How to Start Talking about Sex with Children (Part 1)

January 4, 2017 | Arts & Pop CultureEducationFamily & Relationships

Most of us parents feel waaay awkward talking to our children about sex because we have no idea what we’re doing. Note: the kids are noticeably creeped out too. 

Here are a few no-fail answers to get you and your kids started. Getting the party started: First, ask yourself as a parent if you believe your children are good people who want good for others. Most of us believe in our children so an emphatic “Yes!” means that we really need to focus on a conversation rather than a lesson or, worse yet, a sermon. 

Our goal as parents is to begin a process, not to trumpet our truth. Remember, none of us like to be preached at. Accepting that “the talk” is actually going to be several hundred (mostly comfortable!) talks will free you from performance anxiety. Going forward: Accepting that these talks are a process helps us understand that our goal here is not indoctrinating our children into what to think but to equip them for a lifetime of critical thinking by showing them how to think. 

We do this by teaching children that the subject of human sexuality is like any other: there’s a lot to learn, a lot to figure out and that human sexuality is interesting. No one wants to be that parent who single-handedly turns human sexuality into the world’s most boring topic.

Step one: Get used to using media as your major resource. The general rule here is that if it’s in the newspaper it’s part of “the news that is fit to print.”  Find a story about some aspect of sexuality, sit up and say “listen to this.”  Then read the story aloud at the breakfast table at least once a week. When finished, lean back and ask aloud something like, “Now, what do you think about that?”  You can do the same with the many sexual issues brought up on TV.

Step two: Relax. Listen. Allow children to express their thoughts and feelings — even when all they express is boredom, disinterest or discomfort by rolling their eyes and saying nothing. As the months go by, a conversation will begin as children start to think about these things, as they start noticing patterns, as they begin to realize that sexuality is an acceptable topic of conversation. Remember, this is a process, not an event.

Step three: Repeat. What you as a parent are doing here is giving permission to talk about and to think about sexuality — and to have differing opinions. You will be teaching your children how to think, not what to think. Because most of us think that sexuality and “the talk” is about sexual intercourse, we have no comfortable human context for such a talk. We and our children need to see that sexuality is a far more vast topic that includes gender, religion, politics, fashion, sports and all the rest.