What’s the best age to start teaching my child about sex?
You’ve already started! Very young children learn by observing their parents. They watch how you dress and how you carry yourself. They see how you interact with the opposite sex; and they notice how you react to intimacy and affection. Now all you have to do is build on their observations.
How can I open the topic for discussion?
The first step is to understand how much your child already knows about sex. And the easiest way to do that is to be a good listener. Pay attention to what your child says to friends and siblings. Then look for opportunities in everyday life to start a conversation. Remember, while we sometimes hear about having "the talk" with children about sex and sexual health, it is really a series of conversations that happen over time. Talking about sexual health is an ongoing discussion, and you can take many opportunities to continue the conversation.
Here are just a few:
How much should I tell my child?
Simply put, as much as he wants to know. A preschooler might want to know where babies come from and would be satisfied with a response such as, “a warm, safe place in Mommy’s belly.” An older child’s questions would be more complex and require more detailed answers. A teenager needs answers to numerous sexual topics. Consider discussing:
Then you’re like everyone else! It might be helpful to prepare by doing a little homework before you talk to your child. Reach out to experts for the information you need. Other parents, teachers, members of the clergy, health care providers and the Internet are excellent sources of information and support. In fact, we offer information and advice to parents on our teen website.
It’s equally important to prepare your emotional responses. It may be difficult to think of your child as a sexual being or to present yourself as one. Still, you know your child best and that puts you in the best position to answer his questions, resolve any confusion and share your feelings. Open communication and accurate information from you can help your child understand the impact of sexual activity, the benefit of waiting to have sex and the reasons why practicing safe sex is vital when he decides to become sexually active.
When you talk to your child about sex, use the same open, honest communication skills you’d use when talking about any delicate topic.
Your child may indeed be gay or conflicted about sexual orientation or gender identity. You can help resolve conflict by: