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A Complete Guide to Explaining Sex to Your Children

By Guest Blogger, Sandra C.

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Family eating their breakfast sitting at the table

To many parents, this is one of the most dreading conversations you can have with your children. Talking about sex is such a vital part of life, but it’s necessary that you explain it in such a way that they understand what it’s for, what happens and what the risks are.

However, each child is unique and will need to be told in their own way. Do you have the conversation at a young age when they’re 7-8 or do you wait until they’re 16? To give you a helping hand, here is a complete guide to help you make the best decision.

0 – 2 Years Old

It may surprise you that children are sexually conscious from birth. You may have been changing a diaper or washing your child in the bath, only to realize that they play with their own genitals. It’s safe to say that this isn’t a one-off occurrence.

It’s true, if you have a son, you may realize they also frequently have erections, even from a young age. Although your child may be too young to understand how sex works and what it’s for, it’s good to bear in mind that this mindset is already there.

Bear in mind that it’s never too early to start teaching your kids about the proper names for their genitals. If your child frequently touches themselves and ask questions, it’s fine to tell them what it is. You may encounter situations where your child touches themselves in public. If this is the case, simply tell them this isn’t acceptable, but don’t shame them or make a scene.

2 – 6 Years Old

As you can expect, toddlers are not only curious about their own bodies and their own toy belongings, but also about other toddlers around them. You’d be surprised at how much attention toddlers give to others and their bodies. With this in mind, be prepared to answer many questions that will come your way.

Although, at this age, you won’t want to give them a step-by-step guide on how to have sex, you can tell them a simple version of, for example, where babies come from, should the question arise.

You can say something like ‘When Mommy and Daddy love each other, Daddy’s seed and Mommy’s egg come together to make a baby.’

However, you know your child better than anyone, so it’s important that you gauge how understanding and how much information you give to them.

If you catch your child touching other children, always remember that this is simply curiosity and no harm is intended. Don’t scold your child for it, simply tell them they can touch themselves in private, but someone else is out of bounds.

7 – 10 Years Old

As we move up the age ranges, your child will become increasingly curious. You can expect to hear flat-out questions such as ‘Where do babies come from?’ and ‘What is sex?’ At this age, children are mentally much more understanding yet they’re not at an age where the conversation could be conceived as embarrassing.

At this age, you can begin to teach your children about puberty, as this is the stage they’re starting to enter. For example, you may like to show your children, both boys, and girls, what a tampon is and how it works. You can simply do this using a dish full of water.

However, be prepared for questions that may shock you, such as ‘What’s a blowjob?’ If you haven’t got an answer prepared, tell them you’ll tell them later but do make sure this is what you do and don’t leave the conversation hanging.

You can’t simply tell them ‘It’s another word for oral sex when two adults touch genitals with their mouths.’ You may consider using illustrated books to explain any questions they may have, without getting too deep into it.

10 – 13 Years Old

This is when sex becomes a lot more personal as your children have entered puberty. The concept of sex itself has now transformed into something that will gross them out, and they may be embarrassed to talk about. Make it clear that you’re happy to engage in conversation if they want to.

Hair will now start to grow, and their bodies will change so just ensure that you’re honest with your child when they have a question. It’s all natural, and there’s nothing to be ashamed for.

You’ll also want to start educating about the risks of sex and the fact that they can get pregnant as well as the risks of STDs. You will have to be explicit while explaining these concepts.

14+ Years Old

This is easily the most important part of their growing up life when it comes to sex. Hormones will be out of control, and the concept of sex becomes very real. Depending on your child’s social groups, they may be very distant from the idea of sex or they may be feeling pressured to do so.

However, most teenagers will not want to talk about it with their parents, but it’s important that you give them the option to unjudgmentally. Nowadays, it’s important to educate your children that in the sex-indulged world, in music videos and television series, isn’t real and everyone can make their own decisions when they’re ready.

As your child enters this stage, it’s imperative you talk about contraception and where to get it. For boys, you’ll want to introduce the idea of condoms as you will with girls. The contraceptive pill is okay, but there are a lot of long-term health issues, including cancer, depression, and anxiety, involved with them.

Final Thought

As a parent, it’s ultimately up to you when you decide to talk to your child about what as you know them better than anyone. As some broad advice, always be respectful of everything your child says, don’t place any kind of judgment on them and always give them the opportunity to talk when they’re ready.

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About the Author: Sandra Cobain is a child psychologist by profession. She’s currently the editor-in-chief of BestForTheKids.com, a parents’ blog that covers parenting tips, various kids’ stuff. In her free time, she likes to play outdoors with her two small kids.