What you need to know:
- Make talking about sex feel absolutely normal. Like if your four-year-old asks where babies come from, give a brief, honest, and age-appropriate answer. And use real names for everything. Referring to “private parts”, or giving things silly names, tells your children that sex is some sort of taboo.
- Start teaching internet safety early too — children are very sharp these days. And don’t kid yourself that they don’t have access — they’ve got friends!
If there’s one thing that makes parents really squirm, it’s the thought of talking about sex with their children. From that first innocent question about where babies come from, all the way through to teen issues.
Many parents duck the subject completely, arguing that their children will find out everything from school or friends in any case. Teens also worry about asking their parents questions, assuming that they’ll wildly over-react. So there are lots of children who never talk to their parents about sex at all, starting a pattern that continues right through their lives — because children who can’t talk to their parents about sex, rarely talk to their sexual partners about it either.
There are also pressure groups who argue against sex education, claiming that it’s incompatible with the idea of abstinence before marriage. So parents understandably worry that discussing sex with their children will encourage promiscuity.
But there’s clear evidence that promoting abstinence is completely ineffective, while good sex education is helpful. And that the best sex education is a conversation between parent and child.
Because when teens can talk comfortably to their parents about sex, they tend to have their first sexual experiences later, to use contraceptives, have less pre-marital sex and fewer partners. You don’t need to give them lots of technical information. It’s just having the conversation that counts, especially discussing your values and opinions.
Start everything when they’re small, by just making time to listen to them for a few minutes. Never give them a hard time, or criticise them, even if you’re worried by what you hear. Or there might not be a next time.
Make talking about sex feel absolutely normal. Like if your four-year-old asks where babies come from, give a brief, honest, and age-appropriate answer. And use real names for everything. Referring to “private parts”, or giving things silly names, tells your children that sex is some sort of taboo.
Start teaching internet safety early too — children are very sharp these days. And don’t kid yourself that they don’t have access — they’ve got friends!
As your children grow, continue to encourage them to discuss any sex related topic with you, especially tough ones like birth control and sexual orientation. Don’t worry, with practice it’s a lot easier than it sounds!
Know where your children are and who they’re with at all times. Know their friends, and pay special attention to friendships with older children. And to any talk of romance. Teens in romantic relationships are much more likely to have sex, especially with someone who’s older than them.
Pay attention to your child’s concerns, not just your own worries — helping them deal with peer pressure, for example. Discuss with them what good relationships feel like, and help them come up with game plans that will get them out of difficult situations. And make sure you also talk to your sons, not just your daughters!