When to talk to your child about sex

Most parents dread talking to their children about sex. It's important though, so be prepared.

I’m an author of a book that parents use to talk about things like sexual ethics, safety etc. (See happiness.jen-hancock.com). Parents use my book to jump start these important conversations with their kids. Here is my advice for when to start talking to your child about sex.

Ideally, you want open lines of communication so that when your child has questions they come to you. If they do, you will know when it is time to talk about sex because they will be asking questions about it. If you don’t have that sort of relationship, a book can help. You can read it with them and then see if they have questions.

I recently had to alert a neighbor that it was time to talk to their 13 year old boy about sex because of the questions he was asking me. He wanted to know about relationships and disease and stuff he has heard about and was trying to make sense of.

I recommend that people make the time to ask questions of their kids as subjects come up. For instance, if you have watched a movie with some relationship in it – you can remind your kids that it is fantasy and that in real life, people don’t necessarily get together so quickly – usually they date. Ask them if they have questions, if they don’t, move on.

I think the mistake parents make is in thinking they have to impart all their knowledge at once and then they are done. The reality is that your child needs lots of little conversations in context over time to digest and understand complex ideas – like dating and relationships.

The other mistake I see parents make is that they focus on the big issues – like sex and safety – and they forget the basics – like what is dating, why do people do it, what is the purpose etc. I wrote my book because my neighbor’s daughter had told me she was upset that her boyfriend hadn’t called her. It turned out to be a boy she had sex with but not dated. Her mom had failed to help her understand the very basics of what constitutes a relationship.

So, start right away, focus on relationships first – the conversations about how sex fits into relationships will occur naturally out of discussions about friendships, relationships, dating and so forth.

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