How do I start? What do I say? When do I say it? Sex education has thankfully changed since we were kids. You simply cannot do sex education with a big one-off talk even if you think you have covered everything. Today it is about lots of small, frequent, repetitive conversations with your child. Firstly, your kids are going to hear about sex, from their friends, from surfing the internet, and by watching the television. By getting in first, you are making sure that they receive the right information and more importantly, that they know how you feel about it.
How do I talk to my kids about sex? An age-by-age guide
Secondly, is that you are actually influencing what your kids will one day do about sex. Kids that receive good sex education are more likely to delay having sex and when they do start, they are more likely to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted infections. Here you will find an outline of the different things about sex that kids eventually need to know about. The topics and ages are just a guide, and are based on what we know about child sexual development, and in keeping our kids healthy and safe in our world today.
It is really just about letting your child explore their whole body and to start pointing out simple differences between boys and girls. The end goal is for your child to be comfortable with their whole body and to see all parts as being equal with no shame. Preschoolers are the easiest age to teach. They are like empty sponges, ready to soak up information about anything and everything. You want to set yourself as their number one source for information. This means being honest and answering their questions about babies.
By answering, you are giving your child the message that they can talk to you about anything and that you are a reliable source for information. This is a good thing, especially once they start to have contact with other kids. If you are struggling with the words to use, there are some fantastic sex education books that you can use.
A Parents' Guide to Talking to Kids and Teens About Sex
They provide the information and are written in an age-appropriate way. There is a big difference between what a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old needs to know — as they get older, you need to give them more details and repeat yourself a lot more! Try to answer their questions as honestly and matter-of-factly as possible. Check that they have understood what you have said and to see if they have any more questions.
You can do this by looking for everyday opportunities to start a conversation — a pregnant woman, a couple kissing on TV, menstrual products in the bathroom. You could also buy some sex education books to read together. Both are normal. Once puberty starts, they will slowly start to think about sex as being something that they may someday want to do.
By starting conversations about sex with your child, you are letting them know that it is okay for them to come to you with any questions. This may be your last chance to talk while your child is still willing to listen to you! As they approach their teens, they are starting to rely more on their friends for answers and information.
This means that you need to make sure they know that they can come and talk to you about anything and I mean anything. So answer their questions honestly and provide them with more detailed information. You can also help them to develop decision-making, communication and assertiveness skills. It is never too late to start, but it will be a lot more challenging!
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Adolescence is when sex education really starts to get sexual! The huge benefit of talking to your kids from an early age is that you have empowered them with the knowledge to be able to make good decisions about sex. You will also have a relationship with them where they know that they can talk to you about anything — and I mean anything!
The information that you have given your child is important, but what really matters is that you are talking about it! That is what really matters!
About the Author: Cath Hakanson. Sex Ed Rescue arms parents with the tools, advice and tips to make sex education a normal part of everyday life. This is an epic article. Thanks Cath. I love the layout of your giveaway too. I think my 7 year old and I are ready to have another chat. Thanks for helping us. Dear Cath! It was always confusing for me to chat with my 9 year old daughter about this topic. Your article really helped! Thank you very much! Thanks for the reminder that I need to discuss these topics with my 9 year old girl.
I thought I could wait awhile longer, but I see that is not the case! Could you recommend a few reputable educational books she could read in private? Thanks again. Hi Michele, yeah, sorry to say it, but the times are a changing! Which means that we need to start talking to our kids a little bit earlier about some stuff! Puberty is one of them! One talks about relationships, love and sex. There are many others but i think that these two are perfect for the first intro to puberty. Just make sure that when you give them to your daughter, that she knows that she can come to you with her questions.
I have just read both of these with my 10 year old in the evening just before bed. It worked quite well and even I learnt a few things that I had forgotten! Hi there! Can you please recommend educational books for 6. What is a good book to give my 12 year old boy. I would like him to be well informed by reading for himself and not influenced by his peers.
Hi Yvonne. Books are a great resource and there are some fantastic ones out there and some dud ones. Another good one that I do have a copy of and love is by Amy Lang — Dating Smarts: What every teen needs to know to date, relate or wait! There are lots of others but these two people know their stuff! Preschool is a great age for books. There are some books listed there and they are set up based on what you need from preschool and up.
