When you first start thinking about sex education, it is pretty common to have fears about whether you are doing the right thing by talking to your kids about sex.
You’re not alone, as most other parents have questions and concerns too about sex education, and are wondering about how much information they should be sharing with their kids and how to go about it.
Here are some of the most common concerns that stop parents from talking to their kids about sex.
Won’t they lose their innocence?
No, your kids won’t lose their innocence, but by not talking to your kids about sexuality, you are leaving them ignorant and vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse. If anything, talking to your kids about sex will actually help to maintain their innocence. It is important to remember that "innocence" is different from "ignorance." Innocence can be seen as freedom from guilt or shame, whereas ignorance means lacking knowledge or information.
I think that the best place for kids to learn about sexuality is in the home, knowing that they have parents that they can trust and come to with all their questions. If you aren’t sure about the benefits of sex education, you can find out more here.
I find it too embarrassing to talk about sex with my kids.
Guess what, you’re not alone! All parents feel varying degrees of embarrassment when talking to their kids about sexuality. It just comes with the territory!
That said, there are some things that you can do to help manage your embarrassment:
- Let your kids know that you feel embarrassed and try saying something like, “I feel a bit uncomfortable talking about sex because my parents never talked with me about it. But this is an important subject so I really want to talk with you about it.”
- Start talking early whilst they are still happy with simple information.
- Talk when you’re doing something else, such as the washing up – this makes it seem like sex is an everyday topic and not something to be ashamed of.
- Take a deep breath and take your time to respond to questions – what’s the rush?
- Use humor – you don’t have to make a joke about it but laughing about sex and relationships shows that it is a normal topic.
- Get some sex education books to read with your kids.
- Have a phrase ready for those inappropriate moments, such as “That’s a good question. How about we talk about it when we get home.” Make sure that you do follow up on the question.
They haven’t asked me any questions yet.
Some kids just don’t ask a lot of questions about sex and relationships but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested. It just means that you have to be the first one to bring up the subject.
Here are two ways to do that:
- You could look for an everyday opportunity to start talking about it. For example, next time you see a pregnant woman you could say something about her having a baby soon.
- You could buy a sex education book on a specific topic and read it with your child.
I don’t know how to answer their questions ...
You answer their questions simply and honestly with enough information to satisfy their curiosity. Kids will usually ask another question if they need more information or if they don’t understand you. Keep it short, based on facts and positive. (Read Why I Decided to Teach My 6-Year-Old About Condoms.)
What if they ask questions at inappropriate times and places?
Trust me, they will ask their questions at the wrong place and at the wrong time – at the supermarket, on the bus, while their grandparents are visiting…
The important thing is to let them know that their question or comment is very interesting and important, but it is one better discussed in a more private place, when alone together, or when there is more time to discuss the question.
Have a phrase ready for inappropriate moments, such as “That’s a good question. Let’s talk about it when we get home.” It is important to remember to follow up when the time is more appropriate.
Can I tell them too much?
No, you can’t tell them too much.
Kids can only take in as much information as they are able to understand. If you give them too much information, they will just get bored and switch off. You’ll see their eyes glaze over and they will stop asking questions or just wander off, meaning that they have probably heard enough, for today anyway. Remember to not turn each conversation into a lecture, but to listen and to ask questions in return.
For the most part, information they don’t understand will roll off and be understood in a later conversation. Again, you don’t have to go into every detail, but be prepared to do so later. Sex education is about lots of little conversations.
Should I use the correct names for private body parts?
We call an arm an arm and a nose a nose, so it makes sense to call a penis or vulva by the correct name as well. By doing this, we normalize these words and parts of the body. By using correct words we are also providing kids with a vocabulary they can use in any situation.
For example, if they tell their teacher that a someone made them eat his sausage (penis) at lunch time, the teacher may interpret this as a silly prank instead of (unhealthy) sexual behavior. Using correct words helps kids talk about these parts of their bodies, which can help keep them safe.
And remember, it's "vulva" and not "vagina." The vagina is the inside part, whereas the vulva refers to what you can see on the outside.
If you are worried about your kids using these words inappropriately, just explain that these words are private words and that we use them properly.
If I talk to my kids about sex, aren’t I just encouraging them to be sexually active?
No. Talking about sex and relationships with your kids won’t make them go out and act out sexually. By withholding this information, your child will just find it from other sources, many which may be inaccurate. One of those sources could include experimentation.
By talking to your kids, you are providing them with factual information and sharing your family values about many sexual issues, such as contraception, sexual intercourse, relationships, etc.
My kids are too young.
Kids develop sexually from the day they are born, just as they develop physically, emotionally and socially. So sex education begins from a very young age when we first begin to teach them the names of their body parts.
We really only start talking about sex once they become interested in how babies are made (somewhere between 6 and 8 years of age). And then, it is just the basics that they are interested in.
And remember, if your child isn’t ready for it, they won’t have understood a word that you have said. It will have gone ‘in one ear and out the other’.
I have left it too late.
It is better to be late than to never talk with your kids about sex and relationships.
The best way to deal with this one is by being upfront. Tell your kids that you realize that you haven’t talked about sex and relationships but that you want to change that. Let them know that you want to be able to talk with them about sex and growing up, and that they can talk to you about anything.
Or, if you don’t feel that you can do that, you could look at buying some books on sex education and use them as an opportunity to start talking.
And as they say, you are better late than never!
My kids don’t want to hear this from me.
The fact is, kids want to learn about sex and sexuality in a place that is safe and familiar. And, they want to learn from their parents, whose views and opinions they trust and value - whether they say so or not.
Isn’t it just one big talk?
Traditionally, parents have approached sex education by having the one big talk as their child heads toward puberty. Research shows that a whole lot of little talks beat sone big talk any day. And those talks need to be part of everyday conversation
My kids will pick up what they need to know.
Yes, kids pick up lots of messages about sexuality by observing their parents, talking with their friends and watching television, movies and other media. The problem is that you will end up having very little control over what they learn and in the sexual values that they develop.
Won’t they just learn this at school?
As a parent, you should not rely on the school system to teach sex education. Depending on where you live, sex education may not even be available. If your kids are taught sex education at school, you need to make sure that you talk about it afterwards. Ask them what they learned, and fill in any blanks.
Teachers of sex education say they can tell which students have had the benefit of home-based discussions as they are more confident, less giggly, and have more seriously informed views and values.
I don’t know enough about sex.
It can be easier to talk with your kids about sex and relationships if you’re confident that you know the subject matter. Before you answer your kids' questions, make sure your own questions have been answered first. If you’re not entirely comfortable having a conversation about puberty, practice what you want to say first or look for help. Let your kids know that it may be a little uncomfortable to discuss, but it’s an important talk to have.
So, what’s stopping you?
So, did any of those reasons feel familiar? Hopefully this post has answered some of the questions and concerns that you may have about sex education.
How many reasons have been stopping you from talking with your kids? Or do you have a reason that isn’t listed here? Share it in the comments below.
This post originally appeared on sexedrescue.com. It has been republished here with permission from the author.