It’s no secret that talking about sex can be awkward for both parents and children. But it’s an important conversation to have nonetheless. Here’s a brief guide for parents on how to talk to their children about sex.
Why it’s important to talk to your children about sex:
There are many reasons why it’s important for parents to talk to their children about sex. For one, it helps children understand their bodies, how their bodies work, and where babies come from. It also teaches them about personal boundaries, consent, and healthy relationships. Just as important as knowing about “the birds and the bees” is understanding what is, and is not, appropriate touch and conversation.
Talking to your children about sex can also help prevent them from engaging in risky behaviours. Children who receive sex education are more likely to delay sexual activity, and use condoms when they do become sexually active. They’re also less likely to experience teenage pregnancy or contract STDs.
Beyond this, by making sure that your children have accurate information about sex, pleasure and their bodies, you can help ensure that when they do engage in sex as adults, they will have positive experiences. No parent hopes that their child will have a miserable sex life when they are older, and as a parent you can have a direct impact on whether or not that happens.
When to talk to your children about sex:
There’s no one right answer when it comes to when parents should start talking to their kids about sex. But experts generally recommend starting the conversation around age 10yrs or 11yrs at the latest – before they are exposed to too much inaccurate information from friends or the internet.
How you start the conversation is also important. Parents should look for natural opportunities to bring up the topic, like during a car ride or while watching a TV show together. Talking about sex should not be limited to one big, intimidating conversation, but rather it should be a number of short conversations that for a natural part of every day life.
It’s also important not be afraid of awkward silences – they’re normal! Just keep the lines of communication open and be available if your child has any questions later on, or even years later as their understanding of their bodies and human relationships develops.
What information to share:
The information that you share with your child should always be age appropriate, and in a way that they understand. It is best to use the scientific words for body parts, “vulva”, “vagina”, “penis” and “testicles” as opposed to words like “cookie” and “willy”. While the latter can be cute in the beginning, it makes it difficult to transition to using the correct language, and can send a message that their “cookie” was a cute thing, but as they grow up it is no longer cute. Using the correct language also allows for the correct understanding when you are talking about the act of sex.
If parents are not sure of what information is correct, as they may not have been able to speak to their own parents about sex, and so have often relied on magazine information etc. then it is important they they do the research to make sure that they are communicating truth, and not perpetuating myths. Parents can go to workshops to learn more, as well as enrol in online courses or visit websites that have free, scientifically accurate information and guides available for parents as well as children.
It’s important to talk to your children about sex because it can help them make better decisions, stay safe, and understand their bodies. The best time to talk to your children about sex is before they reach puberty, but it’s never too late to start the conversation.
When you’re talking to your children about sex, be sure to cover the basics of sex education and emphasise the importance of values and decision-making. In the digital age, it’s also important to talk to your children about the dangers of the internet and sexting. By having these conversations with your children, you can help them stay safe and healthy as they grow up.