5 Basic Tips for Talking to Your Child About Sex
By Amanda Grossman-Scott
Update: May 26, 2015– With the accusations against and acknowledgment of wrong doing by a member of the reality-TV-famed Duggar Family I can’t help but think that this is another result of many parents’ fear of or refusal to discuss sexual intimacy with their children. What are parents afraid of? Information empowers children. Knowledge about sex and all that comes along with it can help children to know what is acceptable and what isn’t and they’ll be more likely to know when something isn’t right. Incorporating a family’s religious, cultural and personal beliefs is part of having these vital conversations. Silence about sex doesn’t make it more sacred.
When it comes to talking to your child about sex, sometimes just starting the conversation can be the hardest part (you can find tips to start the conversation here). Below are some basic tips. Remember that sex and intimacy are natural, healthy parts of life. If we can communicate this to our kids, they’ll grow up with healthier attitudes about sex and they’ll be more comfortable approaching us as parents when they have questions.
- Start the conversation but let your child direct it. When your child is very young, you’ll have information you’ll want to give him and as he gets older you might have a message you want to get across, but remember to do more listening than talking. When you’ve got something you want to say it’s easy to get caught up in lecture mode. Try to avoid this by approaching the subject more like a discussion as your child gets older. If your child isn’t forthcoming with comments, ask your child what his friends say about sex, ask about what sports she might like to play when she gets older, talk about what sports are available to boys and girls; anything to get your kid talking!
- Don’t give him more information than he is ready for. If he’s five and just wants to know why his sister sits to pee, explain that she has a vagina and he has a penis. When he’s seven and asks about breasts, explain that they are meant for feeding babies. That said, it’s very important for parents to be the first, best source of information. It’s just not necessary to give a child information that he’s not ready for that also may traumatize him.
- Don’t freak out. Ask some questions of your own. If your child asks a question out of the blue, ask her why she is asking. Context can mean a lot. When my daughter was learning to read and I was filling out a form at a doctor’s office she asked, “What’s “sex” Mommy?” I nearly had a heart attack until I realized all she wanted to know was what the word on the paper meant. I explained that it was asking if I was a boy or girl. Whew!
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Don’t feel like one talk gone awry is going to lead to a life of promiscuity or sexual deviance. You love your child. You are one of the biggest influences in his life. Use your influence for good and use it often!
- Don’t show judgment. It may be hard but at a certain age your child will be looking for reasons not to trust you and talk with you. If she mentions that one of her friends is having sex, sneaking around or something else you don’t approve of, don’t rush to judgment or ban your child from hanging out with that friend. That’s a quick way to lose your child’s trust. Instead, teach your child to be a good friend and a good example. Ask your child what she thinks her friend should do. Offer sound advice. If your child feels like she can trust you with her friend’s problems, she’ll be more likely to come to you with her own.
Try to relax and let the conversation flow naturally. By talking to your child about sex and sexual intimacy throughout his or her life, you are empowering your child with important knowledge and preparing him or her for future successful relationships. In the meantime, he or she will be more likely to have a strong sense of self-worth and feelings of healthy sexuality.
See our book 30 Days of Sex Talks for ages 3-7, 8-11 and 12+ to find lessons and activities to empower your child with knowledge of sexual intimacy!
Amanda Grossman-Scott is Board Vice president and Head Writer for Educate and Empower Kids. She has written for various magazines, newspapers and blogs and has been active in the journalism industry intermittently for the last 15 years. She studied Journalism and Communications at Utah Valley University. Amanda is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and now lives with her husband and four children in Sacramento, California.