How to Explain the Concept of Sex to Your Kids

How to teach your kids about sex

Where do babies come from?

Giving kids "the talk" remains a debatable issue among parents and educators. How do you explain the concept of sex? When do you talk to them about it?

As children grow older, they become more conscious of their bodies and their sexuality. They are more exposed to the media, the Internet, and their peers. At this stage, there is now a greater chance that the comfort bubble will burst and when that happens, the real probing about sex begins. And almost always, the parents are the ones put in the line of fire. So, how should parents deal with the inevitable issue of sex?

Timing your talk

The best time to talk to kids about sex is right before puberty, or what some might call the "tweenies" stage (eight to 12 years old). Discussing sex with kids at this time will not come as a surprise since they're starting to have secondary sex characteristics like pubic hair, menses in girls, and lowering of voices in boys. This may be right. These in-between years are significant as the time children increase their sexual awareness. The danger is they are being confronted with a glut of images and information before they are ready to absorb and comprehend it. If you accept that your most important role as a parent or a carer of a tweenie is to help them to understand their world and be confident about growing up, you should check regularly whether they feel comfortable with what they hear and see in relation to sex. If they are not, you should find ways to put them at ease.

Stop the malice

Whether you like it or not, the ultimate responsibility to educate children about sex lies on the parents. If a parent is not comfortable about the idea of sex itself, then this may create a problem on how the kid perceives it later in life. The first step is to treat sex without malice. When parents talk openly and fully to their children about sex, the first sexual experience is delayed, sex is more likely to be viewed as part of a relationship and the emerging adult ismore likely to take appropriate responsibility.

The birds and the bees

So, how much detail about sex should parents disclose to their children? Children can be taught about sex (and their sexuality) as soon as they start "asking about the birds and the bees" or as curiosity arises. These "teachable moments" should be taken advantage of as they present real opportunities to have a discussion with children – of course, using words that are within their level of comprehension. Because physical, mental, and emotional developmental vary among children, one cannot be too sure if the comprehension level among them will be the same. The best reassurance to offer is that physical intimacy is something that older people do and may seem peculiar and yucky but they will feel okay about it with the right person or when they are ready for it – or when it is allowed depending on cultural expectations.

School as a tool

While introducing kids to the idea of sex seems like a huge responsibility, parents have the right to initiate talks with the academic panel and the guidance counselor's office to ensure that the second source of information, next to them, is the school. The child's understanding of sex should be a shared responsibility between the parents (and family) and the school so he grows into a healthy and well-informed adult. The schools' main focus about sex (and sexuality) is to teach kids the anatomical framework (parts of the reproductive system and mechanics of reproduction). It is at home, through the parents, that they should be taught more clearly about the moral framework and the positive values related to sex.

Years ago, it may have been taboo for parents to mention sex to their children. But as values evolve and the world becomes increasingly candid about sensitive subjects like sex, parents must employ stronger responsibility over the kinds of information their children are exposed to – and sometimes being responsible means talking to them with complete sincerity and openness. Besides, isn't it comforting to know that you as a parent have the power to mold your children's beliefs in sex; and that these beliefs will eventually build the moral fiber that will rightly guide them in a highly "sexualized" environment?

Here are some tips to keeping sex at bay

1. Instill in your child's mind that inner beauty is the true measure of one's personality. Do not encourage your child to dwell on physical, external characteristics to gain approval and acceptance from family members and friends.

2. Be involved with your children's choices. While it is true that kids, especially those about to enter puberty or have just stepped into that stage, are beginning to exercise a little independence, make them realize that you still have a say in their decision. After all, they are not grown up adults yet.

3. When kids start asking question about their bodies, emphasize that they have the primary responsibility over their bodies. Thus, they have the right to protect their bodies, keep them clean, and ensure that nobody – not even their closest and most trusted friends – can "touch" them.

4. Ask older members of the family to be careful about their language when the younger kids are around.

5. When kids start asking about sex, do not blush, get mad, or brush them off. Instead, have a chat with them. Welcome their questions and use your wisdom when answering them. Nobody knows your child more than you do.

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Posted on Mar 25, 2010