Just reading the title of this article may give you anxiety. That’s okay. As uncomfortable as it may seem to talk about sex with your kids, the importance of having “The Sex Talk” with our kids is well-proven.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that kids who are able to talk with their parents about sex are more likely to delay having sex until they are older, in addition to making healthier choices, like using condoms, if they do choose to have sex. Furthermore, the American Psychological Association documents that a child’s first exposure to porn may be as young as five years old! So, with the integration of all things digital into our lives, it is more important than ever to directly teach accurate information about sex so that our kids avoid misdirection from peers and inappropriate exposure from other sources.
The Good News
Regardless of any discomfort you may have with the topic, there is good news. First, curiosity about the human body, sex, and relationships is a normal part of human development. Think back. What questions did you first have about your body, relationships or sex? Your kids likely have those same questions.
Second, throughout child development, parents remain consistently the most important influence on topics like relationships. Even if you are used to your child rolling their eyes when you attempt to have a serious conversation with them, they are listening. They remember.
Third, you can start small. Prior to going into the specifics of intercourse, teach your child the names of their body parts, how they can respect the bodies of others and how their bodies deserve respect, too. Starting simple like this helps to lay the foundation for making conversations about bodies and relationships normal. This, in turn, will make it easier to have more-detailed conversations in the future.
Talk Early, Talk Often
It is never too early to have “The Sex Talk” with your kids. Using age-appropriate terms and details allows you to be able to talk about sex throughout your child’s life. Ask if they have any questions. Be honest. Be open (while being age/detail appropriate).
It is also never too late to have “The Sex Talk.” Each time you engage in meaningful conversation with your kids, you are investing in the quality of your relationship. So, invest often.
A Shocking Conclusion!
Get ready to be shocked. If you get nothing more from this article, I hope you remember one thing: DO NOT have “THE Sex Talk” with your kids! What I mean by this is that “The Sex Talk” should not be an isolated conversation you have one time. Talking about bodies, relationships and sex should be a constant conversation that allows for honesty and self-reflection.
If you can model what it means to talk openly and reflectively (without giggling, scolding, or guilttripping), think about what you are teaching your children about their bodies and their relationship with the world. By not having just one “Sex Talk” with your kids, but rather many conversations, you can give them the gift of modeling what it means to be a healthy sexual being.
A Side Note
Given your own sexual history, it may be hard for you to have a healthy conversation about sex. That’s okay, too. Here is something to remember: If having “The Sex Talk” brings up your own challenges with sexuality or if you have a concern about the sexual development of your child, that’s normal, too. Consider contacting a professional, like a therapist or your child’s physician, to provide support and education.
Ashley Carter Youngblood is a Clinical Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist at Inner Peace Counseling, PLC in Kalamazoo. Her specialties include women’s issues, anxiety, holistic healing/mindfulness, and couples counseling. Find out more about her at her website, www.kalamazoo-counseling.com.