With the world reopening and social connections blossoming, it’s a good time to think about one of the more dreaded parent topics: The Birds and The Bees, a.k.a. Sex. As a Child & Adolescent Therapist and Sex Educator, it is my goal to help parents get more comfortable with having these talks with their children. Talking to kids about sex, sexuality, and relationships can feel like some of the most uncomforatble conversations we may have as parents. However, as Kim Cavill, creator of the Six Minute Sex Ed podcast, said, “We don’t get to choose whether or not young people learn about sex. We get to choose how they learn about sex.” Without us, kids will learn about sex but they may turn to less-than-helpful sources. Studies have shown that adolescents are more likely to delay initiating sexual intercourse if they feel comfortable communicating with their parents about sexual health. We all want to be the person our kids come to with questions and concerns, but how do we become that askable adult?
Some things to keep in mind when talking to your kids about sex:
- This will not be a one time conversation: Go into this knowing that this won’t be a one-off chat. The best way to approach this topic is with a series of conversations, each meeting your child where they are developmentally.
- Answer their questions: As you start these conversations, your child may have questions. Sometimes these questions will be ones you can answer right away, others will require some thinking and/or research. It’s OK to tell them you don’t know. You are not expected to know everything, no one is.
- Think about your own feelings and values: Knowing the feelings you bring to the table will help you validate your child’s thoughts and feelings.
- Learn the correct terminology for body parts and functions: This will allow your child to learn correct terminology too. Slang is confusing and may mean different things to different people.
- Have a conversation: Let this conversation be a two-way street. Listen to your child and validate their understanding even if they do not share the same perspective as you.
- Use teachable moments: As you are watching tv, movies, or listening to the radio, use relevant moments from shows, movies, and pop culture as opportunities for conversation.
When you’re ready, below are a list of resources for parents about how to start the conversation and where to get help with questions, as well as a few kids-specific resources.
Websites for Parents:
Sex Positive Families – this site is full of resources for kids and families, curated by topic and age
Talk with Your Kids – website dedicated to helping parents have conversations about health and relationships
Planned Parenthood – parent resource guide curated by topic and age
Six Minute Sex Ed – short episodes about all things sex, sexuality, and sexual health
Amaze – collection of cartoon videos for youth as well as a pledge and guide to becoming an askable parent
Advocates for Youth – health information fact sheets and advocacy on behalf of inclusive sexual health education
Books for Parents:
Raising a Child Responsibly in a Sexually Permissive World by Sol Gordon and Judith Gordon
Beyond the Big Talk: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Teens by Debra Haffner
Sex & Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense About Sex by Deborah Roffman
Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person about Sex by Deborah Roffman
Websites for Youth:
Scarleteen – articles for teens and adults about a range of sexual health, gender, sexuality, and relationship topics
Amaze – a collection of cartoon videos covering all topics related to puberty, sex, sexuality, and relationships
Books for Youth:
Wait, What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing up by Heather Corinna and Isabella Rotman
S.E.X., second edition: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You through Your Teens and Twenties by Heather Corinna