Talking to Children about Sex

mom having talk with teen daughterParents can and should have the most significant effect on their children’s sexuality. In today’s world, there are many sources for children to gain information about sexuality and much of that information is not correct. Parents have the opportunity to protect their children from the potentially harmful consequences of sex, counteract misinformation from other sources, and  communicate their own values regarding sex when they talk to their children about sex and sexuality.1 Sadly, there are many parents who do not talk to their children.1

One study found that parents often perceive certain barriers which discourage them from talking to their children about this topic. These barriers include, but are not limited to, thinking that children are not ready to hear about sex, not knowing how to talk about sex, the parents’ lack of time or energy, the child’s lack of receptivity, parents’ embarrassment or discomfort, not having thought about the need to talk about sex, dysfunction in some families, and language and cultural barriers between parents and children.1 Research has found that when parents overcome these barriers and do talk to their children about sexuality their children have sex at a later age and have better communication with their future romantic partners.2

So what should parents do?

  • Talk to your children when they are young.1, 3
    • “Before children’s bodies start to change, you need to prepare them for peer pressure. You need to educate them about risks and prepare them for challenges.”1
  • Make it an ongoing conversation.1, 2, 3, 4
    • “The most important thing for a parent and child in sexual health is open communication.”1, 2
  • Develop a good relationship with your children.2
  • Model an appropriate romantic relationship and sexuality with your spouse.3
  • Recognize and take advantage of the teachable moments that arise.1, 3
    • “When something comes on the radio or television about sex, do you turn it off so your children can’t hear? Or do you talk about it?”1
    • Talk about what is happening in children’s sex education classes.2
  • Create opportunities to talk about sex.2
  • Use religious teachings and the church community as supports.2, 3
  • Some specific things to let your children know…1
    • The facts so they can understand themselves better.
    • That nobody should pressure them to have sex.
    • That you love them.

This website has some great videos that explain the importance of talking to children about sexuality and how we should talk to our children.

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1 Wilson, E. K., Dalberth, B. T., Koo, H. P., & Gard, J. C. (2010). Parents’ perspectives on talking to preteenage children about sex. Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health, 42(1), 56-63. doi:10.1363/4205610

2 Knopf, A. (2015). Talking to your child about sex, sexuality, and health: Facts + love = success. Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 31, 1-2.


4 Berk, Laura (2010). Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 7th ed. Boston, MA.

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