues with, i.e. an aunt, grandmother, family friend, counselor or youth pastor.

You can offer them resources such as books or websites. Review these beforehand and tell your child to look over them at their own pace and let you know if they have questions.

“THE TALK” can be terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be. You have resources available to help make it painless. Your kids deserve the best information to make healthy decisions about their bodies, and you, as a parent, have the joy (not horror) of sharing your knowledge and experience.

Here are a few helpful links that can help with any questions you might have:

Updated: 8/24/17
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