A lot of parents are scared to have “The Talk” with their kids. Similarly, a lot of kids dread getting “The Talk” from their parents. Regardless of our inhibitions, however, it is absolutely necessary that we as parents take responsibility for our children’s knowledge of sex.
First let’s dispel a few myths:
1. If I don’t talk about sex, my kids won’t know what it is and won’t do it. Um, no. That’s dumb.
2. If I talk about sex, my kids will see that as permission to do it. No: if you talk to your kids about sex, you will have the opportunity to clearly share your values and expectations with them; if you don’t talk to them they are likely to feel lost and feel the need to blaze their own sexual path.
3. Abstinence-only education is sufficient: Please, please, please share your values and expectations about sex with your kids. But don’t think for a minute think that kids can’t or won’t make a different choice sometimes. MANY studies on abstinence-only education have been done, and NONE of them show a reduction in teen sexuality or pregnancy.
4. Talking to my kids about sex is hard. Well, it’s only as hard as you make it. It doesn’t have to be super awkward or weird. Buy a book, plan what to say, and don’t stress out.
When to talk:
1. From a young age, use the real words: vagina, penis, breasts, etc. Using code words for body parts makes them seem shameful and embarrassing. It’s not embarrassing to have penis or vagina. Every single person in the world has one or the other.
2. BEFORE your son or daughter has friends who start having their periods or spermarche, talk openly about these things. Also talk about body development and what to expect. Have this talk around the age of 9, or better yet have several little talks over the years.
3. BEFORE your son or daughter starts dating or has friends who are dating, have the full-on sex talk. Or better yet, have several small talks over the years.
4. If your child has movies or classes in school on sex, this is a great time to follow up, answer any questions, and add your own family’s values.
What to talk about:
1. EVERYTHING. Yup. How it works, what it’s called, birth control, how a baby happens, rape (and protecting yourself from it–both guys and girls). Make sure they know that no, you can’t get pregnant from oral or anal sex, but you CAN get diseases. And yes, oral and anal count as sex. Condoms don’t always work. Pornography. You can get pregnant the first time. Your body isn’t the only thing to love about you. It IS possible to wait till marriage.
2. Talk to young kids (toddlers and up) about not letting people touch their body without permission. Tell Mommy or Daddy if someone touches you or if a grown up tells you to keep a secret from mommy.
3. Masturbating is developmentally normal. If your religion is against it, be clear with your child that moral restrictions are different from being abnormal. And repentance is possible for masturbation just like any other sin. Repentance is also possible for unwed sex.
The best sex education a kid can get is seeing parents who love and honor each other. Parents don’t get naked in front of the kids, but they are physically affectionate in front of the kids (hugs, kisses, cuddling, etc.). This gives kids the unspoken message that sex is part of a healthy marriage relationship.