Talking to your kids about sex sounds awkward, frustrating, disturbing, frightening, and a whole slew of other adjectives you don’t even want to bring up. But it’s part of your job as a parent, and there are resources to help you through the preparation, explanation, discussion, and Q&A of sexual education. It’s really one of the best things you can do for your kids, and even if they don’t thank you now, they’ll be glad you talked to them. You might be afraid of hurting your child’s feelings, bringing up something they don’t want to know about, or saying the wrong thing. But it’s important to take this step before someone else does – you can control what your children learn about sex if you teach them preemptively. Take advantage of that opportunity and don’t let someone you don’t know or trust be the first to discuss sex with your kids.
What to Talk About
· Definitions – the unfamiliar is much less frightening if it’s fully explained and defined.
· Privacy – instruct young children that privacy is part of being polite and respecting others’ personal space. Violations of this privacy are bad and shouldn’t happen, so they shouldn’t let anyone touch their private body parts.
· Cover surfing the Web and strangers – giving out personal information to anyone your kids don’t know is dangerous. Tell them that they shouldn’t give any information that would allow anyone to invade their privacy and that they should never talk about their private body parts.
· Tell pre-teens about any changes they can expect – growth spurts and hormonal changes for both genders should be addressed, as well as voice changes and sexual organ development for males. Talk to your daughters about menstruation and breast development around age 9. The important thing here is to make your kids feel normal and allay any fears about sexual development.
· Abstinence and morals – this is the first defense against sexual mistakes. Talk to your kids about the potential for emotional damage, STDs/STIs, and pregnancy. Simply telling them the facts about sex will go a long way toward helping them understand the risks involved.
· Safe sex – don’t assume that your kids won’t be curious and/or willing to try sex. Talk about contraceptives, condoms, and sexual health – regular doctor visits should be recommended for both genders once they start to develop sexually.
· Emotions and relationships – sex isn’t just about intercourse. Inform your kids that sex is very emotional and that a solid relationship is necessary for it to be successful and enjoyable.
How to Discuss Sex
· Start teaching your children about sex from a young age, such as toddler or preschooler. This may seem ridiculous, but starting sex education young and working up developmentally can help remove the “taboo” from the subject, ensuring that your child is equipped to make well-informed decisions. You don’t have to get into anything complicated with a toddler, but at least start naming sexual organs in an age-appropriate way.
· Children’s and teens’ books on sexuality are great ways to cover any material you think you might have missed, and it’s an easy way to clarify anything ambiguous if your child doesn’t want to ask you direct questions. Just make sure that you talk about sex before giving your child a book on sexual education and make sure that it’s age-appropriate.
· Tell your child or teen that it’s okay to be uncomfortable about the topic, but that you have important information that they need to hear. Give them the option of listening now and discussing later.
· Set a good example of a healthy relationship.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various online programs and blogging about student life issues. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.