Have the Sex Talk With Kids of Any Age

Don't Wait Until Your Kids Are Teenagers to Talk About Sex

Father talking to teenaged son in restaurant
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The sex talk isn't just for teenagers. Begin to talk with your kids about sex at an early age, so that you can communicate clear, healthy messages about sexuality. Use these tips to start the conversation.

How to Have the Sex Talk With Your Preschooler

Preschoolers are curious and ask bold questions. Be as honest as you can, and remember to communicate your answers in a calm, natural manner. There's no need to act shocked or say, "We'll talk about that when you're older." Instead, use the following tips to communicate on their level:

  • Teach your child about the parts of his or her body, using real words like penis and vagina.
  • Use bath time as an opportunity to talk about the parts of our bodies that are private, which no other person - adult or child - should be touching.
  • When your child asks where babies come from, be honest. You don't have to go into detail about sexual intercourse at this point, but you can point out that babies come from part of the woman's body and part of the man's body, and that they start out as very small cells that grow into a baby inside the mommy's body.

How to Have the Sex Talk With Your School-Age Child

Once your child reaches third or fourth grade, you will want to provide more information about sex. Use the following tips to have the sex talk with your school-age child:

  • Visit your local library and check out some books on talking with your child about sex. The Spruce Guide to Tweens recommends Let's Talk About Sex.
  • Once you've selected a book that you're comfortable with, sit down with your child and read it together. It's perfectly okay to laugh through it. This doesn't have to be an uncomfortable conversation!
  • Try to initiate the conversation before your child is asking questions about sex. It's better for your child to get the facts from you than to hear them on the school bus.
  • Invite your child to ask his or her own questions.
  • Realize, too, that additional questions will likely pop up over time.
  • Consider the context that you want to communicate to your child. Do you believe sex should be reserved for marriage or for loving committed relationships? Begin to communicate that context to your child now, and explain why.

How to Have the Sex Talk With Your Teen

It's important to have the sex talk with your teen before he or she is in a relationship that may potentially lead to sex. In addition, even if your teen is not in an exclusive relationship, keep in mind that a lot of sexual activity takes place among teens who are not dating or who are only dating casually. When talking with teens about sex, remember to:

  • Communicate the reasons behind your perspective. If you believe sex should be reserved for marriage, explain why. Don't just say "because I said so." Give a reason, such as knowing that they are in a secure relationship where the other person loves them unconditionally and is mature enough to make a lasting commitment.
  • Expand the scope of your conversation to include sexual events that do not include intercourse. For example, talk openly about the context for oral sex, as well.
  • Talk with your teen about the inability to control what gets said about his or her sexual activity. Teens need to know up front that their peers may seem trustworthy in the moment but may choose to share intimate details with friends later. This is a risk your teen needs to be aware of before choosing to become intimate with another person.
  • Don't forget to talk about protection. Even if you're teaching your teen to wait, it's important for him or her to know how, why, and when to access contraceptives.
  • Talk about sexting and teach your teen not to post provocative pictures online or attached to text messages.
  • Talk about the warning signs of abusive relationships, including controlling, possessive behaviors.
  • Teach your teen to put more value on how the other person treats them than on external trappings like looks, money, and status.
  • Don't be afraid to share your own experiences, even if they don't represent actions that your want your teen to imitate.