How to Talk to Kids About Sex

The thought of talking to our children about healthy sex and sexuality is enough for many parents to break out in cold sweats. We picture the scene in our 80’s shows where the dad is stuttering through puberty talk or the mom over-explaining how the daughter is “becoming a woman.”  We don’t want it to play out like that!

Still, even if it does cause us to stutter, we have to do it anyway. Frankly, I’m seeing the pendulum swing in this area and many parents are fully aware that this is their responsibility. We just don’t always know what to say.

Communication is key to encouraging a healthy attitude about sex and prolonging sexual activity.

Here’s a few things to consider when discussing sexuality with your kids…

How to Talk to Kids About Sex

Talk Early & Often

Being comfortable talking to tweens/teens about sexuality starts when they are toddlers. “Head, shoulders, knees, toes, elbows, belly button, penis.” Using correct anatomical vernacular when they are little is a great start. We used “pee-pee” and vagina interchangeably. I explained to my girls that lots of people use different words for their private parts, just like you can use couch or sofa and they mean the same thing. Chair/recliner, bike/bicycle, fridge/refrigerator, etc.

Talking to kids about sex is not a one-time sit-down. This is part of teaching our kids how to live. I’m not saying oversaturate or talk about sex every day even, I just mean it doesn’t have to be a formal sit-down. There are many teachable moments out there, use them!

Fact :: Our kids will get a sex education. They will get it from NBC, the internet {please, no!}, school, church, or you. I’ve said it before and I will say it til I’m dead – The first person to talk to your child about sexuality is the expert. BE THE EXPERT. Really. Before the teacher at school does the “Human Development” lesson on deodorant and menses, you do it.

Talk Privacy

Teach little ones that anything covered by a swimsuit is private. They don’t need to be seen outside of the bathroom or bedroom. This may a good time to discuss “good touch/bad touch.” We would say, “No one, not even Mom, Dad, or Doctor, touches private parts without your permission.” I always loved our pediatrician for going overboard with this. She was really great about asking permission in my presence.

It is also beneficial to encourage your child to have conversations with you about private parts in private. Teach your child to whisper. {Helpful in so many ways!}

Talk Values

What do you believe about healthy sexuality? In our home, we believe the best sex happens in a faithful marriage and that is what we teach our girls. Because we want to encourage them to save all sexual activity until marriage, we use phrases like, “when a husband and a wife” rather than “when a man and a woman.” Set the bar high in this area. Be extreme. We are bombarded with risky and haphazard sexual practices, we must fight for our kids in every way. Set the bar high. Be gracious, forgiving, but the set the bar high.

Talk Goals

When I was a traveling relationship educator {read :: sex ed teacher}, I was shocked at how many students had no clue how to set goals. We need to teach our children to keep their eyes on the prize! We need to use opportunities to teach them about delayed gratification. We can’t always get what we want when we want it. Allow your child the satisfaction of saving money for a new game, even if you can and want to buy it for them. Wait for things to go on sale. When you have to wait for something, talk about how great it is to have a fun experience after having to wait for a while.

Once these goals are set, it really will help you in many areas. For instance, your son sets a goal of lettering in high school basketball. Wonderful! In order to do that, grades will need to be just so, practices and conditioning will have to be priority, as well as other team responsibilities.

This is usually a good time to discuss things that can derail your goals. Like an unintended pregnancy, a DUI, major distraction that causes grades to drop, etc… You get the idea.

Talk Media

This is multifaceted. So much here. You can read more here.

Television, movies, music, print ads, internet, etc… They are all a part of the war for our child’s heart. I am all for age-appropriate censorship. Do not think that your child doesn’t understand the innuendos. This is just ridiculous.

This doesn’t necessarily mean censor forever. At an appropriate age, discuss media messages with your child. Have conversations, sharing your worldview.

Do not put a TV or computer in your kid’s bedroom. This is a no-brainer to me.

Media includes communications, such as phones and texting. When I asked high school students for one piece of advice for me to give to parents of younger kids, the Number One response is, “Don’t let them get a cell phone!” No joke. High schoolers are seeing the problems of cell phones in their own lives. Just delay it as long as possible. I know it is convenient for your teen/preteen to have a phone, but parenting isn’t always convenient. You had practices after school and went to friend’s houses without a cell phone, little Junior can too.

Texting is not required for the phone to work. Don’t be afraid to shut it down. Seriously, other parents will applaud your willingness to take a stand, and likely follow suit. Be a trend setter! When you determine it is time for a cell phone, I love the many cell phone contracts I’ve seen around. Be clear and specific about what is permissible and what isn’t. Use parental restrictions.

The bottom line :: TALK!

This is by no means an all-inclusive list. We’d love for you to add to this list and share your thoughts too!

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Melissa is a native Floridian currently making Houston home. She has a background in English education, but ended up teaching sex ed to middle and high school students. This passion for teaching healthy relationship education transformed into a ministry of teaching parents to speak early and often to their kids about healthy sexuality. {Which she says was way more fun than teaching poetry.} But that’s all “Doppleganger Melissa” now. These days, she is a full-time homeschooling mama to two future world-changers, Meghan and Maddy. She is an unapologetic sanguine who loves having people around her table eating off of paper plates and drinking sweet tea. When “Mel’s Diner” {the kitchen} isn’t open, she may be working off calories at the gym, driving her girls around town, or trying to round up some twenty-somethings to feed and mother. Melissa believes in a few things pretty strongly :: Jesus, her spouse, the power of Diet Coke, and that traveling should be a sport. You can find her over at Spouseisms, or on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook {@Spouseisms}.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Great post! Thank you for stating that you believe marriage belongs within a marriage! It’s so rare to read that in an article about talking to kids about sex!

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