Depending on the which study you read the average age of exposure to sex by way of pornography is 8-11 years old. Unfortunately, most parents are having the sex talk well after that. As parents we can either help build our child’s view of sexuality or react and respond to a view of sex being built by their peers and the culture.
Every time I bring up the sex talk near a group of parents the same questions pop up from wide eyed moms and flustered dads.
How do you begin to talk about sex with your kids?
What age do you have the talk?
How much detail is appropriate?
Do you say penis?
To which I often quip: Begin with words. Talk about sex with your kids before other kids talk about sex with your kids (It’s sooner that you think). Your kids need enough detail to know what you’re actually talking about. Yes, I say penis, and if I’m talking about a penis I also mention the vagina… and how they work together.
Your kids will talk to you about things you talk about with them, and they won’t talk to you about things you don’t talk about. Here are are a few tips to help you with the first sex talk.
Sex Talk Tips
- The goal is not to have a “one-and-done” talk. The goal is to open a healthy ongoing dialogue with your child about sex and sexuality so that your children are comfortable coming to you with questions as they arise, and trust me, they will arise.
- You and your spouse need to talk first to ensure you’re on the same page. If you’re starting the sex conversation, both parents need to be ready to talk about sex regardless of the child’s gender. If possible, I recommend the same gender parent has the initial one-to-one sex talk. After the initial talk both parents should be open to sex related conversations. There may be unique questions your child has for each parent. Use your discretion for what is appropriate.
- Have the talk sooner than later. I had the talk with my oldest son at the age of 8 because I he rides the bus with older kids who have already begun talking about sex and/or have access to porn on their phones. I usually recommend having the talk somewhere between 7-9 years old so that your conversation can be proactive instead of reactive. It’s much easier to sustain a healthy dialogue about sex when you lay the foundation and open the doors of communication before others.
- Don’t make the sex talk weird. Don’t take a special trip, or have a notebook stuffed with info, or use diagrams on poster board. Go somewhere you can talk openly and tell your child you want to talk about something important. Then jump in. Be normal.
- Ask questions first. Things like, “Do you know what sex is? Have you heard about sex before? Have you ever seen pictures or videos of other people without clothes on?” Don’t talk too much. Let them talk and share what they know. This is will give you an idea of how much they have or have not been exposed to.
- Use actual words related to sex. If you’re being proactive, your child may not know much. With my oldest, I explained the penis and vagina. We talked about how they fit together, how babies are made, healthy ways to have sex, and unhealthy ways to have sex. We talked about God and sex. We talked about the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of sex. If your child already has some knowledge of sex, or you’re having the conversation late, they may have slang words they picked up. As the parent, use the plain scientific words.
- Give your child the opportunity to ask questions. When it comes to sex questions your child can start a question with, “Hey dad… or hey mom…” or they can start with “Ok google…” I promise you, google’s answers will be a tad more graphic. Here were some of my son’s questions and snippets of my answers. (He asked well over 20 questions during our first conversation about sex.)
- What does it feel like? It feels very good physically, and it makes mommy and daddy feel very close with our love for each other.
- Do you make a baby every time you have sex? Thankfully, no buddy.
- So you have sex when you don’t want to make a baby? Yes, God made sex to make babies, but he also made sex for husbands and wives to have fun and enjoy each other.
- When do you and mommy have sex? When you kids aren’t around or awake.
- In addition to the above we talked about STI’s, pregnancy, why God made sex to be fun, and more. The important thing is to let your child ask questions and give them real answers. There were questions where I replied, “Let’s talk about that question another time,” or “Let me talk to your mom first, then I’ll get back to you.” I know that one day he will come home having heard about orgasms, oral sex, orgies, gay, lesbian, anal sex, fetishes, and more. The goal is to be open and truthful enough when he asks questions now so that he won’t be ashamed or feel too awkward to ask questions in the future. As a parent we can’t cover everything, but we can cover most things.
- Use everyday opportunities to continue the dialogue. Our culture is sex packed. There are sexual innuendo’s in cartoons. Billboards with scantily dressed women on freeways. Internet ads. It’s everywhere. Don’t waste the opportunity. If you see your child catching onto something use it as an opportunity to continue have real conversation about sex. Ask good questions. Expect gritty questions. Give real answers.
- Talk about porn. In our tech saturated era, pornography is accessible and widespread. It is important to mention to your kids what porn is and give them guidance on what to do when they see porn. Tell them what it is. Tell them why it’s not a true expression of sex, and explain the effects it has on life. Check out this site for some great info to help you learn.
- Lastly, share your values behind any of the decisions and conversations. Your kids deserve it. What’s the reason for the answer? Don’t let “because I said so” become part of the sex talk conversation or the conversation will quickly die. As a pastor I value God’s sexual ethic in the Bible (not to be confused with what the church often says about sex). I strive to explain why I believe sex is best between a husband and wife.
In the next post “Let’s Talk About Sex & Tech” we’ll look at some practical tips and tools to help you navigate parenthood in the midst of easily accessible porn, sexting, and a culture of promiscuity.