Talking to Kids About Sex: by Dr. Stacy
Not many things scare a parent more than “the talk”. The time when the words come out of their toddlers mouth saying, “where do babies come from” to the time when your young adult teen comes to you to ask for birth control because they are wanting to have sex. How do you know the right way to talk to your kids?
The most important thing to note is that doing nothing is not the answer. This is how people can grow up with negative body image, poor sexual communication skills and possibly even pregnant before they are ready. Open communication is the best way to promote positive sexuality and letting your children know that sex is a natural part of life.
Knowing what to discuss in what age group is what parents struggle with the most. Here are some tips to help.
Kids at a young age need to learn the correct words for their body parts, like penis, vagina, breasts, etc. so they don’t develop shame around that part of the body. They play or touch themselves as well when they are toddlers but don’t tell them not to. Just explain to them that they need to do that in the privacy of their own room.
At ages 3-5 they may ask that dreaded question about where do babies come from and at this stage you only need to give basic information. For example, you can say a seed from daddy and an egg from mommy come together and grow in mommy’s belly. Many kids are satisfied with that! If not, let their curiosity guide you.
From 6-9, kids start doing more exploration and may need more detailed answers about what sex is. Basically you can state that sex is when a penis goes into a vagina and leave it at that. This is a great time to explain puberty and changes that will happen within their bodies as they grow. Some children don’t ask so it’s important as a parent to still discuss it even if it isn’t brought up.
At 9-12 kids think sex is gross. They also start recognizing other kids and the changes that are taking place in their bodies, especially hormonally. This is the most important time to discuss sex as well as STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases) and how people get pregnant. You don’t want them learning from others.
Hormones are on overdrive from 13-18 and many kids aren’t discussing anything with their parents. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to know so it is up to the parent to bring it up no matter how awkward it is! Your teen needs to know that they don’t ever have to feel pressured to have sex or do anything they aren’t comfortable doing. Don’t be shy about discussing birth control options before your kids may even be having sex so they are aware and prepared, especially if they are too shy to come to you. Knowledge is power and when you give them the understanding of what to expect as they grow and develop, you will create a sex positive culture that can make the changes we need. This in turn will protect our children so they can make the best-informed decision for themselves. Look for teachable moments like listening to music, watching TV or the Internet and just start talking!
Dr. Stacy Friedman is a Clinical Sexologist and Certified Sex Coach. Dr. Stacy works with all aspects of sexuality and specializes in couples with mismatched sex drives, women’s issues (such as painful sex, low libido, sex and pregnancy, etc) and works with the LGBT community. Sessions available in office, by video call and by phone.