With Kids About
Sex and Relationships
want to do their best in talking with their kids about sex and sexuality,
but we're often not sure how to begin. Here's our advice:
your own attitudes
show that kids who feel they can talk with their parents about sex
-- because their moms and dads speak openly and listen carefully
to them -- are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior as teens
than kids who do not feel they can talk with their parents about
the subject. So explore your feelings about sex. If you are very
uncomfortable with the subject, read some books (see Readings
for Parents) and discuss your feelings with a trusted friend,
relative, physician, or clergy member. The more you examine the
subject, the more confident you'll feel discussing it.
you can't quite overcome your discomfort, don't worry about admitting
it to your kids. It's okay to say something like, "You know,
I'm uncomfortable talking about sex because my parents never talked
with me about it. But I want us to be able to talk about anything
-- including sex -- so please come to me if you have any questions.
And if I don't know the answer, I'll find out."
your children about sex demands a gentle, continuous flow of information
that should begin as early as possible -- for instance, when teaching
your toddler where his nose and toes are, include "this is
your penis" or "this is your vagina" in your talks.
As your child grows, you can continue her education by adding more
materials gradually until she understands the subject well.
child hasn't started asking questions about sex, look for a good
opportunity to bring it up. Say, for instance, the mother of an
8-year-old's best friend is pregnant. You can say, "Did you
notice that David's mommy's tummy is getting bigger? That's because
she's going to have a baby and she's carrying it inside her. Do
you know how the baby got inside her?" then let the conversation
move from there.
about more than the "Birds and the Bees"
our children need to know the biological facts about sex, they also
need to understand that sexual relationships involve caring, concern
and responsibility. By discussing the emotional aspect of a sexual
relationship with your child, she will be better informed to make
decisions later on and to resist peer pressure. If your child is
a pre-teen, you need to include some message about the responsibilities
and consequences of sexual activity. Conversations with 11 and 12-year-olds,
for example, should include talks about unwanted pregnancy and how
they can protect themselves.
that many parents overlook when discussing sex with their child
is dating. As opposed to movies, where two people meet and later
end up in bed together, in real life there is time to get to know
each other -- time to hold hands, go bowling, see a movie, or just
talk. Children need to know that this is an important part of a
accurate, age-appropriate information
sex in a way that fits the age and stage of your child. If your
8-year-old asks why boys and girls change so much physically as
they grow, you can say something like, "The body has special
chemicals called hormones that tell it whether to become a boy or
a girl. A boy has a penis and testicles, and when he grows older
his voice gets lower and he gets more hair on his body. A girl has
a vulva and vagina, and when she gets older she grows breasts and
her hips grow rounder."
the next stage of development
can get frightened and confused by the sudden changes their bodies
begin to go through as they reach puberty. To help stop any anxiety,
talk with your kids not only about their current stage of development
but about the next stage, too. An 8-year-old girl is old enough
to learn about menstruation, just as a boy that age is ready to
learn how his body will change.
responsibility to let our children know our values about sex. Although
they may not adopt these values as they mature, at least they'll
be aware of them as they struggle to figure out how they feel and
want to behave.
with your child of the opposite sex
feel uncomfortable talking with their child about topics like sex
if the youngster is of the opposite gender. While that's certainly
understandable, don't let it become an excuse to close off conversation.
If you're a single mother of a son, for example, you can turn to
books to help guide you or ask your doctor for some advice on how
to bring up the topic with your child. You could also recruit an
uncle or other close male friend or relative to discuss the subject
with your child, provided there is already good, open communication
between them. If there are two parents in the household, it might
feel less awkward to have the dad talk with the boy and the mom
with the girl. That's not a hard and fast rule, though. If you're
comfortable talking with either sons or daughters, go right ahead.
Just make sure that gender differences don't make subjects like
worry about knowing all the answers to your children's questions;
what you know is a lot less important than how you respond. If you
can convey the message that no subject, including sex, is forbidden
in your home, you'll be doing just fine.
people have sexual intercourse, and one of them has HIV or another
sexually transmitted disease, he could give it to his partner(s).
Doctors believe that if the man wears a latex condom whenever he
has intercourse, it helps to protect him and his partner from giving
each other HIV. That's why people call sexual intercourse with a
latex condom "safe sex."
it true that you can't get pregnant the first time that you have
can get pregnant anytime you have sexual intercourse. Wearing a
latex condom, taking birth control pills, or using other contraceptives
are very effective at preventing pregnancy. However, the only absolute
way to not get pregnant is to not have sex at all. You might also
use this question as an opportunity to point out that not having
sexual intercourse is a good idea for teens. Help them understand
there are other ways to show affection.