How To Have “The Talk” With Your Kids
THE Talk. The Birds and the Bees. Talking to kids about sex can be awkward and unpredictable. We may be afraid we’ll say the wrong thing. Or maybe we’re afraid our inner-seventh-grader will start giggling and never stop. It can be one of the most dreaded responsibilities of parents. But talking to our kids about sex can get easier with practice and over time.
Talk early and talk often.
Provide accurate information that’s appropriate for your child’s development and age. For example, when a preschooler is learning body part names, you can use the proper terms, penis and vagina. And when a young child wants to know how babies come out, you can answer simply, through the mommy’s vagina. These early conversations can lay the groundwork for open and honest and less awkward conversations about sex.
Be calm and relaxed.
Even if you have to fake it a little or practice with a friend first. Try to remain unfazed by any questions your child asks. Freaking out or overreacting may prevent your child from coming to you with a question next time. Respecting your child’s curiosity without judgment promotes healthy, open conversations.
Listen. And answer the questions your child is asking.
If your second grader asks what sex means, ask a couple questions and listen to the context of his question before answering. Maybe his teacher told the class to line up by sex. Or when your daughter asks where she came from, she may mean what state was she born in. Make sure you are answering the questions your child is asking and give simple, straightforward answers that don’t overwhelm him or her.
Use the media.
Talk about that magazine cover in the checkout line and the messages it’s promoting. Ask questions about that song you heard on the radio and how it makes your child feel. After the movie, talk about whether it promoted realistic expectations about relationships.
Avoid sexuality conversations that are a list of don’t, don’t, don’t.
Be sure to tell your child what he or she can do to be sexually healthy. Discuss what your child can do to address peer or partner pressure to be sexually active. Discuss ways to know when a person is interested in your child as a person and when someone is only interested in having a sexual partner. Providing your child with a list of do’s is just as important as talking about all the don’ts.
Tell your children the good things about sex and explain why it’s worth waiting for. Help your children know they deserve to have good sex in a healthy relationship.
If you’ve put it off . . .
Maybe your child is already a teenager and you suspect he or she is sexually active. It isn’t too late. It’s important to have direct, open, and non-judgmental conversations with your child. Talk honestly about the legitimate and natural desires for sex and about the incredible responsibilities of sex. Listen and assure your child of your unconditional love. Avoid getting into a situation where your child’s fear of disappointing you prevents him or her from getting the help he or she needs.