Before your child is 2 years old, teach the proper names for genitals. From 3 to 5, talk about where babies come from and talk about consent, respect, and privacy. Prepare your child for puberty during ages 6 to 9, so it’ll be less scary for them. Both boys and girls should know about periods and safe sex. From 10 to 13, have open discussions about changing bodies and feelings. Come teen years, talk about feelings in relation to sex.
When you’re a parent, having the sex talk with your child seems like a nightmare. But it shouldn’t be that way! And if you’re cringing, it proves that sex has become taboo.
This is a real part of life, though. Skirting the issue won’t make it go away – whether or not you like to admit it. And with 7 out of 10 kids having sex by the time they’re 19, having the talk is a must.1
It’s also key for your child’s safety and health. You can make a huge difference in their future. Start by having the sex talk with your kids, no matter how old they are. Here’s how to do it by age.
Ways To Talk To Your Kids About Sex
For Children Aged 0 To 2
1. Teach Body Parts
From “ears” to “feet”, kids in this age group learn all about body parts. But the anatomy lesson shouldn’t stop there! Talking to kids about sex starts with recognizing genitals. Identify these parts by their proper names, like penis, vagina, labia, or vulva. Ditch the cutesy nicknames, which makes the actual parts seem forbidden.
Don’t forget to talk about the opposite gender. Explain how girls and boys have different genitals. Talk about how everyone’s genitals look different – and that this is normal.
2. Talk About Privacy
While you’re identifying those parts, clarify why they’re “private”. Make it clear that people cover these parts because those are personal. Mention that this is why we go to the bathroom or change clothes behind closed doors. The goal is to teach your kids that private parts shouldn’t be ignored, but they should be respected.
3. Discuss Touching
Children are going to touch their genitals, whether or not you talk about them. It’s human nature. If you catch them doing this, don’t act shocked. Instead, calmly explain that this should be done in private and not in front of others.
It’s also a good idea to explain who else is allowed to touch their genitals. Mommy, daddy, and the doctor should be the only ones. Other people – especially strangers – are not OK.
For Children Aged 3 To 5
1. Explain Where Babies Come From
Children are curious beings, and they’re bound to ask about everything. If (or when) your kid asks where babies come from, don’t cringe or giggle. You don’t want them to feel bad for asking a genuine question. Instead, use this as an opportunity to start the sex talk with your child.
Get straight to the point. Explain that a man can put his penis in a woman’s vagina, where he helps the woman’s egg grow into a baby. Call the act for what it is: sex. You don’t have to get into the details, but acknowledging it is a start.
2. Emphasize Consent
Explaining sex gives you the perfect opportunity to talk about consent. It’s an important topic that’s crucial for your child’s safety. Talk about how sex is a choice, and it should only happen if both grown-ups agree. You can also mention that different people have different choices.
Consent should also extend to playtime, since curiosity blossoms when kids are together. Tell your child that touching other kids isn’t nice because it might make them feel bad. Stress the concept of “keep your hands to yourself”, whether it be playful hitting or inappropriate touching.
Find learning moments when you watch television. If two characters are cozying up, explain that this is a choice. And if a character feels uncomfortable around someone? Talk about their feelings and how they should be respected.
For Children Aged 6 To 9
1. Prepare For Puberty
Teach your child about puberty before it even happens. After all, it’ll significantly change their bodies. But the more you discuss it, the less scary it will be for them.
Talk about periods with girls and boys. Explain how the body changes and why it happens. You can also relate it to pregnancy. For boys, it will make the topic less taboo, helping them appreciate this natural process.
Tell them how their bodies and feelings will change. They might also start liking other people more. Emphasize that this is OKAY and normal, as long as there’s consent.
2. Talk About STDs
Of the 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) each year, half are in people ages 15 to 24 years old.2However, acknowledging STDs before sexual activity begins can be a game changer. It’ll stress the concept of safety, even before puberty.
Explain how condoms don’t just prevent pregnancy. They can be used to stop germs from spreading, too. Share how some of these germs can be harmful and change your life forever.
For Children Aged 10 To 13
1. Discuss Puberty In Detail
Now that your child’s a teen, it’s time to dig deeper into puberty. Remind them that you’re always available if they have questions. (Hint: They will!) And when they do, stay composed and non-judgmental. It’ll help them feel comfortable enough to approach you about future topics.
Be supportive through all the awkward parts of puberty. Tell them that it’s normal and won’t last forever. Most importantly, explain that puberty is different for everyone.
2. Teach Birth Control Methods
Talking to kids about sex isn’t complete without birth control. This will show them that it’s possible to have sex without making a baby. Mention condoms, abstinence, and any other methods. Talk about how they can use it and where to get it.
Talk about the consequences of having sex early. Tie in the importance of getting to know the person. Pregnancy can happen very easily, and it can change their life forever.
For Children Aged 14 To 18
1. Talk About Relationships
Having the sex talk with your teenager can be unpredictable. There’s a lot of life changes happening, after all. But it’s never too late, so don’t assume that they’ll “figure it out”. Your support and guidance are essential.
Start discussing healthy relationships, which will pave the way for a healthy sex life. For example, ask your teen: What’s a good way to show someone you like them? What if someone likes you but you don’t feel the same way? The conversation doesn’t need to be groundbreaking, but it’ll make them think.
2. Discuss Consent
Again? Yup. Talking about consent is even more important during this time. Your teen needs to learn how to stay true to what they feel and want. Emphasize that it isn’t OK for sexual acts to happen without mutual happiness. You can also tie in feelings and how it can affect people’s decisions to have sex.
Be your child’s biggest advocate. These talks will help them make healthy choices throughout life. Practice patience and openness, because your efforts will be worth it.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Talking to Kids About Sex and Sexuality – at a Glance. Planned Parenthood.|
|2.||↑||CDC Fact Sheet: Information for Teens and Young Adults: Staying Healthy and Preventing STDs. Centers for Disease Control.|