Are you anxious about giving “the sex talk”? Experts say you don’t have to, as long as you start talking to your kids about the birds and the bees from an early age. If you wait until their early or even middle teens, it will have been too late.
"The notion that we are supposed to have one talk about the birds and the bees and be done with it is a myth," says L. Kris Gowen, a developmental psychologist and senior research associate at Portland State University in Oregon.
Instead, parents should maintain a dialogue with their children from the time they’re able to speak all the way until early adulthood. The Wall Street Journal story offers a helpful breakdown of appropriate topics for each age group:
- The clinical names for body parts
- Pregnancy and birth
- What is a "safe touch" and what is not
- Introduction to puberty
- Telling your child that there are pictures or videos of naked people on the Internet, and that these are not OK for kids
- Telling your kids that, when they’re older, sexual relationships can be good or harmful
- Explain your own values about specific topics
- What is a safe, loving, and healthy relationship?
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- When is someone ready for sex? What are other kids at school doing?
- Emphasize the “why” of values
- Complex issues such as casual sex, peer pressure, and date rape
Keeping an open dialogue makes parents better equipped to deal with the bombardment of sex-related headlines in the media: celebrity sex scandals, sexting among teens, online relationships, Internet pornography, and the list goes on.
Kids who feel comfortable enough to talk about sex with their parents are more likely to talk to them about other things, as well as make better decisions about sexuality later on.
“Talking to Your Kids About Sex” by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
“Teaching Good Sex” by Laurie Abraham: NY Times article about Al Vernacchio, an educator with an unconventional approach to sex ed
“What Teen Sex on ‘Glee’ Really Teaches Kids” by Meredith Melnick: Time Magazine story on the kind of message that popular TV shows like “Glee” send to kids about sexuality