are you in favor of giving contraceptive to teenagers?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

When Should Sex Education Start?

What Age Do You Talk with Your Kids About Sex?

Many parents want to know at what age is it appropriate to start teaching their children about sex. What most of us don’t think about is that the question presumes that there is an age at which sexuality becomes important or “an issue”. This presumption is 100% wrong. Sexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are, from birth to death. And while our sexuality isn’t the same when we’re six as when we’re sixteen, or sixty, it is always there and always a part of us. So the question isn’t so much when to start talking with your children about sex, but how to do it at every age and stage of their lives.

Many, possibly most, parents are less than proactive in talking about sex with their children, and don’t deal with it until moments like these:

  • Your toddler begins exploring his or her body in public and you’re not sure how to deal with it.
  • You wonder at what point it’s “not okay” to let your child see you without clothes on.
  • Your child asks you where they came from or where other babies come from.
  • Your child begins to ask questions about their body and why it looks different from their brothers or sisters.

Each of these are important teaching moments, and if you want to avoid dealing with situations and questions at awkward or inconvenient times (say, in the middle of a holiday service, at a family dinner, or just as your rushing off to work) you’re best protection is to be proactive, and make space for sex talks on an ongoing basis.

Teaching your children about sex should begin as soon as you’re communicating with them. If they have questions they’ll let you know. And even if they don’t, you can let them know that you’re open to the questions by including sex education in all the things you teach them.

A good example is body parts. A common early learning experience between parents and children is teaching the names of body parts. We all learn about our ears and eyes and nose and mouth. In fact we usually cover all the major parts of the body but many parents don’t include names for parts of the body they consider sexual (e.g. penis, nipples, vagina, etc…). They’ll ignore those parts of the body even while young children are learning about them by touching themselves. Make no mistake, children learn as much by what parents don’t talk to them about, as they do from what parents do tell them.

Of course talking with your children about sex is extremely difficult when you have questions of your own, and no comfort level or practice. But waiting doesn’t make it easier, and the most important thing for you to do is be willing to listen to your child and help them find answers even when you don’t have them.