8 Ways to Start Talking to Your Child About Sex
By Amanda Grossman-Scott
When I started talking to my oldest son about sexual intimacy, I decided to include his little brother. I assumed that my younger son would take the same interest and have the same reaction. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My younger son would try to escape every time I brought up sex. I couldn’t help but feel this was hypocritical of him, considering I’ve been listening to him use toilet humor for as long as I can remember! I gave up trying to talk to him directly about intimacy, figuring he just wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. Again, I was wrong! I’d find him standing just outside the doorway whenever I had a discussion with his older brother, listening intently. It only took a little while for him to join the conversations and become comfortable talking about it. Turns out, it’s not that he wasn’t ready to talk about intimacy, he just wasn’t comfortable talking about it with ME. Watching his older brother discuss it openly with me showed him that not only is it a normal conversation to have with a parent, it’s also normal to be curious about sex and intimacy.
It can be awkward in the beginning, no doubt, but discussing sexual intimacy is such an important conversation that, as parents, we need to use every healthy way we can to start talking until we find a way that works. The following are some ways to use everyday situations to begin talking.
- Asking questions. When I was growing up in the late 80’s, AIDS was a big topic and we’d recently learned about it in school. My mom used this as a starting point for talking about sex. “What have you learned about AIDS and how it is spread?” I remember her asking me. Clever mom! Asking questions is also a great way to gauge what your child already knows or any misconceptions he or she may have about sex. Try asking your child what her friends are talking about with regard to sex.
- Watching TV. Commercials for tampons, a kissing scene, dogs mating on Animal Planet—all of these awkward instances can be used to start the conversation. Many examples on TV are negative ones, and these can be teaching moments as well. Teaching your child media literacy or to be “media savvy” is a great way to start a child on the path to healthy sexuality.
- Pregnancy. Is someone you know expecting? Is your child old enough to wonder how it happened? Is a pet expecting a litter? These are great opportunities to talk about how life is created.
- Weddings. Wedding ceremonies are beautiful and full of love, just as sexual intimacy should be. The beginning of two people’s life together is a natural way to talk about intimacy and relationships.
- Educational books. If you can’t bring yourself to say certain words, read them aloud with your child. Be sure that your child learns more from you than from the book. Use books and articles like these together with your child, but only as a starting point, letting your instincts and your child guide the conversation from there.
- Art. Attending a museum display or sharing a book of fine art with your child is a wonderful way to show the human body in a beautiful, wholesome way. Explain why artists have depicted the body in artistic, respectful ways for thousands of years.
- Clothing. When your child starts choosing his or her own clothes, it’s an easy way to talk about why certain parts of our body must always be covered.
- Listen. When your child talks to you, his or her friends, or siblings, really listen to what he or she is saying. There may be undertones, questions, or misconceptions that you will hear and can address when you really listen. Here are some ways to be a better listener and more approachable parent.
It doesn’t matter which of these methods works for you or if you come up with your own technique, as long as you don’t give up on being the first and most trusted source of information for your child.
Check out our books 30 Days of Sex Talks for awesome conversation starters about this and other sometimes-difficult subjects!
Or Check out our newest book, Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age.