Does the mere thought of having to explain what sex is to your kids make you break out in cold sweat?
Don’t worry – you’re not alone.
The first time I talked to my child about sex (my eldest was about six years old then), I used a simple book called The Wonderful Way Babies Are Made to help me get the conversation going. Having a book to introduce the topic was great but guess what, I still felt sweat beads forming on my forehead. (This was about the time we finished the book when my daughter asked, “Do you and dad have sex?”)
As I pondered over the “sex talk”, I realise that it isn’t so much a one-off talk as it is an ongoing conversation. It’s like going on a journey with your child where there are signs filled with information on their unique bodies, identity, puberty, and love and relationships.
Contrary to what people think, conversations about sex encompasses much more than the sex act alone, and needs to be handled age-appropriately.
While educating kids about sex and sexuality isn’t the easiest task on earth, being mentally prepared for it helps. Read on for more ideas and resources.
1. The pre-school years
During the pre-school years, the focus is on body awareness and body safety. This is the time to teach children about our various body parts and their proper names.
It is also key to introduce to them the concept of body safety – use the terms “good touch” versus “bad touch” to teach children that their private body parts should remain private. Give them the words to use if they find themselves in a situation where they feel uncomfortable, such as “Stop it, I don’t like this. I’m going to tell my mum and dad.”
Books such as The Swimsuit Lesson may help to make the idea more concrete and understandable to young children.
2. The primary years
As our children mature and enter formal schooling, the focus shifts to providing simple but accurate information about where babies come from.
During this time, children may grow more aware of sensual images that are shown on billboards or advertisements. Thus it is also apt to inculcate a sense of respect in our young – respect for other people’s bodies as well as their own.
A friend of mine shared with me a great way of helping her kids deal with sexualised images that we may chance upon in the media. She tells them, “This person needs some privacy – let’s give them that by looking somewhere else.”
Whenever we chance upon images that are filled with scantily-clad bodies, my husband and I use it as a learning opportunity to teach the kids more about this topic.
During the late primary years, you may wish to use illustrations or books to help your children understand the changes in their bodies, covering different aspects such as menstruation, growth of the breasts and penis, and emotional changes.
3. The teen years
As children enter adolescence, it is normal for them to be curious about love and sex. Try to remain open to their questions and refrain from being too quick to judge. By doing so, we offer them a safe space to seek information, advice, and support.
Try to remain open to their questions and refrain from being too quick to judge.
This is a good time for us to emphasise our values and desires for them in this area of life, backed with reason and research. At the same time, don’t be afraid to be honest with them – that sex is pleasurable, designed for a married couple to enjoy, and that it involves not just the physical, but also the emotional aspects of a person.
It may also be apt to talk with your teen about pornography, highlighting its addictive dangers and the false images of sex that it portrays.
No matter what the age of your child, it is never too late to begin having open and honest conversations about sex.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you must cover the topic or question perfectly every time you talk with your child. It’s absolutely fine to say, “That’s a good question. I’m not sure how to answer that now, but give me some time to read up on it and I’ll get back to you later.”
There will be awkward and difficult questions for sure, but remember this: how we respond will either instil confidence or fear in our children about asking anything in the future.
So let’s keep the communication lines open, and aim to be our children’s trusted information source and confidante.
© 2019 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
When should you begin talking to your child about sexuality matters?
What resources will you use to help you? Check out the Talk about Sex topics on our blog.