Do you know how and when to talk to your kids about sex?
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This guide will walk you through age-appropriate sex education and point you towards some reliable books to help make “The Talk” a little easier.
In This Article
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This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by licensed professionals and fact-checked by experts.
Talking to your kiddos about sex is probably not the most looked forward to conversation in the grand scheme of parenting. BUT it is a necessity and can facilitate a whole other level of safety within the parent/child relationship. As parents, questions come to mind such as:
- At what age do I talk to my child about sex?
- Is there someone else who can do it for me?
- What resources are available?
- What language is appropriate?
- Will my child be embarrassed?
- What if I mess up?
While these questions are legitimate, they should not keep you from talking to your child about sex.
Your child will hear about sex from other sources. Whether it’s other kids, t.v., radio, or media, your kids will hear about sex. You, however, have the choice to be proactive and be on the offense OR you can be reactive and be on the defense. By being proactive, you are letting your kiddos know that it is OK to talk about sex and it is OK to talk you, the parent, about sex and sexual issues or questions. First messages are the most powerful. Why not then, be the first message?
So when do we talk to our kids about sex?
When is the right time?
A tongue and cheek answer would be birth. But really, “the sex talk” is much more than just about sex. It is about understanding how our bodies work as well as Gods design for sex and a sexual relationship. Starting early normalizes the talk, meaning it makes the discussion less awkward.
Instead of having “the talk” – as if it were a taboo subject or a rite of passage, it becomes a part of life. And while there are boundaries around where the conversation happens, it offers an opportunity for the conversation to happen.
When your kiddos are born, you’re less focused on telling them about the birds and the bees and more concerned with how many times they’ve pooped that day. As they grow though, they become curious – it’s human nature. The sex talk begins with teaching our children the proper names for body parts. While it’s cute to give our private parts pet names, essentially we are teaching our kids that those body parts are a secret and we can’t or shouldn’t talk about them.
You don’t call your stomach by any other pet name, do you? Well, what if they say penis in public!?!?!?! Yes, it probably will happen. I have a son who likes to yell boobies every time we pass the bra section in Target.
That’s when we, as parents, gently teach them the appropriate time and setting to talk about penises and vaginas, and boobies too. Teaching your kids the correct anatomical name for their body parts begins the foundation and builds a framework for future discussion. Here is an example of how you might talk with your child about their body parts:
Parent: These are what we call your private body parts. They have purpose and function, just like our hands and feet, but we do not share these with anyone else. They are just yours. We keep them covered up unless we’re taking a bath or going potty. It’s important to let mom or dad know if someone touches or tries to touch you in those spots. It’s okay to tell them “no” and tell them those body parts are just for you. Now, *what did we just learn about?*
*This is key – it helps you to know if your child is listening. Early on, your kiddo will just be regurgitating information you just gave them, but that’s how they learn. Just like when we teach our kids colors – they’re just spitting back information we just gave them. Remember, we’re building a framework.
Kiddo: I learned that these body parts are called……and they’re just mine and not for anyone else.
As our kiddos enter school, they should already have a framework for what is appropriate touch and what is not. This way, if they are touched in an inappropriate manner, they know that the touch is not OK instead of feeling confused about the touch because no one has taught them about it.
Keep the conversation going:
Just because you taught your kiddos the correct anatomical names of their body parts doesn’t mean we’re done having the conversation. It’s important to keep the conversation going – all the way up until they leave your house. Peppering in conversations about body changes, sex, waiting for marriage to engage in sex, keeps the topic normative – or less scary to talk about.
Typically, between the ages of seven to nine is a good time to teach your children about sexual intercourse. Remember, if they don’t hear it from you, they WILL hear it from peers. Your goal, as parents, is to be on the front end of this conversation. During this conversation, it’s important your kiddos see you as comfortable with the topic. If you’re frightened about it, kiddos will pick up on that and take their cues from you. Here is an example of how you might continue the talk with your child:
Parent: I want to talk to you honey, about something special and very important. I want to talk to you about something God created for marriage. It’s called sex. (Explain what happens.) Now, while you’re in school you may start hearing your peers talk about sex. Sex is something that adults participate in and not kids. I want you to know that you can always come to me and talk with me about it. If you have questions, I’d like you to come to me and ask. Now, what are you hearing from me in this conversation?
By keeping the conversation going, we also inadvertently help our kids when it comes to decision making in the dating world. If we give our kids a solid foundation on the gift of sex and what it was intended for, these teachings will come to mind as they begin the dating process.
Don’t stop there:
As time continues, your kiddo will be thrown into the midst of high school. There, where decisions are difficult and pressure is heavy, being sure of where they stand on sexual issues and potential consequences of having sex, will be helpful and hopefully one less thing your teen will have to stress about.
Then, eventually your kiddos will go off to college and someday prepare for marriage. By building a foundation and an allowance for kids to talk to you about sex, they’ll likely go back to a trusted source rather than scour the internet for information – which we all know can be very dangerous and set our kids up for unrealistic expectations.
The key to any sex talk is to keep communication lines open. The best way to do that is to be comfortable with the topic of sex yourself. Your kids will pick up on any awkwardness from you. The worst thing you can do is not talk to them about sex because you’re uncomfortable with it.
Below is a list of books that are very helpful in engaging your kids:
- Burns, J. (2009). God made your body. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House.
- Jones, S., & Jones, B. (2007). Facing the facts: The truth about sex and you (Rev. and updated ed.). Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress.
- Jones, S., & Jones, B. (2007). How and when to tell your kids about sex: A lifelong approach to shaping your child’s sexual character (Rev. & Updated ed.). Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress.
- Jones, S., Jones, B., & Spector, J. (2007). The story of me (Rev. and updated. ed.). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
- Jones, S., & Jones, B. (2007). What’s the big deal?: Why God cares about sex (Rev. and updated ed.). Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress.
- Nystrom, C., & Speidel, S. (2007). Before I was born: Designed for parents to read with children ages 5 to 8 (Rev. and updated ed.). Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress.
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- Remez, L. (2000). Oral sex among adolescents: is it sex or is it abstinence?. Family Planning Perspectives, 32(6), 298-304. 
- Wilson, E. K., Dalberth, B. T., Koo, H. P., & Gard, J. C. (2010). Parents’ perspectives on talking to preteenage children about sex. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive health, 42(1), 56-63. 
- Talking About Sex and Puberty 
- How to talk to your kids about sex 
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