• The time will come, usually sooner than you would like, when your children will come home from school and ask you about sex. If children ask it means that they have heard something already and are looking for you to make things clear. As much as you might dread this conversation it is one of your first opportunities to confirm for your school-aged children that you are a great sounding board and source of reliable information. If your children are middle-school aged and have not yet asked you should bring it up yourself. The more open and honest you are the more likely they will continue to come to you to verify things they hear about in the outside world.

    Educate yourself and consider how you can best teach your children so that when the conversation comes up…and it will come up…you don’t feel completely blindsided.

    As a rule of thumb: answer all questions clearly and honestly but no need to embellish or go into details if your child seems satisfied with your answers. The exception is for older children – you may want to impart some of your values and wisdom along with the cold hard facts.

    The way to approach a discussion about sex depends upon your child’s age and developmental stage.

    At a very young age (under 6)/stage you may be asked where babies come from. You can answer simply – there is an egg in mommy’s body that grows into a baby. If your child is satisfied – you’re done.

    At 7-9 years of age your child may want to know how the seed from daddy reaches mommy’s egg so you will need to explain that daddy’s body makes sperm, and when daddy puts his penis into mommy’s vagina (or whatever words you choose to use, but correct language prevents confusion later on) the sperm can come out and swim up to the egg in mommy’s body to make a baby.

    When your child is over 9 (ages are approximates – different children mature at different rates) you may need to go into more detail about love, relationships, and sex in the real world.

    With adolescents – children 10-13 -you need to address masturbation, orgasm and the correct context for sex.

    With teenagers you will need to spend time also talking about safe sex, respect, boundaries, sexually transmitted diseases and birth control.

    Remember that the values you have will be imparted to your children. If you are uncomfortable about sex and speaking about the body your children will pick up on this. If you are uncomfortable with birth control you can’t expect your teenagers to use it regularly. Some adults were taught, as children, that masturbation was bad, dirty or unnatural. All of which are untrue. Giving children guidelines for masturbation – it is normal but should be done in private, hand washing when finished – lets them know that they are normal and teaches them how to act in an appropriate way. Work through your own feelings before you have these discussions with your children so that you can see where you have discomfort, and try to decide how to tackle these areas yourself. Educate yourself and consider how you can best teach your children so that when the conversation comes up…and it will come up…you don’t feel completely blindsided.

    Remember: This is a perfect time to remind them that their bodies are private and that no one should be touching them or doing anything to them against their will. Let them know that they can come to you if something does not feel ‘right’ to them. When they are older you can let them know to come to you, or another trusted adult in their lives (family, physician, therapist) if they have concerns.

    Talking about sex with children can feel awkward initially, but wouldn’t you rather they learn the facts from you – an adult who loves them and is trustworthy – than from peers who may have their own distorted versions of things? So when you are driving and hear the questions begin from the back seat keep your eyes on the road and start talking.