As a sexual health educator and parent, I have frequent discussions with family, friends, teachers, and etc. asking me when should trusted adults have “The Talk” with the children/youth/young adults in their lives. My answer is simple, “it’s not just one talk, but several.” If you only focus on one particular conversation you risk limiting the topics of future conversations, as well as unintentionally allowing other people to fill the gaps with misinformation.
I recommend having a bunch of mini convos so that “The Talk ” does not burden you or embarrass or intrude on your child. Have a series of age-appropriate conversations about sex, sexuality, sexualization, and healthy relationships in order to build trust with them. When the time comes for them to make decisions about sex they will make informed decisions and be more likely to come to you with further questions or concerns.
Before I get into examples of the mini convos, I want to address a very important topic: VIRGINITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! UGHHHH!!!! In our society we hold up virginity like it is a medal of honor and only the best and brave deserve to deflower these very special women **sarcasm**. Everyone has a story and their own path. When deciding to have sex for the first time, it matters less about ‘“when” but more about “why?” Why have they made the decision to have sex?
Now with that out of the way. So, what are age-appropriate conversations about sex???
Parents of toddlers should explain to them the names of their genitals so they know what they are. Explain concepts like “good touch” and “bad touch,” and establish what comfortable boundaries are with touching, such as tickling. Empower them to know their personal space is exactly that, PERSONAL. Also, let them know they can tell you anything.
Around the ages of 6-8, as kids mature towards their preteens, you want to get into deeper conversations about sexual abuse and safety, especially in digital spaces. Be sure to address internet safety including the rules of not sharing nude photos and pornography. I personally think, in reference to pornography, you should explain to your children that porn is fantasy and they should not view fantasy for how sex will be in real life. While it may feel awkward to talk to your preteen about pornography recognize that you are preparing them for a mature and informed sex life; whether they have sex for the first time after prom or when they get married at 30.
During the preteen years you should start having conversations about the mechanics of sex, such as puberty and pregnancy. Explain sexual choices around reproductive health; discuss birth control and condoms. You also need to address risks such as STDs and HIV.
You may be wondering how to start the conversations mentioned above. Fortunately, the internet is rich with factual information about sex and sexual health. Websites such as the CDC or your local health departments are great resources. Also, you could always speak with a trusted health care provider for specific details. While it is important that you share age-appropriate and factual information with your children, the tone used to deliver the message should be an equally important consideration as well.
I recently had “The Talk” with my bonus son who is 14, and although I wanted him to walk away with factual information, I also wanted him to understand that regardless of his decisions, it is most important to be safe and smart. I was happy to answer all of his questions, and grateful that he asked me instead of a peer who could possibly be ill-informed. I am not quite ready to talk about how sex can be fun and pleasurable with my son, but if he asked me an honest question, I would give an honest answer.
In the end, it isn’t just about having “ The Talk” with my children but more so about several conversations held within a trusted relationship, in which its known they can ask anything concerning sex and sexual health and I will love and respect them no matter what.
Sloane Bickerstaff is a wifey, mom, sexual health communicator and sex positive enthusiast with a passion for comedy, film, and twerking.