Tips for Talking Sex with Your Offspring
To be honest, my parents never gave me the sex talk. One time (in my early twenties), my dad told me sex was like hitting a piece of metal with a hammer, and I’ve been all too curious about their, and everyone else’s, sex lives ever since… which is probably how I ended up writing about topics like this.
Talking about sex with adults is confusing enough, and now we’re expected to explain this to our kids?! Have no fear, we’ve compiled some things to keep in mind to help you feel more prepared for when you’re ready to talk about “the birds and the bees”.
When is the Right Time?
There is a lot of debate around this issue. Timing is everything, but don’t believe there is a perfect time to give the talk. You can’t really plan it and sometimes it just circumstantially happens. Kids mature at different rates, and some people even believe we should start talking about sex before our kids become verbal. One thing’s for sure though… it’s never too late.
Whenever it may be you decide to start talking to your kids about sex, I think we can all agree that consent is probably one of the most important, if not the most important, concept to communicate to kids when having the talk. Establishing this intuitive understanding is a foundation for how your kid thinks about sex for the rest of their lives. It also teaches them that they do, and should, have control over their own bodies.
Early Childhood (3-6 years)
- At this stage, it’s important to cover the basics using terminology that your toddlers and kids will conceptually understand. A lot of parents use the “mommy and daddy do a special dance” technique which seems to work well, but it’s also important to use correct terminology for the basic body parts. It helps kids communicate to you if something is wrong with their parts and pieces too.
- It’s important to emphasize that some parts of the body are private and for you only. Respect others’ privacy, and you can also have your privacy. It’s okay to touch yourself if it feels good, but it’s something to do in your alone time. It’s like picking your nose, everybody does it, but you don’t want to do it in front of other people.
- If you’re still struggling with talking to your littles about sex there are a ton of children’s books that also cover these topics. Our favorites are “What Makes a Baby,” “It’s NOT the Stork,” and “It’s Perfectly Normal.” All available on Amazon.
Middle/Late Childhood (7-12 years)
- By this age, kids should be learning the scientific names for body parts and internal reproductive organs. Bring out the anatomy diagrams. You’ll probably learn a thing or two too.
- It is important to communicate to them that not all of them look the same, just like people, and that they need to look after their private parts just like they need to wash their hair and brush their teeth. Developing hygiene habits in general is crucial at this age.
- Also let them know that their bodies and emotions will change when they get older, just like how mom has boobs and dad has hairy legs. And that girls can have hairy legs too if they want. Again, they are in control of their bodies. Please also don’t forget to explain to your daughters all about periods before they think they’re dying on the toilet.
Teens (13+ years)
- Bust out the condom and banana! Getting tangible might help your teens better understands the process and implications of safe sex. And include as many forms of birth control as possible. The more, the merrier (and less scarier for you).
- In my college sex ed class, we even played STD jeopardy and honestly it was probably one of the only things that stuck with me from college (I’m talking about the game, not the STDs… although it’s important to teach your kids that they are more common than we think).
- Other topics you should probably emphasize with your teens are consent (always), sexual preference, gender, vulnerability, and physical/emotional abuse.
Like with the tooth-fairy, keeping up with little white lies becomes difficult and counterproductive over time. It’s best to be honest with your kids, and if they are open enough to be asking you about sexual health, give them realistic feedback. As much as we want to protect our kids from the negative aspects that can be associated with sex, establishing the trust to be able to turn to you for advice is far more important in creating a foundation for healthy sex in their futures.
What To Do if Your Kids Accidentally Walk In On You
Take a moment to collect your thoughts. You don’t want the surprise or embarrassment of this moment to make you say something you’ll regret or have to backtrack later. If you still haven’t given your kids the talk, don’t gloss over this moment. It’s probably time to at least explain something from the sections above. You should start with an apology, just to let your kids know that they did nothing wrong. And maybe, just maybe, it’s time to invest in a good door lock.
Donna is a Volonté contributor and freelancer who lives in San Francisco with her understanding husband and not-so-understanding teenage sons. Her work has been published in The Journal of Sexology and she is currently writing a book on love languages.