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Talking to your children about sex

It is important to talk to children about sex. Although they'll learn about sex at school, and pick up some information in the playground, it is best that they get the facts from their parents as well as from their teachers. The best time to begin having these discussions is when your children are in the preteen years between 10 to 12 years old.

Why should I talk to my children about sex?

Talking with your child about sex is important to help him or her develop healthy attitudes towards sex and to learn responsible sexual behaviour. Openly discussing sex with your child also enables you to provide accurate information. What they learn elsewhere might not be true, and might not reflect the personal and moral values and principles you want your children to follow. They also need to understand the possible consequences of being sexually active, including pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, as well as being emotionally hurt.

If I talk to my children about sex, won't that just make them want to do it?

It is important for children to understand sexual feelings and relationships before they become sexually active. Studies have shown that teenagers that have discussed sex with their parents are more likely to wait longer before first having sex and are also more likely to use contraception.

What should I tell my children about sex?

First of all focus on the facts about sex. Consider using the following list of topics as an outline:

  • Explanation of anatomy and reproduction in males and females
  • Sexual intercourse and pregnancy
  • Fertility and birth control
  • Other forms of sexual behaviour including oral sex, masturbation and petting
  • Sexual orientation including heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality
  • The physical and emotional aspects of sex including the differences between males and females
  • Self-image and peer pressure
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Rape and date rape including how being intoxicated (drunk or high on drugs), or accepting rides/going to private places with strangers or acquaintances puts you at risk
  • How choice of clothing and the way you present yourself sends messages to others about your interest in sexual behaviour

How should I talk to my children about sex?

Some parents are uncomfortable talking to their children about sex. It may help to practise what you want to say before you sit down with your son or daughter. Be sure to pay attention and listen, too. It may be helpful to have both parents present for support. Some kids may be embarrassed to talk about sex or to admit they don't know something, and so may not ask direct questions. Look for opportunities to bring up sexuality issues with your children. Opportunities may come from a scene on TV or in a film, a book or article, or the appearance of visible changes in your son or daughter such as the growth of breasts in girls and facial hair in boys. Explain the physical maturation process and the sexual arousal process. Remember to respect your child's privacy, and try to show that you trust him or her to make good decisions.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 30, 2014

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