For many people, saying the word “sex” makes them cringe. A lot of people grew up hearing negative messages about sex. When it comes to talking to their own kids about sex, many parents find themselves confused, based on the messages they’ve heard as children. “When should I start to talking to my kids about sex? Should the ‘bird and the bees’ even be mentioned? Kids will figure it out on their own, right?” Kids will figure it out, yes, but it’s how and from whom they hear about sex that can create problems.
Parents can be one of the biggest influences in a child’s understanding and decision-making process about sex. Research from organizations such as Planned Parenthood and XXXchurch.org show kids reporting that they would rather have their parents approach them and have an open discussion with them regarding sex, than finding out about it in a different way. Discussing “the birds and the bees” is typically uncomfortable for most people, let alone engaging in a conversation with their kids about it. Having a guideline for where to start can at times make the process easier.
The earlier the better
Start early in sex education. For instance, talking to your toddler about their sexual parts and that they are different than the opposite sex can be a great place to begin. Examples would be “You are a girl and were born with a vulva,” “You are a boy, born with a penis.” Even if you did not have a dialogue with your kid about this topic early on, it is never to late to start talking to your kid about sex.
Have an on going discussion
Sitting your kid down for the “big talk” only goes as far as that one instance. Usually it takes more than one quick discussion to completely understand a concept. This is especially important for sex education, as a child’s brain still develops. Children are going to process it differently when they are 10 than when they are 16. The discussion will also look a lot different. Having an age appropriate discussion is an important component. While you tell your toddler about their sexual organs you might talk to your 16 year old about sexual health risks and benefits.
Create an open relationship around sexual topics
When kids feel comfortable coming to you to ask questions and discuss sex, you are able to shape and influence their ideas on sex and their sexuality. This can be difficult especially if you grew up shunned to talk about this topic. If this is true for you, try practicing talking about sex out loud to a partner or a friend. Saying words that might be more difficult over and over can help you become desensitized to the subject. This can then create a calmer environment for you to hear what your child is talking to you about, instead of sweating over actually talking about the issue.
Websites and books
Look for good websites and books that talk about healthy sex and healthy sexuality. Leaving these books on the bookshelf or coffee table allows your kids to pick it up and research for themselves about different topics. Technology is such a large part of the younger generation, so proving your kids with websites to look at can be helpful too. It is important to note to still engage in conversation with you kids about what they have read or if they have questions about what they have read.
You were a kid
Think about what would have been helpful for you when you were younger. We’ve all been there, some of us had good experiences that we can intertwine in our relationships with our kids and some of us have ideas of what would have been helpful. Also think about your kid’s personalities. You might be talking to each of your kids in a different ways. One of your kids might be very receptive to the conversation and asks questions often, while the other might feel very uncomfortable discussing it and would do better with a book of information to engage in a different kind of dialogue around the topic.
Sex is a good thing. Many times the reasons why it is awkward to talk about this issue is because sex is a very intimate behavior. Our sexuality is a very intimate part of who we are. Explaining to kids about the purpose of sex can help them contextualize the behavior in a more relational way than just saying “do it” or “don’t do it.” It is important to proactively think about your personal morals and values and how you want to portray sex to your child.
Great go-to resources:
- From Diapers to Dating by Debra Haffner
- How and When to Tell Your Kids About Sex: A Lifelong Approach to Shaping Your Child’s Sexual Character by Brenna Jones and Stan Jones
- Kid’s Health
- Health Finder
These suggestions are to help guide you in your journey to living a more fulfilling sexual life. If you are experiencing any sexual difficulties or concerns, I encourage you to seek help. If you have any questions or comments about what you read, feel free to e-mail me at Emma@Emma-Schmidt.com