Sex is an important part of being human. It involves more than the physical act of intercourse with another person. It affects how we feel about ourselves as males and females and impacts important choices we make as men and women.
What you think about sex may seem clear and straight forward. But when it comes to laying the groundwork to help your kids develop a healthy understanding of sex, having that conversation can feel overwhelming. When your child is in middle school (if not earlier), you’re bound to start getting questions, which they’re probably also discussing with their friends. And since they're going to be gathering information, it’s best that it's accurate and that it comes from you.
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The question should be why shouldn’t you? Talking with your child about sex is important to help him or her develop healthy attitudes toward sex and to learn responsible sexual behavior. Openly discussing sex with your child will enable you to provide accurate information. What they learn elsewhere might not be true and might not reflect the personal and moral values and principles you want your children to follow. You need your preteen or teen to understand the possible consequences of being sexually active -- including pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and all of the emotional trappings that come with being part of a sexual relationship.
If I Talk to My Kids About Sex, Won't That Just Make Them Want to Do It?
It's important for children to understand sexual feelings and relationships before they become sexually active. Studies show that teens who have discussed sex with their parents are more likely to wait longer to begin having sex and more likely to use contraception when they do.
What Do I Say?
Focus on the facts about sex. Consider using the following list of topics as a guide:
Explanation of anatomy and reproduction in males and females
Sexual intercourse and pregnancy
Fertility and birth control
Other forms of sexual behavior, including oral sex, masturbation, and petting
Sexual orientation, including heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality
The physical and emotional aspects of sex, including the differences between males and females
Self-image and peer pressure
Sexually transmitted diseases
Rape and date rape, including how being intoxicated (drunk or high) or accepting rides or going to private places with strangers or acquaintances puts a person at risk
How choice of clothing and the way you present yourself sends messages to others about your interest in sexual behavior
How Open Should I Be When We Talk?
Some parents are uncomfortable talking to their kids about sex. It may help to practice what you are going to say before you sit down with your son or daughter. Be sure to pay attention and listen to what your child says and asks. It may be helpful to have both parents present for support.
Some kids may be embarrassed to talk about sex or to admit they don't know something. So they may not ask direct questions. Look for opportunities to bring up sexuality issues with your children. Opportunities may come from a scene on TV or in a movie, a book or an article, or the appearance of visible changes in your son or daughter, such as the growth of breasts or facial hair. Explain the physical maturation process and the sexual arousal process. Remember to respect your child's privacy and try to show that you trust him or her to make good decisions.