How to Talk To Your Kids About Sex

posted: 02/18/16
by: Katie Morton
Mother and daughter working on family farm

Even the most evolved, in-tune parent can find themselves at a loss for words when it comes time to discuss sex with their children. And we're not going to sugarcoat it: talking about the birds and the bees can definitely be a tough, awkward discussion. But the cold, hard facts support that parents should educate their children about sex. To help you through it, here are a few expert tips for how to handle "the talk" with grace.

Answer questions honestly and directly

Kids will start to ask questions about sex early and it's your job to empower them with the age-appropriate information. Accurate, uncomplicated answers are best. The inevitable, "Where do babies come from?" from a young child can be answered with, "Mommy has a uterus and that's where a baby starts to grow."

As your child gets older, you can get into the details of intercourse and anatomy. Books are a great resource for how to introduce these concepts and at what age.

Use the correct names

You want your child to learn the proper names for their own anatomy. Use the terms "penis" and "vagina," rather than making up nicknames for the body parts. Using the correct terms helps your child develop a healthy acceptance of his or her own body.

Explore teachable moments

If you see an issue arise (either on TV or in real life) be proactive--go ahead and explain that particular situation to your child. You don't have to wait for your child to come to you with questions. If you procrastinate, you may lose your chance: A 2009 study in Pediatrics found that more than 40% of teen had sex before talking to their parents about safe sex and birth control.

There's a time and a place

Kids seem to have a knack for broaching delicate topics in the middle of crowded rooms. If a question comes up in the middle of the grocery store line, it's perfectly OK to respond that you think it's a great question and you'll talk about it in the car. But then make good on that promise--it's important to circle back and let your child know that you'll respond to their questions.

Keep the dialogue open and ongoing

"The Talk" shouldn't be a once-and-done conversation. As your child grows and matures, it's up to you as their parent to be their resource and educate them.

Think of yourself as a teacher

One of the most important aspects of being a parent is teaching your child how to navigate the world. You taught your child how to use a spoon to feed his/herself, how to use the bathroom instead of diapers, and how to ride a bike. Now that they're older, it's time to teach your child about their bodies and sexual development. Think of yourself as an instructor, helping them make sense of their feelings as they change, develop, and mature.

Turn to the experts for answers.

You're not expected to have all the answers. There are many wonderful books out there designed to help cover the basics. The following are a few recommendations--the first two titles are geared toward children, and the two last titles are aimed at parents:

  1. It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health, by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley.
  2. It's So Amazing: A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families, by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley.
  3. Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense About Sex, by Deborah M. Roffman.
  4. How to Talk with Your Kids about Sex: Help Your Children Develop a Positive, Healthy Attitude Toward Sex and Relationships , by Dr. John Chirban with foreword by Dr. Phil McGraw.

For younger children, storybooks can help illustrate the concepts in a non-threatening manner. Take the time to sit with your child and read together, then offer to discuss their thoughts and feelings.

We know it's not easy, but make the effort to discuss sex with your child in an age-appropriate way. Starting the conversation at an early age means that you're teaching your child as they grow. By developing an ongoing rapport about the subject of sex, you remove the embarrassment factor. Communicating openly and honestly about sex with your child lets them know that they can approach you without fear, and builds trust and respect.