Originally posted 20/4/2015
"What Age Should I Start Talking To My Kids About Sex?"
This is the most common question parents ask me. There are two parts to this answer:
1. Actually you have already started
2. Keep talking!!!!!
"I have never mentioned anything about sex? How could I have started the discussion?"
You have been giving your children human sexuality messages in the way you talk to them and interact with them.
They are influenced by how they experience the world and the information you give them. Specific words, feelings, values, attitudes, expressions and touch are all part of human sexuality.
A brief explanation of Childhood Sexuality:
Just as you teach your kids about healthy eating, water safety, road safety and how to explore, play and enjoy life, you need to teach sexual health to your children.
Particularly now, as they grow up in our sexualised society.
Of course every child is different, particularly their brain and body development. However we know that there are general stages that children go through related to their age group.
Children have specific learning needs through these stages and ages - as their bodies grow and brains develop, they experience different feelings, interests and social activities, e.g. starting pre - school.
Specific child sexual development information can be found at the end of this Blog post but for now here are the important bits:
You have already started to give your kids sexuality messages in the way you mention body parts and nudity along with your attitudes towards this. Make sure you use the correct terms; including vulva, vagina, breasts, penis, scrotum and testicles etc. Of course it’s ok to have nick names, such as 'Willy', as long as kids know the real names as well.
There are many benefits of doing this, for example it gives them words to use when they need to ask you questions in the future and most importantly it helps to protect them from abuse.
Relationships with others:
Kids are learning from you about touch; touch from others and touching them selves. You are guiding them about what is and is not ok.
I believe that positive, respectful human touch, (usually non sexual) is one of the most important components of experiencing fulfilling, respectful, satisfying and connected relationships throughout life.
Remember we are thinking broadly – most human touch is not ‘sexual’.
Two very different examples of important non sexual touch:
For more detail and tips on how to respond to these situations see this simple guide.
If your child is exposed to an adult intimate relationship, such as their two parents, they are absorbing observations (like a sponge) how two people, intimately connected, should treat each other.
They learn about positive touch and caring for another person as well as how to interact with others. Hopefully they observe contact that is loving, tender and respectful. Unfortunately many will observe negative, intimidating or even aggressive or violent ways of interacting with partners.
Ask yourself: Are my children exposed to loving and respectful relationships from the adults around them? For help click here.
Gender and sexual attraction:
You and your child’s society, are teaching them from a very early age; what it is to be a boy or a girl. Gender identity is complex and very important. I cover this in my parent presentations.
Important to remember that more than 10% of the population is same sex attracted.
Also remember that gender identity is not always just ‘male’ or ‘female’, 'gender diverse' is normal and needs to be explained in a positive way.
Good luck with your conversations! It's never to late to start :)
To learn more...
The Genderbread Person
Normal childhood sexual behaviour and development 0-12 years old
Child abuse Guide for Parents and Carers
Talking to children about sex 0-8 years old
After 24 years experience as a Sexual Health Nurse, 15 years as an Educator and literally 10s of thousands of conversations about Sex and Sexuality - I hope I can help you with information & support to encourage essential conversations about all aspects of Human Sexuality.