This topic is not one that any parent looks forward to but it always presents itself sooner than we think and we can often find ourselves unprepared to talk to kids about sex. I mean, how do you know what to say? You don’t want to say too much or too little. It can be a stressful subject for parents to discuss sex with kids but it is an important topic. That is why I am so happy to have an expert share with us her thoughts on what to tell your kids about sex and when! Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., is the author of Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do, which is releasing on January 7, 2015. You can get a free chapter and see more at lovefactually.co I hope you find her parenting tips helpful when it is time to talk about sex with your kids.
How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex
As the t-shirt says, “You can’t scare me, I have kids.” But you can scare me with the thought of my own sweet teenage girl having a baby right now!
Fact is, we’re getting a raw deal in America: Despite the lowest rate of intercourse in the developed world, our kids are least likely to use birth control, and they have the highest rates of pregnancy and STD’s.
What’s going wrong? It’s complicated, but science comes down very clearly on one huge answer you’re in control of: The Talk. Here are three steps to making sure your kids don’t become a statistic or make you grandparents before you’re ready.
What age should you talk to your kids about sex?
Not early in the day~early in their lives. If you’re waiting until your kids are in their teens, that’s too late; people who get sexual while they’re still kids tend to start around age 15, and two-thirds of all STD’s are in the age 15-24 crowd.
So Talk as soon as your kids can ask or imply a sexual question, usually around age 2. At that age, kids aren’t going to ask something complicated; they might just point to your genitals if they see you on the toilet, and give you a questioning look. “That’s my vagina,” you can say in a casual way, “Girls and women have that. You have a penis.”
Or they might ask where they come from. Make sure they mean sex and not Seattle, and then answer them in an age-appropriate way; you can ratchet up the details as your kids get older and are ready for more.
At this stage, what’s more important than the information per se is the attitude you’re conveying that you are the trusted source for this extremely important part of life.
Although it’s common to refer to The Talk, it’s not just one; it’s a series of conversations that begins in toddlerhood and doesn’t end until after the kids have flown your nest.
We know from science that parents who talk not only early, but often, tend to have kids who wait the longest to start having sex, and they also tend to choose fewer partners. And almost every parent wants that!
As one woman told me, “Sex is something we all bring up, whenever it happens to come up. We discuss it at the dinner table, and our kids have waited.” Exactly.
Talk Birth Control & Values
Kids in other developed countries get their sexual information from Mom and Dad; Talking is considered part of the parenting gig. American 8th graders say they’d like to get the details from their parents, too~ but in reality, they’re least likely to get informed by their folks.
Instead, they get their information from two main sources: friends and the media. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will!
How long do you expect your kids to wait? What level of intimacy and emotional involvement would you want them to have? Can they come to you for birth control?
No matter how much or how little sex ed you want at your kids’ schools, there’s one thing only you can teach: your values.
Think your kids won’t listen~ or worse, they’ll take any discussion as permission? Science shows the opposite. Kids tend to uphold their parents’ values if they know them.
Upshot? As our kids get older, less and less seems to cross our desk; their lives are more and more their own, and that can be scary. The reasons people have sex are complicated and messy, and it terrifies our parental hearts to think what can happen to our children.
But there is something we can do. Science shows it’s highly effective. Parents in other countries are doing it, and we can too: Talk, and talk, and talk.
And then, maybe~listen!
If you liked Dr. Welch’s tips on what to tell kids about sex and when, follow her on Twitter @duanawelch