Ah yes, the old ‘birds and the bees’ talk- it’s often thought of as the ultimate uncomfortable moment in parenting, but it needn’t be. Treating sex education and ongoing discussions about sex as open and normal can help pave the way for children coming to their parents with questions and queries when they need to.
So, how can you talk about sex with your kids in a healthy way, and make it a non-taboo subject in the home?
Why is talking about sex with kids important?
While children have reproduction education at school, kids aren’t likely to go to a teacher with a question about sex- they’ll want to come to you. Research shows that children who are able to discuss relationships and sex with their parents are much less likely to take part in risky behaviours. Therefore, you need to ensure that you’ve laid the foundations for your child to feel comfortable with talking to you about it.
When should I start talking to my kids about sex?
You can begin by teaching children the proper names for body parts. As they begin to grow and be around other children, teaching them respect and consideration for others can also lay the groundwork for healthy relationships later in life.
Curious young children may ask questions such as ‘where did I come from?’, which you can field in an age-appropriate way by giving a simple reply like ‘you were in Mummy’s tummy’. However, if a child nearer secondary school age were to ask the same question, you can explain in a little more detail.
Whatever the age of your child, it’s not too late to begin having open conversations. Make it clear that asking questions about sex is never wrong, shameful or awkward- it’s a natural human behaviour and they may ask what they wish.
How can I start a conversation?
There are many ways to kick off a chat about sex. Look out for moments when relationships come up in movies or tv shows that you’re watching together, and use that as a conversation starter. You can also comment on how bodies and beauty are represented in a non-realistic way in the media and tv and what real bodies look like. Adverts for tampons and pads are a good catalyst for talking about menstruation, too.
If you want to start a conversation outside of any of the above prompts, you could begin talking about whether they’ve had sex education at school yet, and whether they have any further questions. Also ask them regularly about their friendship group and their interactions with the opposite sex. It can be helpful to ask them how they think they’ll know when they are ready to have sex- and whether they’ve considered the potential consequences of pregnancy or STIs. During all of these discussions, be sure to avoid any judgement, and help guide them gently to finding their way.