A lot of parents wonder how to have the sex talk. There are a lot of teachable moments for an ongoing conversation about this important topic — so take a deep breath and let this L&D nurse help you be comfortable.
The sex talk.
It’s awkward. No one WANTS to have it.
But WHY? Why does the idea of sex conversations make parents squirm?
I liked this topic enough that I actually did a podcast episode on it:
Why is it awkward to talk to kids about sex
I wondered about this a lot.
I talk to my kids about a LOT of different things, but sex is one of those things that even makes me uncomfortable — even though I talk to moms about it frequently at the hospital.
I’ve come up with a few reasons:
- It was awkward with our own parents, and those memories still haunt us
- We don’t want to come across as pervy, or hurt our kid’s vewpoint of sex in any way.
- It’s not socially OK to really talk about sex in public — at least the nitty gritty. Somehow it’s much more ok to make jokes about it. BUT, we haven’t had a lot of practice.
- We aren’t sure when to do it.
BTW, looking to really have a great relationship with kids and make your home a little more peaceful — check out my practical parenting series:
How to Have the Sex Talk
I believe that “the sex talk” starts early the first time.
Very early on. We had an Usborne Book (you an also get it on Amazon) that talked about how babies are made. It’s a great starting point and I was grateful for it as it gave a totally biological stance of it.
The egg and the sperm meet and a baby is made. Not much more than that — but it started them out early about how biology happens. It’s an easy way to talk to young children about sex and where babies come from. That way, expanding beyond that made it more natural.
Talking to young kids about sex
I believe that having a book like that is helpful when it comes to these important conversations. Books are great since we are encouraging our kids to use books to learn all sorts of things (I’m a huge fan of keeping lots of non-fiction books at home).
But, at that age, I’d mostly just answer questions. And JUST the questions.
How to Explain Where Babies Come From
Here are some common questions young kids have about babies:
Where do babies come from?
I’d just point them to that book. Say that the egg and the sperm meet, and the mommy grows the baby in her tummy
How does the baby come out?
The mom pushes very hard and it comes out between her legs (I got that one from a sibling class we took my oldest to before we had our 2nd).
Where does the sperm come from?
The dad (again, you’re just answering the direct question — no need to go further).
Where is the egg?
It’s in the mommy’s belly — you can even use terms like ovary and uterus. I always recommend you use proper names when you’re being specific.
**The beauty is that it is REALLY unlikely the child is going to go too deeply into the sex process. Often, if they have lots of questions — I’d ask them where they are hearing it from if it’s just a genuine question — answer as briefly as possible, while still answering the question**
I also am VERY clear that the areas of your body that are covered by a swimsuit are off limits for other people. They shouldn’t touch you there. And, if someone is (that isn’t your doctor when mom is in the room with you), you need to talk to a trusted adult about it.
Note: Be VERY sure to use the actual names and correct terms for body parts when you reference them in this way.
BTW I have a whole post about what to do when you’re just mad at your kids (or feeling really awkard, stuff is pretty much the same).
When to Talk to Your Kids About Sex
At some point, you need to have the actual sex education talk.
At our house, we have found the right time to have it is at age eight.
It is very important to me that their original sex talk comes from either myself or my husband, and NOT on the playground.
I want them to know that we are open and honest about it — and that we are a fount of information on the subject! By being how they learned about it — we are the experts in the area.
I want them to know that it’s a GREAT thing, but I ALSO want them to know that it’s not something we talk about with our friends on the playground. I’m honest, telling them that is something that they should learn from their parents as much as possible. That it is a private thing, that might make some people uncomfortable.
As a nurse, I have found the best way is that I take a very biological stance.
Here is basically how it goes:
When people love each other a lot they will have something called sex. That is when the man puts his penis in the woman's vagina (we have already had the 3 hole talk, so my daughter is aware her vagina is the hole in the middle). He squirts in some sperm to her vagina, which is like a tunnel to her uterus. At a particular time of the month, the woman has an egg waiting for the sperm. If the sperm work right and the egg is waiting, they will start a baby.
I then, because I truly believe it, talk about how sex really isn’t something you want to have until you are married. Because sex leads to having babies, you really only want to have a baby with someone you love enough to marry.
That’s it. That’s my age 8 sex talk.
I will admit, it is uncomfortable — but once it’s out — it’s out.
I try to work on it and advance it a bit more as the kids get older. We probably “officially” have “the talk” again each year.
But, at age 8, that suffices.
By age 12 I want to be sure they understand that people have many different feelings, and start to focus more on other sex acts that people might think are OK — including oral sex and anal sex, but also be honest with the disease and other problems that can cause, especially health-wise (this is where being a nurse comes in handy).
