Talking About Sex

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Parents serve as their children's' first teachers. They also are the moral leaders in the family. It is necessary for parents to talk to their children about sexuality, reproductive organs and the moral issues of sex. Studies show that kids who feel they can talk with their parents about sex -- because their moms and dads speak openly and listen carefully to them -- are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior as teens than kids who do not feel they can talk with their parents about the subject.

Parents are often concerned that telling their children too much too soon will hurt them in some way, or will encourage their kids to become sexually active. Information and education do not encourage young people to be sexually active. In fact, kids make better decisions about sex when they have all the information they need and when there are no taboos on what they can talk about at home. And they're better at protecting themselves against pregnancy and disease once they do decide to have sex. Some parents feel they don't know enough to be a reliable source of accurate information. But no parent needs to be an expert on sexuality to have meaningful conversations with their children, and every parent can share their values about sexuality, relationships and respect for others.

Talking about sex may be uncomfortable for both parents and children. Parents should respond to the needs and curiosity level of their individual child, offering no more or less information than their child is asking for and is able to understand. By age 10, parents should start to have discussions about puberty, so that children understand the body changes and anticipate some of the emotional stirring that occurs due to hormones. It is also important to talk about sex and loving relationships.

Children have different levels of curiosity and understanding depending upon their age and level of maturity. As they grow older, they will often ask for more details about sex. Also make sure that you provide age-appropriate information to the child. For example, five-year-old children should know the correct names for their body parts, including reproductive organs. They do not need to know all the intricacies of how male and female bodies grow and differ. If you provide some information about the differences between male and female bodies, it would not be harmful.

While the children need to know the biological facts about sex, they also need to understand that sexual relationships involve caring, concern and responsibility. By discussing the emotional aspect of a sexual relationship with your child, he/she will be better informed to make decisions later on and to resist peer pressure.

It is important to talk about the responsibilities and consequences that come from being sexually active. Pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, moral issues and feelings about sex are important topics that need to be discussed. You must talk to your children to help them make the decisions that are best for them without feeling pressured to do something before they are ready. Helping children understand that these are decisions that require maturity and responsibility will increase the chance that they make good choices.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,