Credit: matley0 at flickr

Prepare yourself

Sex is often an uncomfortable subject to discuss with a child, but when parents enter the conversation with an idea of what information to share and how to answer potential questions, it can be less intimidating. Prepare by reading and gathering information from helpful sources such as the library or doctor’s office.  Depending on what will be shared, pictures and diagrams may be advantageous to have on hand.  In the event that a child should bring up the subject before the parent introduces it, it may be appropriate to provide a succinct response and plan to discuss things further at a designated time. This would allow for preparation on the parent’s part.

Keep it age appropriate

While it is best to start at an early age, discussions about sexual matters should be age appropriate. A toddler can be taught proper names for their genitalia and be allowed to explore their bodies without being scolded or discouraged. It is important to teach them the need for boundaries and help them understand that it is not ok to touch their private parts in public, touch the private parts of others or allow theirs to be touched unless it is an adult helping them wipe or bathe. By age 9 or 10 a child will be getting closer to entering puberty and will need to be well-informed of the changes they will soon experience.   As part of a well-rounded discussion include information about both sexes with emphasis on what the particular child can expect. Because they are so closely linked, it is also appropriate to discuss sexual intercourse around this time or as part of the conversation about adolescent changes.  Explain the mechanics of the act, but also inject values and share the realm in which sexual relations are appropriate. As a child gets closer to the teenage years continue to build upon information already shared and discuss the possible repercussions of being sexually active as well as the need for protection.

Encourage open communication

Parents should not treat sex as a taboo subject, but instead welcome their child to ask questions and speak to them freely. If a child is made to feel comfortable they will continue to approach their parents when they desire information. By having open dialogue about sexual matters with their child as they age, parents can be sure they are doing their part to help them enter into sexual activity at an appropriate time and in a responsible matter.