Sex. How do you talk to your kids about sex? Why does talking about sex with our kids feel awkward most of the time? What’s the best approach to talk about dating, relationships, our bodies, and everything in between with them? What about the hard topics? These questions are hard to think about sometimes and even harder to answer. Luckily, we have a bunch of practical tips to help you know what to share with your kids at different ages, and how to make it a productive conversation that will help them learn to view sex in a healthy way.
Why is it so Awkward?
We as parents may not have had good conversations surrounding the topic of sex with our parents when we were growing up. Due to this experience, talking with our own children about sex can be scary, and our lack of comfort around the conversation makes it more awkward for everyone involved. We tend to give what we’ve been given. So if we’ve been given awkward, uncomfortable talks about sex as children, we will more likely then not give awkward, uncomfortable talks about sex to our children. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. As you and your spouse increase your comfort level around sex and the conversations surrounding this topic, you will be able to make these conversations with your children less of a chore, and something that they will be more willing opening up to you about.
One of the fallacies that increases our discomfort around discussing sex with our children is that when you are talking to your kids about sex, they will then want to run out and explore all the aspects about sex. However, research shows that the opposite of this is actually the truth. The more open you are with your children about sex and the different aspects of sexuality they will experience as they grow older, the children are more likely to wait to become sexually active and are overall more pleased with their sexual lives long term.
Who Should Give “The Talk”?
Dr. Tammy Hill always says “you were both there when this child was conceived, you should both be there when you are telling this child how conception happens.” It should be both parents! Statistically speaking, mothers are more likely to discuss sex with their daughters then they are with their sons, and more likely to discuss sex with any of their children over their fathers. 95% of children that are taught about sex, if they are taught at all, are taught by their mothers. But the best way to approach these conversations is with both the mother and father there, if possible, sharing the male and female perspectives of sexuality with their children. There will most likely be one parent that is more comfortable talking about sex than the other, and it is perfectly fine for that parent to be the lead in the conversation. But the other spouse should still be involved and jump in as needed.
Something that goes along with the fallacy talked about above (that talking about sex leads children to explore sex physically) is the idea that you shouldn’t talk about the pleasure side of sex and only its purpose for procreation. We think that if we talk about pleasure, our children are going to want to experience that pleasure. But there is no research that backs that up! When you teach your children about both the reproductive and the pleasure sides of sex, you are really opening up the conversation to become a great educational and relational tool.
Teaching Through Different Stages of Life
Sexual education with our children starts from the moment they are born. When our children are infants, it is the perfect time to practice using correct terminology and practice what we will say to them when they get older. If we don’t like the way something sounds, we can easily change it as these babies don’t understand the words we are saying. Hold that babe in your arms and tell them all about how they will develop and how sexuality plays into that. As you hold that little girl in your arms, tell her “you’ll menstruate” and explain what that means. As you hold your little boy in your arms, tell him “you’ll ejaculate” and what that means. You hear yourself saying these things out loud and become more comfortable saying those words. When your child gets older, you will then be able to talk to them about these things more easily and with more comfort.
Using correct terminology for our body parts is one of the best ways to help educate young children. When we choose to use nicknames for our body parts as opposed to their anatomically correct names, we tell our children two things- one, that we are uncomfortable using these terms, and two, that these parts of the body are dirty or somehow less perfect than the rest of the body God created for us. If your children think that you are uncomfortable using these terms, they won’t feel comfortable talking to you about any questions or issues they have that arise surrounding these body parts. A great way to practice this is by going through all of their body parts by their anatomical names during bath time. This means naming their testicles or vulva out loud when you are going through their elbows, knees, and toes at the same time.
Another thing that is important to talk with your children about at this age is that sex is designed to be relational, it was never intended to be something individually that we share by ourselves. It is something that was designed by our Heavenly Parents to be shared in marriage with our partner. And when we understand this, we are able to have a more beautiful and fulfilling sexual relationship with our spouse.
The more comfortable you can become in answering your children’s questions around sex, the more questions they will feel comfortable bringing to you. When your children come home with questions that you aren’t positive on how you want to answer, one thing you can do is say to them “when I come tuck you into bed tonight, we will talk more about this. I would like to be prayerful about this before we discuss it.” You can then take time to pray over how to answer. Once you know what you want to say, practice your answer in the mirror in your bathroom. Watching yourself answer these questions, you can see how your face looks, and try to put a more relaxed and natural look on your face before you go to talk to your child. They will feel more relaxed if you are also looking relaxed and able to answer their questions in a calm manner. Then be sure to ask your child what they think about the things you are teaching them. Let their thoughts be heard. And allow them to feel the way they do about it. They will learn that you are a safe space to share their thoughts and ideas about different difficult subjects and they will again be more willing to bring future questions to you.
When children become teenagers, their bodies are going to start having the natural reactions of arousal when approached with situations of sexual desire. Talk to your teenage children about what this means for their body. Help your sons realize that blood will flow to their genitals. Their penis will harden, which is called an erection. Help your daughters understand that they may start to feel wet in their genital area. Their nipples may begin to harden. Talk about what happens when you become aroused so that your children can start recognizing when sexual desire is happening for them. And if they understand that they are becoming sexually aroused, they will also be able to control their feelings better and be able to wait for sexual encounters until after marriage, or when their goal is. They will be able to step back and say that it is too much and that they need to stop in that moment, even if it feels a little awkward to do so. Be open and honest with your teenagers. They will surprise you with what they are capable of understanding and will be more open and honest with you as well.
One other extremely important time to talk with your children about sexual desire, how our bodies function in sex, and more, is right before they are married and about to have their first sexual experience with their new spouse. But be sure to talk with your children about things that will happen if they don’t understand them yet, and help them make sure they are prepared for their wedding night. Young women should have a premarital vaginal exam at a doctors office in order to check the health of her vagina and be ready for penetration. Young men should be taught about women’s arousal in order to help his wife reach orgasm at some point, and vice versa. This is the last time you have to answer your children’s questions before they start exploring these things physically with their spouse. Be sure they know that they can always bring their questions to you in the future as well, but that they should consult with their spouse first from this point on. Help your child realize they need to be having these conversations with their soon to be spouse. They should be talking openly about what kind of sex life they want to have together. If they need help with this, make it clear they can turn to you for help.
You Can Do It!
We know that speaking with your children about their sex lives is sometimes a bit of a daunting task. It will be ok though. The importance of speaking with your children about these topics cannot be over emphasized, so try hard to make these conversations happen. Use the tips above, and listen to a full podcast episode with Tammy Hill, LMFT, where we talked to her about this very subject at Get Your Marriage On! We hope this post shed a little bit of light on how to help sexual education conversations happen with your children at all phases of life.
Like what you read? Be sure to listen to the full podcast episode here and download the Intimately Us app, the fun and sexy app for your marriage! It’s full of games, connecting activities, and ideas to increase connection and pleasure in the bedroom.