Why Is It So Stressful Talking To My Kids About Sex?

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Why is it So Stressful Talking to My Kids About Sex?

Start young, start somewhere

By Tracey Or | 1 March 2022

My husband and I had picked our precociously energetic six year old from kindergarten one day following our usual routine. All of a sudden, she blurted out unbridledly from the backseat of our car, “Mummy, what’s an orgasm?”

My ears did a backflip, while I sat stunned for a moment in disbelief at what I had just heard. My eyes met my husband’s while we exchanged raised eyebrows in what we felt was uncomfortable wriggle room. Fortunately, I recovered just in time to return a question in a quick serve.

“What do you think it is, dear? And why do you ask?”

“Today my teacher drew a picture of it on our white board….”

“And it looks like something from under the water – from KorKor’s science encyclopedia!”

Realisation came in a wave of relief and suppressed giggles. “Do you mean organism?”

“Yes Mummy, what’s an organism?”

I laughed. We all did – having narrowly escaped being put in a spot in the most potentially  awkward conversation ever. While we are usually ready to teach our children anything they want to learn, (think reading, math, good manners), we aren’t AS ready to launch into graphic discussions about sex and how babies are made – despite knowing that it is an important conversation to address in their lives!

Culturally, being raised in a largely conservative Asian society doesn’t help. Most of us may have never had such a conversation with our own parents. It is probably not wrong to say that parents in that era simply evaded this topic altogether, leaving their children to piece together the nuances of their sexual understanding through a collective smattering of euphemisms for sexual acts and body parts.

Their only question after the talk was, ‘Can we go and play Lego now?’

A friend, a parent of four, recounted her experience (or lack of) bringing up the sex topic to her kids:

“Their only question after was, ‘Can we go and play Lego now?’ I was self-conscious because it was not a topic someone spoke to me about. (I discovered the meaning of sexual intercourse from the dictionary, and it shocked me when I found out.) But I was determined to not pass such stigma down to my kids. I want them to see the gift and miracle of sex.”

Psychologists like Joye Swan, chair of the department of psychology and social sciences at Woodbury University, California, reckons it “can be weird to think of our family members as sexual beings for the same reason it was weird to see our teachers outside of school”.

Our kids may also find it difficult to accept parents giving advice on sex as it feels uncomfortable and awkward to visualise them in these roles as lovers or sexual beings, which disconnects from their primary roles and image as caregivers.

Parents too, may find it unnatural to accept their child’s progressive coming of age – preferring to assume their child stays in a perpetual state of innocence.

When the kids were about 10 years old, they would start to talk through the physical changes in their bodies, and even prepare a gift pack for them as they hit puberty, as a gesture of celebration.

Ming, a 16-year-old, said she’d much rather google all her queries on sex than ask any graphic or awkward questions to her parents.

Another teen commented that he would prefer to disassociate the topic where possible; preferring to have a teacher explain it as a subject in class.

If we feel unsettled talking to our kids about sex, the kids, especially older teens, definitely feel it too. Nevertheless, how can we make this important topic more approachable?

A fellow mum of three adolescents shared that she speaks with her girls separately while her husband tackles this subject with their son. As a family, they prefer to approach the topic as an ongoing conversation rather than a one-off talk.

Starting as young as four or five, they would introduce concepts such as “good touch, bad touch” and parameters for physical touch and affection, such as when to give or receive hugs, within different social contexts.

When the kids were about 10 years old, they would start to talk through the physical changes in their bodies, and even prepare a gift pack for them as they hit puberty, as a gesture of celebration.

Some parents use books to lead them into conversations on sexuality, such as The Ultimate Girls' Body Book: Not-So-Silly Questions About Your Body by  Walt Larimore, MD , and Amaryllis Sanchez Wohlever, MD. (There is an equivalent guide for boys.)

Most would agree that communication about sex ought to start when a child is very young and continue through his life stages and eventually when he or she forms relationships. No matter which stage your child is at, let’s start this conversation somewhere!


© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Tracey Or is a full time mother of six, part-time dreamer and writer at her blog, Memoirs of a Budget Mum. Those who know her well knows she gets through life with a good joke, coffee and the occasional Netflix.

Did you know that sexuality education is more than just talking about the birds and the bees? It’s about helping your children become confident about themselves, learn how to make good decisions, and how to build healthy relationships. Find out more at our upcoming webinar:Relational Health & Sexual Intelligence.


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