Studies show that children whose parents didn’t talk to them about sex are more likely to try it sooner. They are also more likely to make mistakes like getting pregnant or getting a sexually transmitted disease. If you have children, they will have questions about sex. To insure they know your values, you need to be the one who answers their questions.
At what age should you start to talk to your children about sex? You can help your children learn what they need to know as they grow up. Starting at birth children are curious about their bodies and they are learning from their parents about sex. Maybe they have learned that Mommy and Daddy like to kiss. Maybe they have a sibling who is a different sex from them and they know their bodies look different.
Once your child starts talking, they will probably start having questions about their bodies. When they are preschool aged, answer their questions honestly with short statements. If you give them too much information, your child will get bored and stop listening. They will ask more questions as they mature and then you can elaborate on what you tell them. Starting at this age with basic questions will help you build the open and honest relationship for when your child becomes a teenager.
As your child grows into the early grades (between 5 and 6 years old), it is a good idea to start talking about how boys and girls are different. Be sure to talk about where babies come from. If your child isn’t asking questions, they are probably getting their information from somewhere else. You need to open the lines of communications so they can feel comfortable talking with you and your values can be taught.
Between the ages of 5 and 9, their questions become more about mechanics. “Why doesn’t Mary have a penis?” or “Where do babies come from?” Children get a lot of misinformation mixed in with some good information. They hear things on T.V., in music, from other children their age and possible from older siblings. Try your best to remain calm when they ask questions even if what they ask is inappropriate or their words are offensive. Explain to them what it means and then share with them what is acceptable and not acceptable for them to say.
Before your child reaches puberty, you should explain to them what changes they can expect. Preteens are already concerned with their appearance and not wanting to look different so puberty can be really rough on them. If they learn at an early age that these changes are natural and good, they may feel more comfortable with being the tallest in the class or the first girl to need a training bra. You can start the conversation with them by noticing the facial hair on your boys or the budding breast on your girls and how these are signs of approaching adulthood.
Explain menstruation and ejaculation to boys and girls. Remember, girls may begin to menstruate as early as 9 years old while some girls may not menstruate until 15. Boys generally develop a year or two later between the ages of 10 to 17. Information and reassurance are equally important to the preteen.
By the time your child reaches puberty they should know the reproductive system for both genders; sexual intercourse and pregnancy; fertility and birth control; masturbation, other forms of sexual behavior (petting, oral sex, etc.); The differences in male and female sexual feelings; forms of sexuality (heterosexuality and homosexuality); and all types of sexually transmitted diseases as well as how to prevent them.
As you are teaching your children about sex and their bodies, be diligent in teaching them the difference between o.k. touching and touching that is not o.k. Teach them to stand up for themselves and to not let others talk them into something that isn’t right for them. Reassure them that they can come to you if they are ever faced with something that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Remember, your children will find out about sex. If you don’t share your values with them and you don’t open the communication with them, they will get their information from others. They may get their information from sources who don’t share your values. It’s your right and responsibility as the parent to love your children enough to share your values.