The talk. It’s almost a comical routine played out in the brain of every parent or even could be parent. Parents stumble through the birds and the bees and sweat with nervousness while kids are so uncomfortable that they think that they might be able to escape the situation by asking for help with their math homework, even if they don’t have any. While parents might be obsessing about how to approach the topic and what to say and what not to say, they are also plagued with the question, when is the best time to talk to children about sex?
The best time to talk to children about sex is when the child is ready. Of course, that’s the one pat answer that doesn’t answer anything for you because your child is much different than the child down the street. How are you supposed to know when they are ready? They aren’t going to tell you or come to you with a greeting card to break the ice. They are hoping you will never talk to them about sex. Kids give clues all their life regarding their interest in sex. When they are little they want to know where they came from, and how they came to be. As they grow older you might walk in on them reading some questionable material online or watching some graphically oriented movie that they really shouldn’t be. These are signs that they are learning more than you know at a rate that is most likely faster than you are comfortable with.
Kids learn the most about sex from their friends when they are young. As early as age ten, boys are already learning that they can be the hero by sneaking a few of the elicit magazines that are stashed in their parents’ bedroom and that there is a whole wide world of uncharted territory out there. Girls often know much more than they let on, giggling quietly about it on the phone or during IM chats with their friends.
Parents need to have really good boundaries when it comes to sexual conversations and their children. Children should not and do not want to know the details of their own parents’ sex life. Adults have no business talking to kids about sex the same way they talk to other adults. However, making sexual conversations taboo and an area of great embarrassment is building up not only poor communication skills, but shameful feelings about their body and their growing sexuality and curiosity.
When kids are little, it’s natural to answer their questions regarding where they came from with tales of a stork or that Mommy and Daddy kissed and grew a baby. However, sooner or later they are going to figure out that you lied to them, and that you are not a good source for sexually oriented information. Kids pick up on what you don’t say just as much as they hear what you say. Calling a spade a spade, and a penis a penis when they are little, makes talking about sex throughout their lives a lot easier.
Around the ages of ten through twelve, your kids are going to get a significant education on the world of sex through the eyes of their friends. If you are able to intermittently bring up sexual topics, like kissing, hand holding, and asking a girl or boy out on a date (yes, girls ask boys these days just as often as boys as girls) as well as nonchalantly help them out with changes in their body, they are going to notice that you are not so uncomfortable with sex so maybe they don’t have to be. What you are trying to establish is a healthy attitude about sex. Healthy attitudes help prevent promiscuity and promote self respect. It is easy to want your child to be afraid of it, making it a bad thing can almost ensure that they won’t do it. However, studies have proven that this notion is not entirely true.
As kids approach those wonderfully awkward years between eleven and thirteen, they need to hear on a very regular basis the importance of safe sex. While promoting abstinence is wonderful and should be on the board throughout their teenage years, promoting safe sex allows them to stay safe when the day comes that they opt to over rule your abstinence theory. Not talking about safe sex because you don’t want them having sex is setting them up for a whole host of problems should they opt to engage in sexual activity.
You might not be the best person for them to talk to. You might have a list of your own sexually based phobias, fears, and misunderstandings. If your own sexuality and your own sex life make you uncomfortable, you might want to consider counseling, especially if you were the victim of a sexual crime or if you find that you were somehow taught a tremendous amount of shame regarding sex and your body. If you want your kids to have a healthy attitude about sex, it starts with you. Many of us were taught that sex was dirty for women and a conquest for men. These types of stereotypical thoughts should be examined closely before we pass them onto our children.
So, when is the best time to talk to kids about sex? Keep talking. It simply starts with ‘Where did I come from’ and possibly might never end. Sexual issues can be very difficult issues. Pressure from friends, from people they believe they are in love with, pressure from society to be sexy or to be ‘a playa’ and pressure on themselves to grow up and be an adult can easily make sex a daunting task in front of them. No matter what type of game they talk, they are all scared kids when it comes to sex. Living in a home where the word doesn’t make a kid (or parent) blush and stammer makes it easier to deal with the wide range of issues.