Talking with Your Child about Sex

September 22nd, 2009
  1. Speak directly to your child, using language appropriate for their age and knowledge level to describe sexual feelings and activities.
  2. Start conversations about sex early (ages 4-6) beginning with discussions about biology, language your child may hear outside the home, and messages around sex in the media.
  3. Remember that sexuality is confusing for children. Talk with them about the extremes in our cultural attitudes toward sex, from embarrassment to sexual exploitation. It is ok to admit to your own embarrassment.
  4. When a child asks a question about sex begin with a concise but to the point answer. As you and your child grow more comfortable talking, expand your answer. At the end of a discussion, always ask them if they have any other questions.
  5. Begin an ongoing dialogue, which will allow you to communicate morals, values, and examples. It is not only one talk.
  6. Understand that all children have sexual lives, whether with others or through fantasies. This is an important part of life that helps them to discover and develop their individual sexual identity, a vital part of one’s overall identity.
  7. Recognize that childhood, like adolescence, is about taking risks, sexually and in other ways. Encourage your teen to talk with other trusted adults about sexuality.
  8. Look out for red flags to dangerous sexual behaviors including repeated access to the Internet or video sex sites, inappropriate touching or sexual name calling, critical remarks about their sexuality or that of others. Other more general psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem or eating problems might occur at the same time.
  9. Educate yourself about the spectrum of child sexual behaviors. Enforcing rigid gender roles or sexual orientation can be extremely damaging.
  10. Be aware of how you speak and act concerning sexual and gender issues in front of your children. Children respond best to suggestions rather than directives, highlighting the importance of the parent’s role as guide during these crucial years.