Talking to Your Kids About Safer Sex

We all want our kids to be safe. When it comes to sex, we will feel differently about our children’s sexuality depending on our own values, beliefs, comfort zones, and knowledge. One mother may buy her kids condoms once they reach fourteen, another will tell her kids she hopes they wait to have sex until they’re married. 


Talking About Sex Doesn’t Mean “Do It”

Delivering accurate sexual health and safer sex information doesn’t have to clash with the hope that your kids won’t have sex when they’re too young. What it can do is support your kids with knowledge and confidence to meet situations head on: speculative sex talk with peers, interactions with dates. Knowledge is important, and you can convey your values in how your kids use it. Another way of looking at it is that if we don’t give our kids sexual health info, the media, their peers and potential predators will. Only you can ensure the information will be accurate. 


Children Are Sexual Beings From The Beginning

Children have natural curiousity about their bodies, and our job as parents is to help them find ways to express it in healthy ways. Sex educators of children emphasize that a healthy sexuality includes knowledge of the proper names of body parts, and how they function. It also includes a clear understanding of who can and cannot touch a child in private areas. Doctors may be okay with permission, but an uncle is not, for example. A child always has the right to speak about any trespasses that occur.  We can support their exploration of their bodies as long as it’s safe and appropriate. We tell our three year olds that it’s not okay to have their hands down their pants in the grocery store, but it’s okay in private at home. We tell our fourteen year old that it’s not okay for a boy to insist on sex when she’s said no.

Educating children and teens about their bodies (termed body science, by nurse educator Meg Hickling, who has written a number of excellent books for kids an adults*) wasn’t in place when many of us were children. For those of us who have experienced abuse, talking about sex with anyone, let alone children, can be tough.  We don’t want our children to be abused, and those who have accurate knowledge about their bodies and relationship boundaries are less likely to be victimized.

If talking to your kids about  sex is new to you, it could feel awkward, and  resources are available. Not surprisingly, it’s easiest to start talking about healthy sexuality and safety in relationships when kids are little- three or four isn’t too young to talk about the names of body parts and that they’re private and worth protecting. Introducing openness, pride and confidence leads the way to further conversations down the line, when safer sex conversations will be appropriate. Developing a positive stance on sexual health is a model for kids to follow- if mom feels okay talking about this, why shouldn’t I? No matter what the age of your kids, offering them positive messages about their bodies, sexual health and making choices about having safe sex will help them. Even if you have teenagers who tune you out, they’ll listen to talk about sex, although they might pretend not to.

Tell your kids they matter. Offer them resources. And be brave: talk with them. 

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More Information: Sexual health science, culture and news for women edging to middle age, parents and educators. Info on sexually transmitted infections, relationship dynamics, aging and sexual health, and sex education.

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