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How To Talk to Your Kids About Sex?

The Complete Guide for Parents

Table of Contents

The conversation about the birds and the bees – kids dread it; parents don’t know how to approach it. Many people have a collective experience of either never receiving the sex education talk from their parents or not receiving a helpful, honest conversation regarding sex.

Oftentimes, important aspects of sex are neglected to be mentioned during the conversation you have with your kids.

If you’re wondering how to talk to your kids about sex, there are ways to approach it so that it ends up being successful and your kids feel comfortable confiding in you if they have questions.

Keep reading to learn more about teaching sex to your kids, so they may learn about sex safety, intimacy, and more.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex Depending on Your Kids' Age

The sex talk will go differently depending on how old your kids are. You may have toddlers asking how babies are made or preteens being introduced while going through puberty. The ages will largely influence how you speak with them about sex.

However, one basic rule applies: You should always be honest and open with your kids. No matter if they’re a three-year-old or twelve-year-old, they have the right to know what their different body parts are, where babies come from, and what sexuality is.

Having the talk openly as a continual conversation and not a one-and-done discussion leaves room for continuing education to be had about the topic.

Toddlers

Toddlers are innocent and naturally curious. They may have a number of questions concerning the body and where babies come from. If they have a sibling, the process of pregnancy, childbirth, and how you become pregnant may particularly interest them.

These questions are natural and healthy. Toddlers learn more about the world through their bodies and the signals the body sends them. When your toddler approaches you about these uncomfortable questions, remember that they won’t understand everything you have to say on the topic.

There will be plenty of time to keep the dialogue going as they grow older. Answer their questions simply. Don’t be afraid to teach them anatomically correct terminology.

However, you don’t need to go into detail about the complicated aspects of sex education until they’re older, as they won’t comprehend what you’re saying much anyways.

Six Year Olds

As your child grows older, more questions and concerns will come up. There will be ample time when something in the media, television or a book could lead you to a discussion about sex education. Otherwise, many kids continue having questions beyond toddler years.

Use all of these opportunities to your advantage. The talk shouldn’t be something you sit down and have once. It occurs again and again over a long period of time.

Embrace their questions while encouraging them to talk about these personal matters while in private.

Preteens

Discussing with preteens tends to be different as they are likely going through puberty themselves. They notice changes in their peers or within themselves. This time is sensitive for them – they tend to become preoccupied more than ever with the influences of their peers.

Other kids at school may bring up topics or words where they don’t understand the meaning. Sometimes this leads to seemingly unprompted questions they ask you. Instead of reacting emotionally or shaming them for wondering, engage in a polite conversation.

Remember what it was like to be their age. They’re struggling with their identity and what it means to be growing into a sexual person. Their sparked interest in their physical appearance, attraction to others, and sexual autonomy are beginning right now.

While this feels uncomfortable, approach the matter with love. Remember the comfort you wished you had at their age. You can bring up safe sex, reproduction, masturbation, and STDs.

Safe Sex

Safe sex doesn’t have one definition but rather involves all things regarding birth control, how to avoid STDs, and learning consent. This is a huge conversation where you can trickle in many lessons anytime it’s brought up or comes to your attention.

Practicing Safe Sex

If your child is going to become sexually active at some point, they should know their birth control options. Teach them about condoms, IUDs, birth control pills, and the fertility awareness method.

One area that is highly lacking in the conversation regarding safe sex to children and preteens is that there are natural ways to chart your cycle and use the signs from your body to determine when you’re ovulating, fertile, and how close to menstruation you are.

Even if your child is not sexually active but has reached the age of menstruating, fertility awareness is a great skill to practice.

Masturbation Conversation

This can be an awkward conversation to have, but it’s important for your child to know it’s normal to both masturbate or not masturbate. Parents should reduce the shame around masturbation as it’s a natural reaction to your body’s development. This, along with things like wet dreams occur and do not need to be made a big deal about but should be kept private.

Learning About STDs

STDs are a large concern but can be avoided. Teach about using condoms during sex and the importance to not only preventing an unwanted pregnancy but using protection against the start and spreading of STDs.

Being on the Same Page as Your Partner

In the same way the sex-ed talk will be ongoing with your kids, it should be ongoing with your partner too. Being on the same page as your partner helps make sure that everyone in the family is kept in the loop, which is especially important for the two people in charge of raising your children together.

You can discuss how you’d like to approach the conversations. You may even want to discuss who will have which talks with your kids. It might be more comfortable, if you have a traditional family, for the dad to talk about masturbation with the son.

Likewise, the mom can offer wisdom from personal experience about menstruation and reproduction to a daughter going through puberty.

