Something that tends to be really controversial is how, when, and why parents should talk to their kids about sex.
So much of the time, parents are scared that if they talk about sex, then their child will have sex too early, that they’ll become obsessed with porn, get an awful STI, get pregnant… or even die.
Sex is scary, especially for kids and teens, and I can only imagine what it would be like for a parent to see their child growing up in a world that is obsessed with sex.
But that’s why parents do need to talk about sex with their kids.
1. They will learn about sex whether you teach them or not.
In such a sex-obsessed world, kids get way too many messages about sex. They learn about it from movies and television, video games, songs, friends, and sometimes school (depending where you live). And really, with so many different messages, a lot of it will be misinformation.
So who can help them out?
Yup. Their parents.
As much as it’s considered awkward and awful for kids and parent alike to experience The Talk, it’s beyond important that it happens.
I know that not all parents have the greatest relationship with their kids, but if you do have a decent relationship with them, you really should take advantage of that. If you tell them not to have sex and that’s your sex ed, hormones will tell them otherwise, and then they won’t feel comfortable talking to you when it’s most important that they do get the right information.
In fact, according to Planned Parenthood,
teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners, and use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex.
You wouldn’t want your kid learning misinformation from their friends simply because you wouldn’t tell them anything — sex education is way better than no sex ed at all!
2. Kids need to learn about consent, and unfortunately, they won’t learn it from their friends.
There is not enough education out there about consent.
In fact, this is something I want to change, because though schools do address consent, no one really talks about how to get consent and maintain a consensual experience.
Again — part of this is because adults just want kids to not have sex at all. But the reality is, they will, whether it’s in high school or later, and to help stop sexual assaults from happening conversations about consent simply have to happen.
So rather than avoid The Talk completely for fear of encouraging sex, talk about safe sex. Not just about preventing unwanted pregnancies and STIs — have an actual conversation about consent.
Learning about what consent is, how consent works, and how to give or receive consent teaches them the rights they have to their own body. If they know this, they will be able to better handle peer pressure about sex, and pressure from their partner than if they had no idea.
The sad truth is that if they learn about consent properly, it might help them avoid a terrible experience like mine down the line.
If you’re really anxious about how to teach consent to your teen, here’s a nice and simple guide.
3. The earlier the better.
The longer sex is mystified, the more kids have no idea what to expect, and the more likely something bad will happen. If you ease into things a little at a time throughout their life, sex isn’t as much some big scary thing, because they understand it.
Plus, talking to them early on means there doesn’t have to be one big intense conversation when they’re teenagers, after they’ve already learned a lot of misinformation!
It reminds me of how my parents approached alcohol. They let my sister and I try a sip of wine or beer, even have a margarita at restaurants every once in a while. They told us that generally alcohol isn’t the greatest for your body, but it’s really not bad in moderation. They told us outright that over drinking can result in dangerous problems for your body, and that unfortunately bad things can happen to women because some people feel entitled to women’s bodies.
They taught us to be careful, but the fact that they didn’t just shut us down when it came to the topic really just made me not care for the binge drinking scene… ever, really.
While sex is a little different because hormones do play a part in encouraging teens to have sex, it’s still similar. They are curious about it because the world is obsessed with it, and so much importance is placed on having sex. If you can just talk to your kids about it, they’ll know what they need to know and make smarter choices — much like Planned Parenthood has seen to be true.
So honestly, when they’re two or three, you can start with identifying their sex organs, and as they grow up you can teach them more and more. (See this guide for a breakdown of what kids can understand at given ages.)
You can take things slowly, and just let them know that you are supportive and there for them if they ever need.
It doesn’t have to be intense and overly serious either — you can laugh at the awkwardness! And as little by little over the years you teach them what they need to know, it won’t even be weird anymore — because you’ll have talked openly about it for so long and made it a comfortable topic.
Sex education is so important for kids, and the parents’ role is even more important. Kids might have access to sex education at school, but sometimes (again, depending on where you live) that information isn’t enough. The reinforcement at home makes a huge difference, and when we’re talking about sex, you really don’t want to mess around — misinformation could literally change their life.
So talk to your kids about sex — the sooner the better!
How did your parents approach The Talk? Share your stories in a comment below!
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