Studies suggest that children whose parents provide them with education about sex are less likely to participate in risky and irresponsible sexual behavior. In addition talking with children about sex may help protect children from sexual abuse, early sexual activity, and teen pregnancy.(Parent Toolkit; McCoy, 2017). So, if you have been avoiding that important topic, or skirting your child’s questions for fear that talking about sex might lead your child to having sex, then I want to help you understand that having the sex talk with your child is important.
Having that talk with your child is not easy, especially if you feel un- or under-prepared for this talk. But you might have plenty of time to improve, because the sex talk is not a one-time event–It is a conversation that will occur over time (McCoy, 2017). In addition, talking with your child about this important topic may be a great way to further your relationship and build trust with your child. So, whether you initiate the conversation, or your child asks a question about sex, it can be helpful if you are prepared and confident. A confident informative parent might help your child feel better able to deal with some of the key issues of puberty and sexuality. Following are some tips to help you talk to your child about sex and sexuality.
- Get the terms right. This strategy can be used when your child is very young child. Using the proper terms helps your child be comfortable with his or her body, and sets the stage for later. A child who is familiar with sexual organs and terms, may have an easier time talking about puberty, sex and dating.
- Pay attention to your child’s body changes. Changes associated with puberty may begin as young as 8 or 9 years old when the brain sends important signals to the body that it is time for the reproductive system to wake up and get ready for its work in the future. Besides talking to your child, you might give your child a book that explains these changes in a simple and easy-to-digest manner.
- Encourage your child. Puberty is time when children experience many changes, and they may feel very isolated and/or awkward, so always be there for your child. Emphasize his/her strengths. Tell your child to be proud of who s/he is.
- Teach children about “good touch”, “bad touch.” Tell your child it is usually OK to get hugs and kisses from people the child knows and loves. However, it is not OK for any adult or other child to touch their private body parts. Teach your child to say, “No. I don’t like it, and I don’t want you to touch me.” Tell your child to scream for help, and to inform a trusted adult (a parent, coach, or teacher) about what happened.
- Acknowledge feelings. Recognize that it is normal for your child to start becoming attracted to the opposite sex. (Indeed, some young people may be attracted to the same sex.) Really listen to what your child is saying. You could share about similar feelings you might have had during your teen years. When you listen and empathize, your child may be more likely to speak with you.
- Use humor. Sex is a serious topic, but if you can incorporate some appropriate humor, you may help your child to be more willing and open to talk with you.
The sex talk is, for some parents, a challenge, but using these tips might help you to articulate an appropriate and informative discussion with your child about sex and sexuality.