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How To Talk to Your Kids About Sex

One day, when my daughter Sarah turned 12, she came home from school saying she felt something strange in her stomach. I thought for a moment that she had eaten something, and it hadn’t been sitting well, but when I asked her to delve into the details, I realized it wasn’t just a simple stomach cramp or pain.

Her first period was coming up, so it was time for “that conversation.”

Although it wasn’t the first time I had talked to Sarah about issues related to sex, I couldn’t help but feel a little scared. How could I explain to her the changes that would occur in her body without her feeling overwhelmed?

I finally managed to do it after researching and keeping an open mind. Since you are probably in the same situation, I decided to write this article about how to talk to your kids about sex to guide you. I hope it will help you.

What’s the Right Age to Talk With Your Kids About Sex?

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Let’s be real: there’s no perfect age to start talking to your kids about sex, but starting early can make a big difference. When my kids were around 3-5, they began asking questions about their bodies until my daughter Sarah asked me where the babies come from, so I decided it was best for me to use simple, clear language. I told them babies grow in a special place inside the mommy. This helped set the stage for more detailed conversations as they age and prepared my mindset for more complex answers.

And it works! My children’s questions became more specific as they grew up, especially around ages 6-9. I remember the day my child Tina asked how a baby gets into the mom’s belly. We were playing with dolls, so it was easy for me to explain that a baby starts to grow when a sperm from a dad meets an egg from a mom. I always kept it straightforward and age-appropriate. These early talks help us build trust and make our conversations easier.

Now that my kids are 10-12, they’re ready to learn about puberty and bodily changes. Starting these conversations early and continuing them as they grow helps ensure they have accurate information and feel comfortable talking with me. It’s all about helping them navigate their development confidently and responsibly.

Creating a Comfortable Environment

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Creating a comfortable environment is crucial for open conversations, especially if you are raising teenagers. Choose a private, quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. This could be during a relaxed walk, in the living room, or even at bedtime. The goal is to make your child feel safe and at ease. And most important, avoid distractions when talking.

If possible, start the conversation casually, without any kind of pressure. You might ask if they’ve heard anything from friends or school or have questions about their bodies. Approach the talk with a calm and open demeanor. Your attitude sets the tone, so If you’re relaxed, your child will feel more comfortable discussing sensitive topics.

Use active listening techniques to show that you value their thoughts. Maintain eye contact, nod in understanding, and respond thoughtfully. Validate their feelings by acknowledging that it’s normal to have questions and that you’re glad they feel comfortable talking to you. Creating a supportive atmosphere encourages open expression and builds trust for future conversations.

Preparing Yourself for the Talk

Don’t be ashamed to take some time to prepare yourself before diving into these conversations. Reflect on your values and what you want to convey. Feeling a bit nervous is normal, especially because this isn’t a one-time talk; it’s an ongoing conversation. Being open, honest, and approachable will set a positive tone for future discussions.

If you are unsure how to approach any subject, start by educating yourself. Read books and articles, or check out reputable websites about how to discuss sex with your kids at different ages. Particularly, this approach helped me feel more confident. Besides, you might also chat with other parents or even healthcare professionals for advice. Knowing what to expect can ease your anxiety.

Think about the messages you want to send. Reflect on your own experiences and how they shaped your understanding of sex. Aim to provide a balanced perspective that includes physical, emotional, and relational aspects. Being clear about your values and expectations can guide your child in making informed decisions. Preparing yourself ensures you can support your child with confidence and empathy through their questions.

Common Questions by Age Group

Ages 3-5

“Where do babies come from?” 

You can explain that babies grow in a special place inside the mother, called the womb. Avoid giggling, even if you think that this is a cute question. Always answer your kid’s question in a respectful way. For example, “A baby grows in a special place inside the mommy, and when it’s ready, it comes out.”

“Why do boys and girls have different bodies?” 

Explain that boys and girls have different bodies because it’s how they were born. Always try to use the names of the private parts of the body, so your kid would familiarize it with them. You can say, “Boys have a penis, and girls have a vagina. Both are special and help us do different things.”

Ages 6-9 

“How does the baby get into the mother’s belly?” 

At this age, kids can handle more information than you might think. Trying to explain that a baby starts to grow when a sperm from a dad joins an egg from a mom can be very complicated, so keep it basic and only a little detail if they ask for more.

“What does ‘sex’ mean?” 

Explain to them that sex is a special way that grown-ups use to show love, and sometimes it can make a baby. Be always respectful, and if possible, try to talk with your kid according to your core values. After all, they are learning this from you, so try to teach them the good and bad, the do’s and don’ts about it; this way, you can ensure they get the right information. For example, you can say, “Sex is something grown-ups do when they love each other very much. It’s a private thing and not meant for kids to do.”

Ages 10-12 

“What is puberty?” 

Talking about puberty can be a little bit scary for your child because they will realize that their bodies will start to change and develop into an adult’s body. You can say, “Puberty is when your body starts to change. You’ll grow taller, and boys and girls will develop different body parts.”

“What is menstruation?” 

Explain to them that menstruation or period occurs when a girl sheds the womb’s lining. You can say, “Menstruation is when a girl’s body releases blood from the uterus. It’s a natural process that means her body is growing up.” 

Ages 13+ 

“What does it mean to be gay or straight?” 

Explain that being gay or straight only means who you’re attracted to. You can say, “Being gay means you’re attracted to the same sex, and being straight means you’re attracted to the opposite sex. It’s just part of who a person is .”

“What are sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?”

Explaining what an STI is can be really important since they will understand that there are risks involving sex. You can say, “STIs are infections you can get from having sex, and it’s very important to use protection like condoms to stay safe.”

Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

Remember, talking to your kids about sex isn’t a one-time event. It’s an ongoing conversation that evolves as your child grows. Encourage them to come to you with any questions, and be proactive in checking in about what they’re hearing and learning. Keeping the lines of communication open helps ensure they have accurate information and feel supported in their journey toward adulthood.

If you need extra resources, I recommend reading some of my favorite books about the subject, like the one written by Rodney and Traci White. You can also keep an eye to the book by Ethan Reynolds: Start Early: Sex Positive Conversation for Parents. These books are particularly helpful for kids between 10 to 13 years old.

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If you want something more approachable for kids, I recommend It’s not the stork! by Robbie H. Harris. It’s a wonderful book with colorful illustrations and easy to understand, perfect for kids from 8 to 10 years.

Last but not least, make your child see you as someone he trusts, his safe place to communicate and solve his doubts. This way you can be sure that he/she will turn to you whenever he or she needs you.

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Conclusion

In summary, there’s no definitive age to start talking to your kids about sex, but early, honest, and ongoing conversations are essential. Tailor your approach to your child’s developmental stage, be open to their questions, and use everyday moments as opportunities for discussion. This helps build trust and openness, ensuring your child feels informed and supported as they grow.

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