Healthy Kids     K-12    

Child Behavior: Let’s talk about sex

Adolescence as we know it sure has changed. I’m sure it’s not news to parents that their children seem to be introduced to issues in their preteen years that we only had to negotiate as adolescents.

The internet, TV and other media venues appear to be eroticizing everything they can, regardless of the age of the target viewer. 

Click here for tips on talking to your teen about sex.

Children are bombarded with confusing media messages

Questions from children about sex and intimacy arrive earlier and earlier-often as an attempt to understand the conflicting and confusing messages they see and hear daily. Every parent knows that sooner or later they have to have “the talk.” But given what children see and appear to know these days, for many parents this “talk” looms like a daunting task.

Talking to your child about sex is a very personal and very private family matter, which takes into consideration family values, religion and other beliefs. But despite the desire of most parents who want their children to develop healthy attitudes about love, intimacy and sexuality, they often don’t know where or when to begin. 

Learn how to deal with your teen's long-term relationship.

Despite discomfort, keep the subject open and honest

Talking to your child about sex can be extremely embarrassing for many parents. Try to keep in mind that by talking openly and honestly about sex with your child-no matter how awkward-you are potentially heading off the multitude of problems that uninformed kids have when they become sexually active. Also keep in mind that it can certainly be too late to talk about sex but that you can never begin too early. 

Consider it a ‘course’ on sex rather than a one-shot ‘talk’

Although discussions about the aforementioned topics are euphemistically called “the talk,” it should, realistically, be called a “course.” Talking about sex is not a one-shot deal, but rather an ongoing series of discussions from early in your children’s lives until well into adolescence. Don’t wait until puberty arrives to begin discussions about their body and the changes they see occurring.

For more information about how to talk to your child about sex,         click here!

 Begin discussions as early as possible, engaging your child in a continuous developmental process of learning about sex. Go slowly, and with answers that are not elaborate lectures-just responses to your child’s questions.

It’s okay to use real names for body parts

First, label anatomical parts correctly! Although it isn’t  damaging to a child to use euphemisms for body parts, it isn’t exactly helpful either. The earlier children feel comfortable with their bodies and the correct terms for its parts, the less anxiety they are likely to encounter as adolescents.

 Understanding sexuality helps kids cope with their own feelings and helps curtail the peer pressure they will experience as they grow and develop. Adolescents who are knowledgeable about sex, intimacy and love will be more likely to have a positive, clear, honest under-standing of the issues of human sexuality. They will also be less likely to take sexual risks, be sexually abused, or become a sexual abuser.

Click here for advice on talking to your child about sexual abuse.

Children have very different questions at different ages

Curiosity has no specific time- table. There are, however, themes that are endemic to particular developmental stages. 

For example, most young children ask questions about where did I come from? And how are babies made? While pre-adolescents and adolescents are usually concerned with whether they are normal; many experience anxiety regarding peer pressure, their changing bodies, sexual activity in general and masturbation in particular.

Paul Schwartz, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College.

Other articles by Paul Schwartz