Talking about sex with children is not something we as parents always feel equipped to deal with. Knowing when to begin this talk is often confusing. A lot of us are inclined to put “the talk” off for as long as possible, hoping that they’ll get enough sex education at school. While there are many opinions as to what we should teach and when, most experts agree on this. It is better to start sooner rather than later, and kids need to also be getting sex education from home.
Our journey as parents is a bit like a roller-coaster. There are ups and downs and new challenges along the way at every stage. The topic of introducing sex certainly falls under one of the more daunting challenges we have to deal with. It is also, perhaps, one of the more important ones. How we approach the topic can influence our child’s perception of sex and the human body.
At what age should we begin?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is never too early to begin the conversation with your children. This doesn’t mean discussing sex with your four year old. It means creating a safe space to discuss anything related to the human body and reproduction as the questions come about. If you’re unsure, let your child lead. If there are still questions, there is still some more explaining to do. Keep your answers simple and honest.
And don’t wait for your child to ask to begin bringing up the topic. Some children don’t ask or don’t think to ask for whatever reason. Parents can still encourage questioning by bringing up the topic themselves, It is important to show that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
You know what your child is capable of understanding. And ultimately only you can decide how much information to reveal and when. For younger children, it might mean teaching them the real names for their private parts. Some might ask how babies are made. As they grow in age and maturity, you may need to come back to this topic to discuss it more fully. However, you will have already created the foundation for talking about these intimate matters. This will help both you and your child avoid awkwardness as they get older.
Why is it better to begin earlier rather than later?
If a parent has never talked about love, body parts or intimacy, it can to be difficult to approach an older child with the full version. It is different if your child is already comfortable asking questions and has already started to receive age-appropriate answers over the years. In that case it is simply a matter of building on that knowledge.
Moreover, having a comprehensive sex education – and not relying entirely on the school – will actually keep your child safer. He or she will be more aware of birth control, sexual health, STDs, abuse and consent. We can’t expect children to simply absorb their family’s beliefs and values. One must be explicit about what is expected of them. Learning about sex earlier does not usually lead to kids having sex earlier. In fact, it seems that the opposite is true. And they are also more likely to use appropriate contraception when they do start having sex. Also, keep in mind that even younger children need to know who can and who cannot see or touch their private parts.
Talking with our kids about sex will actually open us up in general to the topic. It might also help us feel more comfortable with our partners when discussing matters in the bedroom. Getting better at talking about sex actually makes sex better – who can argue with that.