How To Have "The Talk" With Your Children
The Talk. The birds and the bees. Some of us dread having this daunting discussion with our children so much that we can’t even bring ourselves to give it a proper name. We’re talking of course about sex education.
The fact of the matter is that while these sorts of talks can be a little awkward or uncomfortable at first, teaching our children about their bodies and their own sexualities is an important part of raising well-rounded, thoughtful adults. Guiding your children through these various topics and giving them room to ask questions is a great way to not only build trust but also equip them with the knowledge they need to navigate their world.
There are several important points to remember when having a conversation about sex with your children, the first being that curiosity is absolutely normal. Children aren’t just small adults. They perceive the world differently, and it’s one of the things that makes them such quick learners. So expect them to be at least passively interested in the discussion.
Here are a couple of other pointers that you can keep in mind that will help you guide the conversation.
Use The Right Names For Body Parts
As a culture, we tend to rename things that make us uncomfortable. When it comes to sex education, this is doubly true. However, it’s a good practice to use the correct terms for genitals and other body parts when discussing them with our children. Using the correct terms for anatomy means that they can communicate with you or with their medical providers if something is wrong. Injuries and yeast infections aren’t uncommon in children, and by using the right words parents and doctors can get a better understanding of what’s wrong.
Additionally, children are smarter than you think and will take the cues from you. If you are confident and calm when discussing sex education and topics related to it, then they’ll know it’s okay to approach you with questions.
Giving your children good information about sex and their bodies helps them as they grow. Sex education is about more than discussing what goes where and with who. It’s also about setting positive expectations about what healthy relationships look like as they get older. We all want our children to grow up and find someone that makes them happy. As is the case, we have to model what healthy relationships look like when we can.
Be A Safe Space
No one enjoys being teased about their bodies or their experiences. That goes double for children of any age. If your child decides to broach sex as a topic of conversation, make it a point to listen more than you talk. Furthermore, reassure your child that these discussions are private and that it’s safe to talk to you without the fear that their siblings might rib them about it later.
The When And Where
So when is the best time to have “The Talk” with your kids? To be honest, sex education shouldn’t be a one-and-done sort of a deal. That being said, there are certainly age-appropriate topics that we can divide up by life stage.
Birth to 2 Years
As your baby grows and develops, it’s perfectly all right to teach them the names of various body parts. When discussing anatomy, make sure you keep these discussions just as casual as you would when you’re mentioning toes or elbows.
Ages 2 to 5
It’s during this time that children begin to explore their own boundaries and an ideal time to start discussing the fundamentals of consent. By this, we mean what is appropriate when it comes to being touched and touching others. For instance, if your child doesn’t want to hug or be hugged, then that’s perfectly all right. In the same vein, if their playmate doesn’t want to hold hands or be tickled, it’s important that they understand that no means no and that respecting other people’s boundaries is just as important as knowing their own.
This age range is also around the time many children begin asking where babies come from. This can be approached in an age-appropriate way that doesn’t go into the specifics. Don’t worry, those will come later.
Puberty and Beyond
Ultimately, the pace at which you discuss the topic of sexuality and sex with your children will be dependent on your child. The important thing to remember is that you should be discussing it with your kids, because if you’re not---they’re discussing it with someone else, be that with friends, or discovering it in the digital space. Giving them safe, informative access to information is the healthiest approach. Of course, if you and your child are having difficulty communicating, our pediatricians are always available to offer advice and provide you with resources you can use to safely teach sex education to your growing family.
Pediatrics East Is Here To Help
Scheduling regular appointments with one of your Pediatrics East providers is one of the best ways to give both you and your child an opportunity to discuss these topics in a safe space. We’re here for the whole family, and growing up together is a journey in and of itself. If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s behavior or sexual health, we’re prepared to be your go-to resource. Make an appointment today!
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