Ah, the birds and the bees chat. An excruciating thought for some, but talking about sex with your child at the right time, and in the right way is incredibly important. As a parent, you have the ability to cultivate a strong and healthy sexual foundation for your kid, where they understand crucial things like consent, boundaries, pleasure, as well as STI and pregnancy prevention. Still feel daunted? Here are four tips that may help.
Choose your timing
There may not be a perfect time to have "the talk", but there are imperfect times. If you’re both stressed or in a hurry, it’s a no-go. Choose a moment when you're both relaxed, your child seems receptive, and you aren’t limited by a short window of time. If you have a teen who has started asking questions in the realm of sex or sexuality, that might be a good indication that they’re ready. Remember, it's a conversation, not a lecture, so it’s okay to be somewhat informal about it.
Talk the talk
Sex can be an awkward topic to share with your offspring, but it’s important to speak the same language, and to be very clear about what you’re discussing. Talk about penises and vaginas, not ‘thingies’ and ‘bits’. Talk about ‘having sex’ not ‘doing it’. Using the correct terms for body parts and actions helps normalise sex and lessen the shame and taboo around it. It also shows that you're not afraid to discuss it, and encourages your child to have healthy conversations around sex in the future, both with you and with their future sexual partners.
Be a good listener
Sure, you're here to impart your wisdom, but don't forget to listen! Kids know more about sex than we realise – find out where their level of knowledge is presently and expand on it. Ask open-ended questions and encourage them to express their thoughts and concerns. Importantly, keep the judgement at bay, you’re there to help, support and educate, not shame.
Nobody needs the full encyclopaedia of human sexuality in one sitting. Tailor your information to their age and level of curiosity. Start with basics like puberty, anatomy, respect and consent. As they grow older, consider introducing more complex topics like safe sex and relationships. Ideally, this chat is actually going to be several ongoing dialogues, not a one-time TED talk.
Sex is a beautiful, important, healthy part of life, and doesn’t have to be a cringe-worthy topic. In fact, having ‘the talk’ is a unique opportunity to create a foundation of healthy communication, respect and trust between yourself and your child. Keep your mind and ears open and you might even learn something from them.