Talking to your kids about sex
In talking with your child or adolescent, it is helpful to:
- Encourage your child to talk and ask questions.
- Maintain a calm and non-critical atmosphere for discussions.
- Use words that are understandable and comfortable.
- Try to determine your child's level of knowledge and understanding.
- Keep your sense of humor and don't be afraid to talk about your own discomfort.
- Relate sex to love, intimacy, caring, and respect for oneself and one's partner.
- Be open in sharing your values and concerns.
- Discuss the importance of responsibility for choices and decisions.
- Help your child to consider the pros and cons of choices.
By developing open, honest and ongoing communication about responsibility, sex, and choice, parents can help their youngsters learn about sex in a healthy and positive manner.What Kind of Questions Can You Expect from Young People?Questions asked by preschoolers (ages three to five):
Questions asked by children and preteens (ages six to 12):
- Will I have breasts (or a penis) like yours?
- How did I get into mommy's stomach?
- Why do you have a penis (or breasts) and I don't?
- Where do babies come from?
- How do babies get out of their mommy's tummy?
- Does it hurt to have a baby?
Questions asked by teens (ages 13 to 18):
- How does a baby stay alive inside the mother?
- What does "have sexual intercourse "mean?
- What happens when girls menstruate?
- What is a wet dream?
- Why do kids say "dirty" words?
- Do boys have periods?
- Do girls have wet dreams?
- When will I develop like my friends?
- Why are some children adopted?
- What's a rubber (condom) for?
- How do you put on a condom?
10 Tips for Parents for Talking about the Facts of Life
- Are my breasts (penis) too small?
- Is the pill safe?
- Can I get birth control without my parents knowing about it?
- How can you tell if you have a sexually transmitted infection?
- Is there something wrong with me if I remain a virgin?
- What does homosexual mean?
- How can you avoid pregnancy?
- How can I say "no"?
- How can I tell if I'm really in love?
- Is sexual intercourse painful?
- Is it sex if you go down on someone?
- What about having sex with someone you are not in love with?
- How can I tell if I'm pregnant?
- How do you know if you're gay (lesbian)?
Initiating conversations about the facts of life may be difficult for some parents because they did not grow up in an environment where the subject was discussed. Some parents may be afraid they do not know the right answers or feel confused about the proper amount of information to offer.
To help, here are 10 tips from the experts at Advocates for Youth. Parents should:
1. First, encourage communication by reassuring kids that they can talk to them about anything.
2. Take advantage of teachable moments. A friend's pregnancy, news article, or a TV show can help start a conversation.
3. Listen more than they talk. They should think about what they're being asked. They should also confirm with their child that what they heard is in fact what he or she meant to ask.
4. Not jump to conclusions. The fact that a teen asks about sex does not mean they are having or thinking about having sex.
5. Answer questions simply and directly. Give factual, honest, short, and simple answers.
6. Respect their child's views. They should share their thoughts and values and help their child express theirs.
7. Reassure young people that they are normal, as are their questions and thoughts.
8. Teach their children ways to make good decisions about sex and coach them on how to get out of risky situations.
9. Admit when they don't know the answer to a question. Parents can suggest the two of them find the answer together on the Internet or in the library.
10. Discuss that at times their teen may feel more comfortable talking with someone other than them. Together, parents and kids can think of other trusted adults with whom they can talk.