Raising Kids to be Wise About Sex and Relationships

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Raising Kids to be Wise About Sex and Relationships

Getting acquainted with the birds and the bees

By Sophia Huang | 19 January 2023

How to begin talking to kids about sex

“My son came home today with the words ‘sex’ and ‘kiss’ scribbled on pieces of paper. He’s been picking up bad words from the kids on the bus,” shared my friend.

Parents are the first teachers of their children. When it comes to the topic of sex, however, it’s likely that kids have already been given an introduction by their friends, the media or the Internet.

If you’re unsure of how to approach talking to your kids about the birds and the bees, know that you’re not alone. Here is some advice that I’ve gleaned over the years from others and from my own experience.

Start young

In my home, we usually start the conversations as soon as the child is verbal, around the toddler ages of 2-3.

It’s never too young to start by teaching our kids the proper names of private body parts. Doing so allows them to feel confident and unashamed of their body.

Should they encounter unfortunate situations of inappropriate touch, they are also more able to accurately describe these incidents to teachers and caregivers.

As kids observe the world around them, they begin to understand and perhaps point out differences between the sexes. I often use these opportunities to explain the differences between men and women’s bodies, such as only women being able to breastfeed and carry a baby in the womb.

It’s never too young to start by teaching our kids the proper names of private body parts. Doing so allows them to feel confident and unashamed of their body.

Boundaries, good touch, bad touch

From there, we talk about what is a good touch or bad touch, and set appropriate boundaries such as “no one is allowed to touch your swimsuit area”, and while changing my child, “mummy is only touching your privates to wash away the poo”.

Kids are allowed to reject requests from family members for hugs and kisses if they aren’t comfortable. At the same time, we teach them that hugging is an appropriate way to show our love to family and are liberal with our affection towards them.

Use resources

If you do not know where or how to start talking about sex and reproduction, look for age-appropriate books and resources on the topic. Cuddling up with a child to read a book provides a safe space for them to pause, ponder and ask questions if needed. We typically introduce these around age five to six, and move on to books the child can read alone or together with us as they grow older.

It is also important to constantly learn, read and educate ourselves as parents on how to speak to kids on sex and relationships, to gain the appropriate language to communicate with our children.

Our Talk About Sex video series is child-friendly and designed to help you handle tricky topics like sex and relationships. It’s free and you can easily access each episode via a weekly link sent to your email inbox, accompanied by tips and convo guides. Register interest here.

Ask me anything

Keep an open mind and open ear. A friend of mine tells her kid to “ask her anything” — she has a no holds barred policy to questions on sex and sexuality. As a result, her teenage daughter had a reputation as a source of proper answers to curious questions, and has received requests such as: “Please ask your mother what is masturbation.”

By providing clear answers and not being afraid to broach difficult subjects, she gained the trust of her kids (and others). It is far better that kids gain credible answers from parents or trusted adults, rather than getting patchy or inaccurate information from peers or the World Wide Web.

Seize opportunities

Look for chances to address the topic of sex when it comes up in a natural context. For example, encountering two bugs mating can be an opportunity to talk about reproduction.

Kids are naturally curious and it’s likely they themselves will come to you with questions as long as we are ready and unashamed with the answers to: “Where do babies come from?”

It is far better that kids gain credible answers from parents or trusted adults, rather than getting patchy or inaccurate information from peers or the World Wide Web.

Speak plainly and simply

Use language that children as young as toddlers can understand. You can use phrases such as:

On sex

“When a man and a woman love each other very much, they want to get as close to each other as possible.”

“Men and women are like puzzle pieces that fit together. Their bodies fit together too.”

“When they connect together, they can create a baby.”

“Half of you is from mummy and the other half is from daddy.”

“The father provides the sperm and it joins with the mother’s egg.”

On marriage

“When a man and woman get married, they make a very important promise that they will never leave each other no matter what happens.

“If they aren’t married, have sex and have a baby, what do you think will happen? Maybe one party will say they don’t want the baby and go away forever.”

“Children thrive best when they grow up in a loving home with both their mummy and daddy.”

Communicate not only the dangers, but the wonder of sex

Besides talking to my kids about the consequences of sex outside of marriage, I also show them scientific YouTube videos to communicate the wonder of birth and conception. “Every person is a miracle,” I say. They watch as on screen, millions of sperm make their way through the vaginal canal, with most dying along the way, until one penetrates the egg. “Do you know how amazing and difficult it is for a person to be conceived?” I ask.

I also show them pregnancy videos of a baby’s growth in the womb and talk to them about when I first heard their heartbeat, show them pictures of their ultrasound scans and talk about how I felt their kicks in the womb.

Through such conversations, I hope for them to walk away with a clear idea of how precious life is and that life begins in the womb.

At the same time, I try to make children aware of different kinds of families by drawing their family tree, discuss examples of unconventional family structures around us and talk about what would happen if a baby grows up without a father or mother.

Live in community

It is important to allow kids to grow up with families that share likeminded values.

Growing up with other wholesome adults as well as older peers whom they can emulate teaches children how to relate to others. As they observe interactions within families, spouses and parents and children, these help to shape their understanding of the world and broaden their experience.

It is never too early to start talking to your kids about sex.

In the example of the bus notes, my friend was advised to ask her child if he knew the meaning of those words and that became a starting point to talk about sex. Your kid heard about sex first from his friends? No worries. Even negative examples can be turned into a positive learning opportunity and open the conversation on the birds and the bees.


© 2023 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Sophia Huang is a part-time children’s author, copy editor and full-time parent. She is a life-long learner on how to mother her three kids. She believes half the battle is won when children are well fed, have a good nap and have fun.

Need help talking about such tricky topics with your child? Sign up for our free Talk About Sex (TAS) video series that is child-friendly and designed to help facilitate parent-child convos. Covering topics like ‘Where do babies come from’, you can easily access each episode via a weekly link sent to your email inbox, packed with tips and convo guides. Register your interest here!

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