Discussing Sex With Your Kids

Most parents find it uncomfortable when they realize that it's time to talk to their kids about sex.  But, when is that time?  And what is the best way to approach your own children to discuss these intimate issues?

Know When To Start

Every child will need sex education discussions at different ages and at different stages.  It's important to be in tune with your child's needs and questions.  You'll know when your child starts to ask about sexuality and can address his questions in an age-appropriate way.  For instance, if your seven year old asks what a pad or tampon is, you can explain menstruation in a very basic way.  If your 12 year old asks how the egg gets fertilized, you'll want to have a more detailed discussion.  You may want to involve your clergy and your child's teacher in your process as well to see if they have tips for how to answer questions at each stage and age.  It's certainly important to approach your child before he hears incorrect information from his peers or before he is teased for not knowing things that others know.

Creating a Dialogue

Sex education isn't something that you're going to do in one sitting with your child.  It is much better to think about this topic as a dialogue, and one that you will continue throughout the child's pre-teen and teenage years.  If you notice your eight year old starting to ask certain questions, the discussion that you'll have with her is going to be very different from a discussion with your 16 year old.  Try to use everyday moments to discuss these topics, rather than having a serious heart to heart conversation.  This can create a more comfortable environment and one that feels open and receptive.  For instance, you might find the best time to talk is while watching a television program, while driving to the movies, or while putting away the groceries.

Be Straightforward and Serious

You want your child to take sexuality and sex seriously, and you need to convey this in your dialogue.  You should not giggle while teaching your child about sex or show discomfort, if you can help it.  Be straightforward about your feelings as well.  If you believe in abstinence until marriage, you have the right to teach your child this.  Keep in mind, however, that they may have many outside pressures pulling them in different directions.  Be upfront about these various options with your child, while still impressing your own view upon her.

Think About Your Child's Viewpoint

You want your child to be comfortable coming back to you with questions and continuing this dialogue.  Try to make your talk judgment free.  Be a good listener and present the facts as objectively as possible.  Don't lecture your child about scary STD statistics or about the terrible trauma of abortion.  Teach them about all aspects of sexuality and help them to make the right decisions with the information you provide.

Creating a Warm Atmosphere

There are a few main goals involved in discussing sex education with your child.  Obviously, you have information to convey and you want your child to be well informed.  However, it's also very important for your child to feel safe asking you questions and to feel comfortable bringing issues to you.  The more open and honest that you are able to be, at each stage of the child's development, the more likely the child will be to see you as a resource.  Keep this in mind as you begin the dialogue that will last for years with your child!


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