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How to Know When to Talk to Your Kids about Sex

Updated on May 27, 2013

The Conversation You've Been Dreading

When you first bring home that little bundle of joy, suddenly it hits you that you're responsible for guiding this little person through the world. It can be an exciting, sometimes frightening and overwhelming prospect. But it's a job that most parents would say they look forward to .

That is, until they come to the realization that they're also the ones who get to explain about the thing that brought those little miracles into the world in the first place. When is that time? Is there a magic age when you should start talking to your child about sex?


There's No Magic Number

The good news is that you don't have to dread a specific day set aside on your mental calendar as that perfect time to tell your child about those birds and bees. There is no set age for when you should tell your child about sex.

The bad news (if you choose to look at it that way) is that those talks with your child about sex are a continuous thing and should occur many times over time. What these talks entail will depend on what details they're ready for, or questions they might have (often about things they have heard on TV or from their playmates or friends at school).

Start Teaching Them from the Beginning

No, you don't have to go into all the details, but you should start by teaching them the proper names for their private parts. This will make your conversation with them later, when going into the details of sex, sound less ridiculous and you'll be more likely to keep a straight face with the absence of words like "pee-pee" and the like (can't you just hear it now?).

Also, it's important to teach them about what appropriate and inappropriate touching is, as soon as they're able to understand what touching is. This will protect them from becoming victims of abuse, as well as paving the way of making conversations of this kind come more naturally for you and your child later on.

Make sure you don't overwhelm them with information they don't yet have the vocabulary or maturity to understand. Encourage them to ask questions and do your best to answer those questions on a level that they can comprehend.

Fake It If You Have to

One very important thing is to make sure you don't act uncomfortable, upset or embarrassed when talking to your children about sex. They will pick up on this and be discouraged from coming to you again.

It can definitely be difficult when your eight year old comes off the bus and asks if kids can have sex (and you thought they were learning about multiplication and spelling). But if this happens, how you react can determine if your child will get the rest of their information from you or from an uncontrollable outside force.

When asked a question like this, stop what you are doing and have a calm sit-down talk with your child. Ask what they have heard, what they think about what they have heard, and then go from there on what you tell them. Take your cues from your child and answer what they are ready to hear.

It Does Get Easier

Once you start having a dialog with your child about sex, it will get easier to have that next conversation, and even easier the time after that. This also makes it easier to talk to them about your family's values and standards when it comes to sex, and they'll be more likely to listen to you if you're the main source of their sex education.

With this communication, you open the door to your child and create a trust and lasting bond with them. They're more likely to listen to what you have to say when you allow them to come to you with their concerns and then honestly answer their questions.

Just use your best judgement based on your knowledge of your child when deciding how much to divulge at once. Since this is a continuous process, you don't have to fit it all in one sitting. That's a good thing! By the time you get to that part of the lesson that you most dreaded, it should go pretty smoothly (at least in comparison to a one time, tell-everything-conversation).


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    • nell79 profile image

      nell79 7 years ago from United States

      Those right words aren't always immediately forthcoming, are they? But I find they do come eventually and it all works out. You're right, it is good that they come to you for their information. I tell my kids that they can hear all kinds of things from their friends, but if they want to know what's true and what's not, they need to come to their parents! :)

    • megs78 profile image

      megs78 7 years ago from quebec

      Some good advice here. My kids have recently been asking me questions and though it can be difficult to find the right words, I am very happy they come to me for their information. Thanks for the informative hub!