How to Talk to Your Kids about Sex
Being a parent has to be the toughest and most rewarding job you’ll ever have. As parents, we must make decisions every day that either work out in our favor or backfire. So when it comes to a discussion as complex as talking to our kids about sex, it’s no wonder many decide to neglect such talk rather than make the whole thing awkward.
Our children live in a highly sexualized society where they are exposed to sexual language, images, and behaviors before they are developmentally prepared to handle them. Kids, especially those going through puberty are still trying to understand the changes their body is going through, and the urges they get. Exposure to sexual content in their everyday life is in no way helping – rather it is giving them a go-ahead.
Most experts agree that talking to your kids about sex early often seems to be the best strategy. After all, you don’t want to wait and have “the talk” all at once—especially since conversations about sex should be age-appropriate, timely, and hopefully, take place before your teen is sexually active. While you may already know the importance of sex education, you may not know how to approach the topic with your kids.
- “When they’re ready to know about sex, they’ll ask,” is not a thing. When you wait for them to ask, you make them responsible for their own sex education.
- Don’t stop educating your own children. If you don’t educate them, someone else will. They learn from behaviors and attitudes modeled by other adults, from the media and popular culture, and certainly from peers. With their exposure to the internet, they might end up learning things that you the parent do not know anything about.
- Talk about sex early and often. Sex talk is the most awkward one you can have with your child. Many times they might pretend like they are not hearing you, but trust me they do – and they’ll remember all you’ve said.
- Utilize the media topics. Use topics presented in daily media sources and popular teen culture as starters for conversations about sex and relationships. For example, you can use the topic of the Chrisland incident to find out what your kids know about sex. No matter what your kids share with you, do not judge them, doing this will stop them from sharing things with you.
- Keep it generic. Being willing to speak in generalities allows conversations about difficult subjects like sex to move forward without getting anyone too uncomfortable. Let your children know that you know of people that had certain experiences when they were younger, that you have been in difficult situations or know others who have been, and that you’re not afraid to discuss those things on some level.
- Avoid interrogating your teen about what exactly they did or didn’t do sexually; you don’t want them to demand details about your love life, either. Keeping things on a surface level gives permission to continue the discussion over a greater breadth (and possibly depth) of topics and allows you to communicate more honestly about sex in ways that may very well be helpful one day.
- Get age-appropriate books for them to read with or without you. Include books about puberty and adolescence.
- Be real. Debunk myths and rumors. Provide accurate information. Use simple language, but respect their intelligence and curiosity. Above all, avoid talking down to children and teens about sex.
- Listen more than you talk. Engaging kids in conversation about sexuality goes much further toward developing independent decision-making than lecturing about what they “should” and “shouldn’t” do.
- Live by example. If you have a good relationship, let your children know it. Let them witness you and your partner having a disagreement and working it out; let them see you kiss and make up.
Children see us when we are not even noticing. If you are comfortable talking about sex with your kids and you provide an environment that encourages questions, discussion, and a judgment-free zone, there’s a good chance your child will want to come to you for information and advice well into their teen years.
Use this time to build stronger bonds with your younger kids and teens. Allow them to see that you can meet them where they are and respect the world they live in. Remember, the relationship you create now will be there for years to come.