There are many opportunities for children to learn about sex before you’re ready to explain everything to them. Between music, internet, social media and television shows, they’re likely to find out sooner or later.
As a parent, you might not know how to navigate conversations about sex. How do you really talk about the birds and the bees?
Here’s what you need to know when it comes to talking to your kid about sex.
Be Your Child’s Primary Sex Educator
Meg Hickling, sexual health educator and author, says that as a parent, if you want to be the first person to talk to your child about sex, “you have to make sure you’re first; otherwise kids will get their information and attitudes from other children and the media.”
Sex is all over the media and it might not always line up with your values and morals, so it’s important to help your children develop a positive and healthy mentality surrounding sex. This might mean that you take the first step to talk about sex.
By doing so, you can instill healthy attitude toward sex.
Sure, it can be embarrassing or uncomfortable, but if we associate conversations of sex with shame and embarrassment, our children will sense this. They can grow up with a feeling of shame, unworthiness, or what’s worse, rebellion.
Plus, if your child is learning about it from peers, but you never broach the subject with him, it might seem like something strange and forbidden.
Instead, it’s better to develop open communication from an early age.
Early Sex Education
Believe it or not, toddlers and young children explore their sexuality. They may touch their private parts or even masturbate.
To them, there’s nothing wrong with it, and as a parent, it’s important that you don’t shame or punish them for these actions.
Instead, set a good example and remind them of when and where it’s appropriate.
All Body Parts Are Equal
It’s very typical for us to use cute-sounding names for our private parts, while still using correct terms for everything else.
Try to avoid this common mistake, and instead, when your child is learning the names for different body parts, don’t be afraid to call a penis a penis, or a vagina a vagina.
This will allow the child to respect her body without associating shame with it.
Where Do Babies Come From?
Ready or not, your kid will ask you this question. What should you do?
It all depends on your child’s age, curiosity and maturity level. But what you should never say is that babies come from storks or other niceties.
Children are smarter than you think and can handle the truth. Maybe not the whole truth, but they can certainly comprehend some facts.
For example, if your toddler or young child wants to know how babies happen. Be frank and easy going.
Something simple like, “Daddy’s sperm and mommy’s egg come together, and then a baby starts to grow inside the mommy’s tummy.”
As they get older, they might want know more about reproduction. Or, they might not realize that sex and reproduction are connected at all.
At this point, it’s probably best to let them know three important things:
- Sex is when a man’s penis goes inside a woman’s vagina
- Sex is how babies are made
- Sex is something special and appropriate for adults
Let Your Kids Know About Puberty
Many young girls are completely unaware of the massive changes coming to their bodies during their teen years. This goes for everything from periods to acne to hormones to boys.
As a mother, it’s important to help prepare your daughter for what will be an overwhelming time.
When your period comes every month, don’t make a secret out of it. Menstruation isn’t taboo.
Instead, mention that it arrived. Talk about your cramps, or how you dislike having to wear tampons or pads. In short, let your daughter know that this is part of becoming a fertile woman.
These conversations can also be a great segway into the importance of safe sex and protection.
You can also explain that hormones will make her body feel different, and that her emotions might change a lot. When you talk openly about it, you can demystify healthy and normal biological changes and empower your teens to enter puberty with more preparedness.
The same approach is helpful to boys. They might not feel comfortable talking to you about their raging hormones and changing physiques, so try to break the ice and let them know that what they’re going through is normal. You can even tell stories of how your puberty was, or funny anecdotes that can make them feel less uncomfortable and embarrassed.
Sex, Love and Relationships
For some younger children, it’s enough to know what sex is and that it’s a reproductive process. The older they become, however, you can start to introduce concepts of love and relationships.
Sex isn’t merely a means to an end. It’s also how adults share love and intimacy together. It’s something special because of the mutual trust and respect that exists between two people.
This is an important message for teenagers because media and their peers will often show sex in glamourous, but very unrealistic ways. Because of this Hollywood depiction, children and teens develop unrealistic ideas about sex.
What’s worse, they feel pressured to have it, even when they’re not prepared to.
Take Time to Have a Meaningful Discussion
Sometimes, parents are caught off guard when their child or teen asks them a frank question about sex. You might want to brush it aside, change the subject, or simply lie. But your child deserves to know about these important issues.
So, how do you engage in meaningful conversations when you’re panicking inside?
The best approach is to let your child know that they asked a really great question, and that you’ll discuss it soon. This way, you acknowledge your child, and also give yourself time to prepare and relax.
Talking to your kid about sex doesn’t have to be a discussion covered in shame. Let your child’s questions and maturity level guide you as you help them understand this important part of life.