If you’re like me, you may find it daunting to think about how to talk to kids about sex. It’s a topic we’ve pretty much avoided until I realized that it was time to start the conversations. Although I thought I hadn’t started to talk to my kids about sex, I realized I actually had talked with them about some of the basics they need to understand the broader topics related to sex and sexuality. So if you’re wondering when to talk to kids about sex, you’ve probably already started. It’s never too early or too late to start.
Use Anatomically Correct Names
Early on, I had read articles that talked about the importance of using anatomically correct words for their private parts. So we’ve always used the correct medical terms to describe sexual and reproductive parts. Using the correct names helps to open up an early dialogue and also so your kids know it is not something to be embarrassed about. They can also learn that their private parts are meant to be covered and also under their control, which could help them to feel more confident in their bodies and ultimately avoid sexual predators or abuse later.
Talk about Consent Early
Also, for as long as I can remember, their pediatrician has introduced the concept of sexual consent without really talking about it in a direct or aggressive way. During their annual physical, their pediatrician always checks their private parts. But before she does, she always explains that the only people who should examine their private parts include their doctor with their parent(s) present, their parent(s), and themselves. These early conversations with their doctor actually help kids to learn about body autonomy and consent in a really subtle and approachable way. If you’re wondering when to talk to your kids about consent, here’s a great article.
How to Talk to Kids About Sex By Age
The sex talk with kids who are little, the focus should be on touch and what type of touch is or isn’t appropriate. They are just starting to learn about their bodies and this is a time you can start using anatomically correct names. Kids are curious about their bodies and the bodies around them. You can start talking to your kids about when it is appropriate to be naked and when they need to wear clothes.
Kids also might start noticing pregnant women’s bellies or ask where babies come from. You can start talking about simple to understand concepts like a mom and dad create a baby and the baby grows inside of the mommy. You don’t need to be too explicit at this age, but start explaining the basics in easy-to-understand language. I personally find using books is a great way to teach kids about sex. Here is an example of a book that is appropriate for toddlers.
This is the age range my kids fall into. I decided to look into age-appropriate books for them after they continued to ask me very explicit questions about sex. My kids wanted to know exactly how the baby was made. They knew that it took a dad and a mom to make a baby, but they didn’t know how that happened. I started to try to explain sperm and eggs, but then I got a bit flustered. I didn’t know how explicit or graphic to be at their age. Thus, I ended up getting this book and I think it was the perfect introduction for elementary-aged kids.
How I Talked to My Kids About Sex
During our conversation, there were definitely moments when my kids felt very uncomfortable. There was one moment that even made me laugh. One of the images in the book showed a mom and dad under a blanket in a bed together. It wasn’t graphic, but clearly the parents were having sex under the blanket. The book talks about the word sex and introduces the concepts of sex and love between two consenting adults. When my kids saw the picture and listened to me describe sex, they got so embarrassed. Then they asked, “did you and daddy do that?” Of course, I told them yes, and they definitely were creeped out. It was a funny moment, but I also felt really close to my kids at that moment that mom was having such an honest and open dialogue with them.
To be honest, I learned about sexuality from our sex ed class in 5th grade. Before that, I didn’t really know what sex was. The remainder of my sexual education I got from friends or tv shows we probably shouldn’t have been watching on HBO. (If you had HBO in the 90s, you might remember Real Sex). I’m really glad I decided to start having these conversations early. I am hopeful I am building trust and comfort so they will come to me anytime they have questions about sex.
I also left the book out on the coffee table so they can look at it whenever they want. It’s helpful for them to know they are safe to learn about their sexuality right with their mom to support them.
Pre-Teens & Teens
By their pre-teen or teen years, your kids probably already know a lot about sex. They may be talking to their friends or seeing things on social media, tv, etc. For older kids, the focus should definitely be on safety and protection. It is inevitable that older kids will start considering or exploring their sexuality with others. So, you want to be sure they are practicing safe sex and feel comfortable discussing protection and medical interventions with you. If you’re looking for a book for this age range, here’s a good one.
I hope this story helps you think about how to talk to kids about sex. I hope you feel more confident in having these types of conversations with your kids. If you have any suggestions on things that worked well for you and your family, I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment with any other tips or resources you’d suggest for how to talk to your kids about sex.
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