Introducing the topic of sex with your kids can seem scary and uncomfortable, but it is a crucial part of their development. Discussing sex is a natural follow up from explaining puberty and these conversations help your child establish a healthy relationship with sex, sexuality and their body. Setting your children up with this knowledge will be useful for them not only as adolescents but will stay with them as they become adults and continue to explore themselves in a safe and non-judgmental way. It is better to give them more information than not enough; to prepare them for any situation they might find themselves in. So, here are some tips to making talking about sex easier and less awkward with kids:
Start these conversations early. It’s okay if it’s awkward and you feel uncomfortable, it is more important that the focus is setting up a safe space for your kids to come to you and talk about these topics. If your kids know from when they are just beginning to learn about relationships and intimacy that you are a trusted person they can go to, they will be more likely to seek out your advice and help as they grow up, and their relationship with sex becomes more complex.
Having these conversations is not encouraging them to have sex but knowing that this is a normal part of life and knowing how they can keep themselves safe as they experiment with sex.
It doesn’t have to happen in one big chunk, it’s a progress. You don’t have to tell them everything you know about sex in one go. It will probably be an overwhelming experience for them as much as it is for you, so gently introduce these topics when you see fit. Try make talking about sex a normal thing, not something that is scary or only done in serious sit-down conversations. The less intimidated they are by talking about sex, the more positive their relationship will be with it.
Your go-to move will probably be to say that sex is how babies are made. While this is right, you should also say that sex not only about bringing babies into the world, it can also be fun and pleasurable.
Use the proper terms for body parts such as penis, vagina and clitoris. Using other names for genitals makes it seem like these words are bad and shouldn’t be said. This will help them not associate these body parts with taboo or being secretive and that they are just a part of who they are, like anything these.
These words are also necessary in the future for explaining possible medical issues and making it seem normal to go to a doctor to talk about problems concerning their sexual health.
It is important to introduce ideas about consent and understanding what they are comfortable with. They should learn about what touching is okay and to ask if someone is comfortable with you touching them, just as you would want them to ask you if you are okay with them touching you somewhere. Setting up these basic ideas are great building blocks for asking for consent and how to say no to unwanted advances.
Try not to talk in terms that assumes your child is heterosexual or cis-gendered. This helps create a safe space for them to discuss and explore their sexuality and gender identity, not worrying about being judged and knowing how to stay safe regardless of who they are having sex with. You want to cover all bases when you talk about protection, types of birth control are and the importance of knowing that not all methods of contraception can protect them against sexually transmissible infections (STIs). You don’t want to scare them when you talk about STIs and pregnancy. Rather, just remind them that they need to know this information so that they can keep themselves and their sexual partners safe. This also includes what to do and where to go to get help if they haven’t used protection.
They need to know to know sex is normal, but also that not having sex is normal. Intimacy does not always equal sex, and affection for a person can be expressed in different ways. You may never want to have sex and that is just as normal as wanting to have sex. You don’t want them to feel pressured to have sex just because their friends or other people their age might be, they should only do so when they feel ready, if they ever want to at all. Kids also develop their idea of sex from what they see online, so make sure that they know what they see on their screens is not always an accurate depiction of what sex is. It will look, sound and feel different to what they see, and you don’t have to replicate that.
Lastly, be honest. You may not have all the answers, and that’s okay because learning about sex is continuous process for everyone. The most important thing for them to know is that exploration is not shameful. Once you get the conversation going, you’ll feel more confident in answering questions and giving advice. Now all you have to do is start the conversation about sex.