When should we have “the talk” with our kids?
The much-dreaded and awkward talk about sex is a true boogieman for parents. Growing bigger and scarier the longer it lurks under the bed—hidden away by fear, shame, and guilt. Trust me when I say the possibility of "the talk” is much worse than the reality!
There is not one “talk” but a series of informal conversations that start when you bring the baby home. Don’t panic! You’ve likely been doing this without realizing it—naming body parts, identifying who can and cannot touch their bodies, and teaching them not to hit and harm others. These talks are part of age-appropriate learning about bodies and relationships that evolve as they age.
Most parents I speak to struggle with moving on to conversations about puberty and romantic or sexual feelings as if there is suddenly a line that cannot be crossed. The line is the adult fear that talking about something makes it real. Talking with your kids or answering their questions doesn’t mean they will engage in sexual behavior; instead, they’ll have knowledge that empowers them to make safer decisions when they are ready.
We start by providing them with medically accurate information and our family values; and create a safe, listening relationship so that they can ask any questions they have about sexuality. Establishing oneself as their trusted adult means they will come to you when they are ready to have sex, have questions about condoms, birth control, or sexual behaviors, and if something terrible has happened.
An important note, your reactions to topics of sexuality are based on your learned experiences over time. Your kids do not have these negative (or positive) experiences, so they won’t understand when you cringe, dismiss, or say, “Yuck!”. It’s important to welcome their curiosity to set you up as an adult they can come to for help, learning, and support. You can still teach your values around sexuality but lying or avoiding a topic because you think it’s gross or taboo only pushes kids to learn from other sources, which will likely be harmful or inaccurate.
Research has shown that kids who receive comprehensive (and positive!) sexuality education wait longer to engage in sexual behaviors. Be the trusted adult for your kids and seek out positive sexuality education to help fill in any gaps in your knowledge!
Need help practicing these conversations or identifying your values around sexuality? Sign up for a Parents and Caregivers session.