Parents often want to know when is the best time to start talking to their kids about "it". However, it is far too easy to hesitate and wait when there are so many myths and facts that get mixed up and make us fearful to get this important conversation started. Should you wait till your child has questions, for school to do it, or for puberty to happen?
I wanted to address some of the most common concerns that I have heard over the years doing talks that could stop you from having conversations with your kids. Here are the top 10.
One hesitation or belief I have heard is that talking about sex makes kids seem older. That they become women or men after "THE Talk" or that it makes them less innocent in some way. This is simply not true. If anything, talking about sexuality early will help keep your child's innocence by protecting them from sexual abuse or exploitation.
Sex is an adult thing, this is true. Knowing the proper names for body parts, respecting other people's bodies and your own, private parts of our bodies, where babies come from, and body changes are all important subjects to discuss with our children. You can have simple conversations like these without ALL the details. Your child will not lose their innocence by simply talking about sexuality. Don't let this fear stop you.
This is a fear I hear often. Especially with parents who have not had their children ask questions yet. Bringing up the topic and discussing it openly does not make children more curious or want to go try it. It lets them know that you are open to discussing it with them. Not discussing sex teaches your children something too - that it is uncomfortable for you or an off-limits topic. You simply do not want to be the only person not talking to your kids about sex.
Parents may hesitate to discuss sex with their children for fear that this would encourage early sexual experimentation. However, there is no evidence that sex education in the home contributes to either irresponsible sexual activity or an increased likelihood of adolescent sexual behavior. In fact, adolescent children who openly, positively, and frequently communicate with their parents about sex are more likely to have fewer sexual partners and later and less frequent sexual activity than teenagers who do not talk to their parents about sex (Jaccard et al., 2000; Meschke et al., 2000; K. Miller et al., 1999). Furthermore, positive parent-adolescent communication about sex has been linked to decreased risk of contracting STDs, more effective and consistent use of birth control, and decreased incidence of teenage pregnancies (Halpern-Felsher et al., 2004; Lehr et al., 2005).
Nope! Your discussions around sexuality will need to build on each other as your child matures. You'll add more information and discuss different topics at different ages. It would be very difficult to get children to listen to all they need to know to be sexually healthy in just one sitting. It is best to have mini-talks, often, and throughout your child's life. This makes it easier on both of you and allows a chance for you both to think of questions and build on the conversations you have. For ideas on what to discuss and when click here.
Maybe. Depending on where you live there may be Ed Code requirements that districts have to cover certain sexual health topics at certain grade levels. The comfort level of the instructor and depth he or she goes into will greatly vary. With such an important topic I wouldn't leave it up to school only to cover. By not talking about it at home you are sending your child a message that this subject is taboo.
It works best when school supplements and adds to what is talked about at home. It shouldn't be one or the other, but BOTH.
I'm sure you turned out just fine. However, most people would agree that it would have been nice to have someone to openly talk to about sexuality. It only helps. Besides in today's day and age things are different. There is more information to sort through and kids are exposed to much more than when you were growing up.
That may or may not mean they have questions. Not all kids ask questions. It is possible that they already learned early on that the subject is not one to talk about at home or they may not have the maturity yet to ask what they should know at their age. Parents should not wait for their kids to have questions as the sign that they are ready to talk. If you wait for your child to ask or only discuss sex when your child asks, some sexual topics will never get discussed, at least not at the proper time. Parents must take the initiative. This includes certain aspects of sexual maturation that a child may not consider until he or she experiences them. It is important that young people are aware of the physiological changes before they actually happen.
Probably. But so what. The only way for things to be less awkward or embarrassing is to get through the awkwardness and embarrassment. Talking helps with that. Sex is too important of a subject to leave to others to talk to your kids about.
Kids might. They could ask if you were a virgin when you got married or other details about your personal life. It is your decision to decide how much to share. If they ask you a question that makes you feel nervous to answer, ashamed, or unsure if you should answer truthfully you can always turn it into a teachable moment. Admit that it was a mistake you made and tell them how you feel about it today. It is okay to make mistakes and admit them to your children. It doesn't give them permission to do what you did. I believe it makes you appear more "human" and allows for deeper connections with them.
At first, they may feel embarrassed but research shows that kids do want to hear what their parents have to say about sex and sexuality (Holman, Amanda and Koenig Kellas, Jody. 2018). Your input matters even if it feels like they don't want to hear it.
Then admit you don't know the answer, look it up with or without them, and then get back to them about it. Try telling them what a great question they asked and that you'll need to think more about it or get some more information before you get back to them. Schedule a time to discuss it later.
What other hesitations do you have about talking to your children about sex? Please share in the comments below.
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