New-age parents are all about keeping conversations and communication open with their children. As awareness about things and the parenting styles change, mums and dads are more comfortable within themselves to discuss different subjects with kids that were previously considered taboo.
However, this change hasn’t come about easily.
Even today, there are several subjects that you may want to shy away from, especially when speaking to children and especially when it comes to sex. It’s a generational problem, to be honest. If you are one of us, your conversation around the birds and bees with your parents wouldn’t have been a pleasant experience.
Even worse, you’ve never actually had one and learnt things on the fly from other sources like the sex education classes in school, and of course, the internet.
But here’s your chance to do better with the next generation. You want to be talking to kids about sex but don’t know where to start. That’s where we step in.
This guide will help you navigate through the conversation about sex without divulging too much. The core idea is to educate your child from a young age and ensure they learn to respect their partners and the process in the long run.
Here’s how you should be talking to kids about sex at different ages.
Talking To Kids About Sex From Birth To 2 Years
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Infants and toddlers aren’t the best when it comes to verbal interactions, so having the “talk” is out of the question. However, you can begin the process of talking about sex from a young age.
Sex isn’t just about relationships but also about understanding your own body. As a principal, always use proper names for genital in everyday activities.
Cory Silverberg, sex educator and author of Sex Is A Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings And You, suggests against using cute terms. Instead, say the actual words including penis, vagina, clitoris, nipples and bum.
Once the kids learn about comfortable around these words, they also understand to be okay with it. It’s also necessary that kids know what the actual names of different genitals are to communicate health issues.
Experts also recommend against saying “boys have a penis” and “girls have a vagina.” Instead, you can say “people with penises” and “people with vaginas.” With the world being more gender fluid now, you essentially are training your child to be more open about other people’s orientation.
For kids at the age of two, you can explain to them about different body parts. There’s also the good touch and bad touch, especially when someone else is handling them, and why touching your genitals should be done in a private space like the bathroom or the bedroom.
Be careful on how you word it, without making it sound negative.
Talking To Kids About Sex From 2-5 Years
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Kids in this age group are eager to learn and more receptive when taught something. This is when you bring in conversations and help them understand more about consent.
This is especially necessary since children interact with other kids in school and will play games that require touch. So, something like tickling may not be okay with every child. The conversation is also important and you need to set boundaries when it comes to your child’s personal space.
You need to be clear about who can and cannot touch your child, and if they do not like the person touching them what they should do in that situation. Make sure that kids do not feel ashamed about the whole situation. This may discourage them from communicating things with you.
At the same time, playing doctor or other touch-based games can happen with a little more education. This includes understanding how to handle other people’s genitals and the fact that kids shouldn’t be touching them.
Preschoolers also start getting inquisitive about where babies come from. Instead of the stalk or the angel story, parents can approach this with more clarity and science if they wish to.
This includes speaking about the process of the sperm and egg, and how it comes together to make a child. Moreover, you need to normalise your child’s question with a calm response. The moment you avoid or respond aggressively, your little one understands there’s something wrong about them asking the same.
The idea is to keep an open conversation and help kids learn at their own pace. You do decide which details to share about the process. But as long as there is a conversation, you’re doing great.
You should also start being inclusive in your everyday speech for kids at this age. So, start saying “Welcome kids” instead of just boys and girls. Kids subconsciously learn that gender isn’t binary.
Talking To Kids About Sex From 6-8 Years
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Kids have more avenues to learn about different things, especially in the digital age. You need to speak to them more openly about the perils of the Internet and what having an online presence means.
This is necessary for kids wanting to try different social media platforms or upload videos and images on different apps. At the same time, be prepared in case your child ends up on websites meant for adults.
In the case of pornography, you do not need to necessarily present it as a strict “no-no” space, but make them understand these websites are strictly for adults.
At the same time, you can engage parental controls on their devices to avoid such mishaps that expose them to things earlier than they should see.
Parents should also speak to kids about masturbation at this age. By age of eight years, children do start exploring their bodies. Again, it’s something that does not need to be looked down upon. Instead, speak to them about what it is and why you get the urge to do it. At the same time, emphasise that it’s something that needs to be done in a private space and with hygiene.
Kids may also be victims of sexual abuse at this age, so make sure to have a more open conversation about how to protect themselves. You can convert the basics in this regard or have a detailed talk, depending on your child’s understanding of the situation. Make sure to emphasise how consent works once again.
If you thought your children weren’t ready to understand how sex works up till now, this could be the age to do so. Children are more mature and will be able to process this information correctly.
If you do think it can wait a couple more years, that’s completely up to you. That said, do prepare for a barrage of follow-up questions and how you should answer them.
Talking To Kids About Sex From 9-12 Years
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Conversation at this age extends to puberty as much as sex. Kids are also accepting about having this conversation and you can be more literal about things.
By this time, kids will be exposed to different incidents in the media or in school, and you can use these examples to make your point in a better fashion.
Also, speak to your kids about how sexism works and why you should be more inclusive of different genders and identities. Kids also start discovering themselves at this age and will feel great if they can open up to you if they are confused about their own identity.
With girls, you can speak to them about menstruation and the changes it brings about in their bodies. You can discuss puberty more scientifically like the difference between testosterone and oestrogen. Prepare your child for physical changes including the change in voice, genitals, hair and more.
At this age, kids can undergo emotional turmoil with bodily changes or could be judged to societal standards. The key conversation to have is about acceptability.
Kids need to learn to be confident with themselves, their height, weight, gender, scars and more. This will be a recurring conversation and you will need to make to stand by them on every occasion.
Talking To Teenagers About Sex
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The rebellious phase is here and it won’t be as easy as one would imagine. Kids are all about being curious and exploring newer things once they hit their teens. Instead of curbing their enthusiasm, channelise this energy into learning new things and handling things more responsibly.
You need to have a more open conversation about sex and even safe sex practices, ergo the “birds and the bees talk.” If you normalise this in the house, kids will be more comfortable coming to you for advice.
For parents who’ve largely avoided this subject early on, now would be a good time to change that tone and be more open about things. Kids can be extremely confused about such things and when they hear the reassuring words coming from you, they’ll more than relieved.
Do remember, it needs to be a conversation and not a lecture. Let them ask questions and do not judge them for it.
Kids are more likely to enter into their first relationships around this time. So do speak to them about what a healthy relationship requires.
Emphasise retaining your self-worth in any relationship and why consent is mandatory and not a choice. To ease some of that tension, you can share your own relationship stories, which will help you bond better with your kids.