In our world today, sex, pornography and sexual experimentation are ambient.  We live in an “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” world where immediate gratification, impulse and sexual pleasure reign.  Most of our teenagers have been spoon-fed a steady diet of these sexual messages and many learn about sex from Internet pornography or the misguided cues of Hollywood celebrities.

Talking about sexuality with our kids often feels intimidating and awkward but the sooner we start, the easier the conversation will be.  If you wait until your son or daughter is a teenager, chances are they will be taking their cues from the culture around them, so start early.  Your kids want and need your advice, regardless of age.

So, to help, we’ve come up with a simple guide (the full version is here, called “The Talk”) to help, but some key points include:

  • To think through possible questions that your child may have and talk them through with your spouse to make sure you are on the same page before talking with your child.
  • Don’t worry about knowing all of the answers to your child’s questions; it’s more important to set a good tone with regard to how you respond.
  • Help your child understand that no subject, even sex and pornography, is taboo.
  • Watch for teachable moments.

You’ll need to engage with them in an age-appropriate fashion, so:

For children aged 1-7, the talk will start simply and focus primarily on education about body parts and appropriate and inappropriate touching.  Once your children are in the 8-10 age range, talking about sex, puberty and the media will become more important, and as your kids enter their tween and teenage years, it will be critical for parents to reinforce healthy body image and respect for others and for one’s own body as well as combat the loads of misinformation your kids will likely be encountering almost daily.  I would strongly encourage you to check out our guide for the specifics about talking about these subjects.  Remember, however, to try to never embarrass, shame or blame your son or daughter as they open up to you. Always take a few deep breaths before responding and remember that how you respond to your son or daughter will go a long way in setting the tone for future conversations.