Common Mistakes Parents Make When Talking to Kids About Sex
By: Ariane Robinson
For many parents, the hardest part about having “the talk” with their kids is knowing how to start the conversation. Growing up I remember my own parents tip-toeing around the conversation because they didn’t know where to begin. Even in this day and age, with all the great tools to help parents navigate this important discussion, there are still some common mistakes that many parents fall into when talking to their children about sex.
Four of the most common mistakes are:
- Starting too late. Often parents will wait to talk to their child until they are beginning to go through puberty, or because they have become concerned about their child’s behavior. However, the conversation should begin much earlier than this. Parents should have an ongoing dialogue with their kids about sex, human development, and body image from the time they are three until they are grown. Over time, this conversation can grow and evolve along with the child. Even at the young age of three years old, parents can discuss anatomy, essential body functions, healthy touching vs. unhealthy touching, and the basics of sex. If you are looking for more suggestions and examples of how to talk to your little ones about sex, check out the article Talking with Young Children about Sex for some great information and tips on this topic.
- Passing harsh judgments. Children are watching their parents all the time. If a child notices a parent acting upset or judgemental towards the behaviors of others they may be frightened to talk to their parent. For example, if a child hears a parent say that people who view pornography are “disgusting” then if that child happens to see or view any inappropriate images they may not want to tell their parents for fear of being viewed as “disgusting” themselves. Children are unlikely to be honest with their parents if they feel their parents will reject them or disapprove of their questions or behaviors. It is important that we take the shame out of our discussions on sex. The podcast How to Talk to Kids about Sex discusses how to do this as well how to have important conversations about pornography.
- Not answering questions when they’re asked. Children are naturally curious. It is not uncommon for them to have questions about their bodies, relationships, or behaviors they see around them. If a child asks a parent a question and they are either not comfortable answering it, or they don’t know the answer, it is never wise to change the subject or ignore the child. If children feel heard and validated by their parents, then they are less likely to look for answers from outside sources and more likely to go to their parents for information. Parents need to be the first and best source of information for their children. If you are unsure how to be a source of information on sex for your kids check out the article, 8 Ways to Start Talking to Your Child About Sex.
- Not being honest. Honesty is a two-way street. If parents expect their children to be honest with them, then they must be honest with their children, especially when it comes to questions about sex. For example, if a four-year-old child asks, “Where do babies come from?” then parents can answer simply and truthfully by saying, “Mommies have a special place in their tummies. It is called a “uterus.” Babies grow inside the uterus until they are ready to be born”(Educate Empower Kids, 2015). This is a great response because the information that is shared is not only honest but on par with the understanding of the young child (Myers, 2014). Having honest open conversations with our kids is something we should be do often. The article, Don’t have “The Sex Talk” with your Child–Have Many! gives great suggestions about how to keep talking to your kids honestly about sex.
In a world where children are bombarded with sexual messages and images, they deserve to have reliable accurate information, and who better to receive that information from than their parents! As we strive to avoid the pitfalls mentioned above, our children will feel more comfortable confiding in us.
If you would like more information about talking to your children about sex check out our recently updated 30 Days of Sex Talks books. These books are available to help guide parents with children of all ages, giving them the tools they need to feel comfortable having open meaningful conversations with their children about sex.
Ariane Robinson is the mother of five children. She is a Marriage and Family Studies Major and a certified facilitator with PREPARE/ENRICH. She enjoys working with families and helping to strengthen their relationships.
(2015). 30 Days of Sex Talks for Ages 3-7: Empowering Your Child with Knowledge of Sexual Intimacy (Vol. 1).
Myers, P. (2014, December 29). 4 Mistakes Parents Make When Talking to Their Children About Sex -. Retrieved April 25, 2018, from https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/development/4-mistakes-parents-make-talking-children-sex/#.Wt91WIjwaUk