It’s a sticky subject.
Nevertheless, it’s something all of us as parents must broach with our children somewhere along the line.
Gone are the days of protecting innocence and telling tales of storks miraculously delivering bundles of joy by moonlight.
Or, similarly, the notion of sitting down a mortified teenager for one big awkward talk about the “birds and the bees”. These antiquated ideas have been usurped in favour of open and honest conversation starting early on in a child’s life.
That’s easier said than done, though.
Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of discussing sex with their children.
But it’s worth doing. Children whose parents talk about sex openly start having sex themselves at a later age, NHS research shows. They’re also more likely to use contraception. So put your qualms to one side, roll up your sleeves and get down to some chat…
First, you need to ensure that your child knows it’s OK to talk about sex. Let them ask as many questions as they can think of (and you can be sure they will).
“Children whose parents talk about sex openly start having sex themselves at a later age, NHS research shows”
Although this may feel awkward at first, keep your tone light and try not to show discomfort. The earlier you normalise these chats in your home, the better – this sets the tone for future conversations, right through to adolescence. (When things start getting really complicated).
Remember, it’s OK to laugh – using humour is an excellent way of breaking tension and when you think about it, sex must seem a pretty funny activity to children…
Children are naturally curious and want to know the ins out outs of everything around them. This includes their own bodies. You’ll need to be ready for the age-old question: “Where do babies come from?”
Don’t fret too much: nine times out of ten they’ll bring up the subject before you do. Be mindful and remember, if your child is old enough to ask, they’re ready for the truth.
Obviously, your answers will need to be age-appropriate, and sometimes a small amount of information will suffice.
Don’t worry about saying too much – children will only take in as much as they can understand. Besides, the majority of young kids have the attention span of a fruit fly, so will quickly switch off if they become uninterested.
If your child hasn’t asked any questions, don’t panic. Sex education is taught in school from the age of four. These classes are not mandatory and parents are allowed to withdraw their children if they wish. But for those who do take part, they act as the perfect introduction for starting the conversation about sex.
Your school will send you confirmation before the sessions take place and you will also have access to what will be taught. It’s a good idea to prepare your child in advance. Be prepared for the barrage of new information and more cringe-inducing questions when your little ones return.
There is a dramatic difference between innocence and ignorance
Professionals recommend talking about it afterwards and asking what they have learned – such a process helps children digest the information properly. Also, home-based discussions that reinforce what they learn at school means they will be less inclined to giggle, be more confident and have better-informed views as they grow.
They say knowledge is power – while you might be afraid of your child losing their innocence too soon, you should understand that by discussing sex and healthy relationships with them, you are helping to empower them.
Omitting to do so could leave them vulnerable to abuse or sexual exploitation. There is a dramatic difference between innocence and ignorance. Innocence is freedom from guilt or shame, while ignorance means lacking vital information and knowledge that will protect your child from potential harm.
Finally, and most importantly, no one knows your child like you do.
You’ll find the best way to talk about awkward sex stuff comes through trial and error. No one can read your child and their responses in the way that you can, after all…