4 Easy Steps to Creating Healthy Communication About Sexual Intimacy
By Haley Hawks
I remember my very first day of preschool. My mother walked me into this huge building, gently settled me into a group of kids my age, and when I was looking away tried to slip quietly out. When I looked around for her a moment later I was scared to see that she was almost out the door. Panicked, I ran after her.
She did not turn me away and force me to go back. Instead she pulled me into her arms and returned with me. She set me down, reminded me that she was only leaving for a little while, and that this was school and how excited I was to be there.
Looking back on that experience now, I am grateful that my mother took the time to come back and explain again to me what was happening so I could better understand the situation I was in.
I know that many parents have experiences like this every day. But how do we begin to talk to our children about more serious things like pornography and sex? How do we create relationships with our children that allow them to come to us, instead of going to a friend? Here are some easy steps.
Talking to kids about healthy sexual intimacy:
Step one: Start Young
You want your children to be comfortable with you from an early age. It may be awkward to talk about topics like sex and pornography. But if you start young, then you will be comfortable talking about these things throughout their lives. In turn, they will feel better about sharing information with you. To make this process easier:
Teach anatomically correct names
Don’t be embarrassed by words like “penis” or “vagina.”
Relax! This should be an everyday conversation, not a big event.
Check out 30 Days of Sex Talks for ages 3-7, 8-11, or 12+ for simple, helpful conversation starters and practical information.
If you haven’t started young, that’s okay too. Just start wherever you are and build from there. A strong child-parent relationship can begin at any age.
Step two: Be The Source
Many children nowadays are turning to the internet or their friends to teach them about sex. Let your children know that you are the safest and most reliable source of information out there. Warn them that internet searches about sex can lead to pornography, and help them know what to do if that happens. Teach them to R-U-N away! “According to one study, 42% of children had been exposed to pornography in the past year and of those, 67% were exposed to it accidentally” (Enhancing child safety and online technologies, 2011).
The Internet is full of wonderful and terrible information. Explain to your child that there is a right way to do research to find helpful sources of information, and then show them the sources that you trust. We want them to understand that we have their best interest in mind. To be the source you must:
Be willing to explain difficult or uncomfortable topics
Avoid judgmental statements
Build upon their knowledge
Remember children are naturally curious about their bodies. Their motive is not to make you feel uncomfortable. They simply want to learn.
Step three: Answer Their Questions
If you are going to be the source, you have to answer the questions. Your child might ask or say something that you makes you feel uncomfortable, but don’t freak out. It is important to answer questions so your child continues to see you as their trusted confidant. To help with this process:
Answer questions about yourself if your children ask!
Step four: Be Willing to Be Open
We are parenting in a different time than our parents did, and we need to understand that sex and intimacy our changing rapidly. With the prevalence of internet porn, sexting, and social media dating and sex are evolving quickly and parents need to be willing to address more than past generations–possibly at a younger age.
If your child comes to you with shocking questions that you feel are not “age appropriate,” don’t panic or turn them away. Wrap your arms around them, like my mother did on the first day of preschool. Talk to them! Try not to feel guilty about spoiling their innocence. Actually, the opposite is true. As we educate our children, we are protecting them.
When we make it clear to our children that we will talk to them about anything–no boundaries–we encourage them to come to us, rather than plunging down the wormhole of the internet and possibly encountering even more violent or pornographic material in an effort to answer a singular question.
For amazing discussions about healthy sexuality, curiosity, sexual identification, anatomy, and more, check out our most popular resource, 30 Days of Sex Talks, available on Amazon.
Or Check out Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age–A simple, super-helpful guide that gives YOU the words to talk about tough, timely topics of today (like racism, integrity, agency, healthy sexuality, LGBTQI issues, social media, and more).
Haley Hawks has a Bachelors of Science in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She is passionate about learning, especially when it comes to relationships and family life. She hopes to one day be able to educate on a world-wide setting in regards to promoting goodness in the family, and the ideals that are destroying society.
30 Days of Sex Talks: Empowering Your Child with Knowledge of Sexual Intimacy. (2015). Lexington, KY: Rising Parent Media.
Enhancing child safety and online technologies; final report of the internet safety technical task force to the multi-state working group on social networking of state attorneys general of the united states (2011). Portland: Ringgold, Inc.