Being on the same page has many advantages, so nobody is caught off guard, and you remain prepared for the many questions kids could ask about sex.

You can also set an example for healthy sex by having a healthy relationship with your partner. Being affectionate in front of your kids is okay and another time where this conversation may naturally come up. If you have a healthy relationship regarding sex, you can lead by example and establish subconscious healthy boundaries for your kids’ future relationships.

Basics of Having the Talk

There are certain basics to follow when it comes to answering your kids’ questions about sex. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to parenting, so be genuine in these moments. They provide great teaching and learning experiences for you as a parent and your kids.

Keeping Calm

One of the first basics you can follow is to keep a calm demeanor. Your kids won’t feel comfortable confiding in you if you act rashly when they attempt to ask you questions regarding sex.

If you go a certain way about it, your kids will think sex is embarrassing and taboo. While it’s uncomfortable, they shouldn’t feel shame or guilt surrounding a natural human experience.

The only way to get better about making it less awkward is through practice. Keep practicing having these conversations. You can also start an open line of communication by explaining to your kids that the topic makes you a bit uncomfortable, but you are working through that to make it easier for everyone involved.

Be Blunt

It’s okay to be blunt. Especially when you have younger kids, keeping things short and simply provide them the answers they’re looking for. If you use too many metaphors or tip-toe around the subject, they might not fully comprehend what you’re trying to explain.

Staying blunt means talking in the correct terminology. You don’t have to use shorthand names for the body’s sexual parts. That way your kid learns how to identify them as well.

Engaging Them

Engage your kids in the conversation as much as possible. What this could look like might mean you compliment their innate curiosity. Tell them the questions they have are insightful and astute observations.

Frequently Asked Questions by Kids

There are many frequently asked questions regarding sex by kids. You can be prepared for what your answer will be through some reflection.

There are many answers to this common question, one of them starting with “well when a mommy and daddy love each other very much.” However, this may not provide a tangible answer your kid is looking for.

If a very young child is asking, you can explain how babies come from a sperm and an egg and grow inside a mother’s tummy as a baby. Kids around age six will accept the answer about two people being in love, engaging in an activity where they become close to one another, which results in a baby.

As they grow older, you can add to the detailed information that occurs during the fertilization process. When kids reach about age ten or eleven, they usually go through sex education in school. It would be nice to prepare them for this specific time in school, so they have a basic understanding of the process beforehand.

Some kids may hear about sex but not know what it is. You can give detailed information or keep things more kosher. It’s up to you and how you want to approach the conversation.

Many kids are fine with you telling them it’s a way to express love and get close with someone you love. Others have more questions the more you beat around the bush.

Many toddlers are fascinated with pregnancy. It’s a concept they don’t fully understand, so they have a hard time knowing there’s a baby in a pregnant person’s tummy that has to come out somehow.

If you’re pregnant, this is a conversation you’ll likely have many times throughout pregnancy. You can prepare your kid for the process by saying it involves a hospital or home birth.

Prepare them to be watched by a grandparent during the process, so they won’t see what’s happening. But, some parents like their kids in the room during, so encourage this if they’re interested and you feel comfortable.

You can say how long it takes the baby to grow, and when it’s finally done growing inside your tummy, you’ll give birth.

Stay Honest and Genuine

The most important takeaway from figuring out how to talk to your kids about sex is staying honest and genuine with them. There’s no need to make the conversation an ugly one.

By taking it in stages and using ample opportunities to teach important lessons, your kids will feel comfortable in having the sex education talk. Always teach them the importance of consent, safety, and boundaries.

At Steps For Change, we have a number of resources for you such as child therapy, family therapy, and couples therapy. If you feel your child is struggling with their sexuality or responding abnormally to these topics, consult a mental health professional here at Steps for Change. We’re here for you!

Sources

  1. 10 tips for Healthy Relationships. 10 Tips for healthy realtionships | Healthy relationships | Amherst College. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.amherst.edu/campuslife/health-safety-wellness/counseling/self_care/healthy_relationships/10_tips_for_health_realtionships
  2. American adolescents’ sources of sexual health information. Guttmacher Institute. (2019, January 3). Retrieved from https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/facts-american-teens-sources-information-about-sex
  3. Comprehensive sexuality education. ACOG. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2016/11/comprehensive-sexuality-education
  4. Define_me. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(20)30456-0/fulltext
  5. New research: Quality sex education has broad, long-term benefits for young people’s’ physical and mental health. Advocates for Youth. (2020, October 30). Retrieved from https://www.advocatesforyouth.org/press-releases/new-research-quality-sex-education-has-broad-long-term-benefits-for-young-peoples-physical-and-mental-health/
  6. Safer sex guidelines. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/safer-sex-guidelines

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