I do also allow my kids to go to every “maturation” talk by the school. I hope that if I talk abstinence at home, and they learn about condoms in school we at least won’t end up with herpes or a pregnancy (I also review the school’s talk so that we can have a brief talk together before they learn at school).
I try to have a talk about it each year around their birthday (simply, because it’s a good time to remember). Your teenage daughter might have more advanced questions about sexual behavior and sexual experiences. Answer any questions that they have as well as solidify how it happens and the consequences if they were to engage in it too early.
As they get older in to teenage years, I also encourage them to ask questions of their doctor (we often make well check-ups around their birthday as well).
**YES, I do believe in abstinence before marriage. I believe in it very strongly as I have seen many high school students absolutely ruined or their dreams derailed when relationships that went too far didn’t work out. I believe it to be a strong cause of increased teen suicide as you just aren’t ready to handle those strong emotions at that age.**
BTW, any comments about how my “head is in the sand” will just be referred to my pregnancy section. You have no idea how far out of the sand my head is.
Talking to your kids before college about sex
Now, I am just barely hitting this one (as I write this my oldest will be 18 in a few months) — but I know that talk needs to come.
I have a son, but I think this is good advice for all kids heading to college.
- If you are going to have sex, you need to be SURE 200% that the other person is on board. You even need to hear the words “yes I want to.” I don’t want my sheltered kid getting to college and not knowing that this could be a HUGE issue that could ruin them and possibly even put them in jail and a mar on their actual “permanent record”. This is a good time to talk about healthy relationships, healthy boundaries, and peer pressure.
- If you’re going to have sexual intercourse you need to have protection. There are different forms of birth control. She should likely be on the pill AND you should wear a condom. The condom will prevent diseases and the pill prevents a pregnancy (and yourself if she isn’t good at taking the pill). I will tell him that if he is going to use a condom, he’d better know how to put it on and that I’m sure there are videos on youtube, or I’m happy to show him with a banana. Safe sex is really important.
- If you are going to have sex, do NOT do it when you, or the other person are drunk. Again — back to #1 — it’s just a big fat mess on college campuses anymore.
We need to be REALLY clear on this with our kids.
I do believe we have created a party atmosphere on college campuses that is having long-term consequences for many kids. I don’t want my son or daughter to have that type of consequence.
How to talk to your son about sex
I think it’s important for them to know a few things:
- Wet dreams are normal
- Masturbation can feel great, but can take over your life — so I’d try to stay away from it
- It is natural to be curious about sex, but pornography will change you as a person and your natural desires. I’d try to stay away from it.
- Sex is meant to be with another person. Not with a screen or yourself.
- Sex is natural and important, and you really need to LOVE someone to have it.
How to talk to your daughter about sex
- You might feel arousal at times, and that’s OK.
- Boys want sex, much more than you think they do. They likely want it enough to lie to you.
- It is natural to be curious about sex, sexual activities, pornography or masturbation. However, sex is with another person that you love. Remember that.
BTW — I LOVE this book for girls and puberty. Huge fan (wish there was a boy version made by Star Wars or something…).
I think it’s smart, once you start to see signs of puberty, to get a first period kit to have on hand, there are a few:
- Dollar Maxi Pad Club has one. The price is totally right, and I think the little bag it comes with is great (doesn’t scream “period”) and I LOVE their pads!
- This one is includes a lot of info (especially great if you have a little researcher).
- This one’s a better price point (in my opinion) — again with some helpful info for her.
- Dot Girl is sweet — probably a good balance.
I love this video our church put out:
One of my most favorite quotes about sex comes from a nurse I work with:
You play big kid games, you get big kid prizes.
They need to know there are CONSEQUENCES to their actions. Be very clear that those consequences include:
- Large emotions that can be difficult to process
- Unintended Pregnancy / babies
The most important thing of talking to your kids about sex
They should feel ok to come to talk to you about anything. Including Sexual health and sexual activity. It’s a good idea to be clear that you aren’t going to judge them or laugh at them.
You are fair game to talk about whatever they need to know.
You are their main resource — ask them to talk to you before they look it up on the internet or social media.
Having the big talk with kids about sex is SO important. You are doing a huge service to get that started on the right foot for them when it comes to sexual relationships. With a little preparation, as well as starting young it won’t be as hard as you imagine. 🙂
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**If you’re planning to make a comment about my nieve attitudes towards abstinence. Take a minute to remember I am a labor and delivery nurse. I have seen real-life consequences of having sex with someone you aren’t ready to have a baby with. You play big kid games, you get big kid prizes. And that prize will change your life.**