Surprised to see such a gender normative approach. We really need to start early letting kids know that Most boys have a penis and most girls have a vulva…to allow for more gender fluidity, and to create more acceptance in the future.
My 3 year old and 8 year old have not had any problems with getting that the gender someone was assigned at birth may not match the gender someone feels they are. I want my kids to accept that as normal from day one. However, loved the other step by step age based list of what to cover when and I will likely resource it as I move forward with my kids.
A decent start to a great resource. Ooh, you caught me out! I thought about asking Karen to let me change this article at the last minute, but I held off whilst I did further research! You would not believe how much trouble I had finding stuff on the best way to approach gender in the early years! There is nothing out there that has been updated to reflect intersex and transgender.
Current practice is to base the first discussions of gender on our genitals, and to then elaborate further as kids get older and to include it when we start talking about diversity. Most girls have a vulva but not all do. Some people are born without a penis or a vulva, or ones that look very different. So you could either start talking about it from the very beginning, or leave it until they are 3ish, when you start talking about same sex attraction,the fact that boys can play with dolls and that is okay, etc.
Personally, I think that it is easier and simpler for most parents , to start talking about it when kids get that little bit older and are really starting to take an interest in gender. And an easy way to introduce it is by using books, of which there are some good gender books out there that can be read to kids.
Changes in how we think about gender is relatively new, and the only kids literature that I have found is the stuff by Cory Silverberg. The important thing is to ensure that kids are accepting of the fact that everyone is different. Every child is different, but here is a rough guide to what children should be able to understand about sexuality and reproduction at different stages.
Toddlers should be able to name all the body parts including the genitals. Using the correct names for body parts will allow them to better communicate any health issues, injuries or sexual abuse. It also helps them understand that these parts are as normal as any others, which promotes self-confidence and a positive body image. Most two-year-olds know the difference between male and female, and can usually figure out if a person is male or female.
Caregivers can help by not connecting sexual biology to gender e. Toddlers should know that their body is private. It is normal for toddlers to explore their bodies, which includes touching their genitals, but they should understand when and where it is appropriate to do so. Most preschoolers are able to understand the very basics of reproduction: the sperm and the egg join, and the baby grows in the uterus. Do not think you have to cover everything at once. Younger kids are interested in pregnancy and babies, rather than the act of sex.
Children should understand their body is their own and no one can touch their body without their permission. They should know other people can touch them in some ways but not other ways and that no one should be asking to touch their genitals except for their parents or health-care providers.
The Focus on the Family Guide to Talking with Your Kids About Sex
If they know what is appropriate and what is not, they will be more likely to tell you if they experience sexual abuse. By this age, children should also learn to ask before they touch someone else e. Teach children about privacy around body issues. Children should also learn more about other body parts and body functions.
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Some children of this age think that girls only have one opening for stool and urine, and many children believe that babies grow in tummies, the same place their food goes. They should also know what the role of sexuality is in relationships. Most children have begun to explore their bodies by this age. They should understand that while it is normal, it is something that should be done in private. Teach children how to use the computer and mobile devices safely. Children toward this age span should start learning about privacy, nudity and respect for others in the digital context.
They should be aware of rules for talking to strangers and sharing photos online and what to do if they come across something that makes them uncomfortable. Children should be taught the basics about puberty toward the end of this age span, as a number of children will experience some pubertal development before age They should not only learn about the changes they will experience, but about other bodies too — boys and girls should not have separate lessons.
Children should also know about the importance of hygiene and self-care in puberty. Having these discussions early will prepare them for the changes that will happen during puberty and will reassure them that these changes are normal and healthy. This may include the role of sexual intercourse, but they should also know that there are other means of reproduction.
How to Teach Children about Sexual Intimacy
This information could be incorporated into discussions of puberty. In addition to reinforcing all the things above that they have already learned, pre-teens should be taught about safer sex and contraception and should have basic information about pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections STIs. They should know that being a teenager does not mean they have to be sexually active.
Pre-teens should have increased knowledge of internet safety, including bullying and sexting. They should know the risks of sharing nude or sexually explicit photos of themselves or their peers.