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Having “The Talk” With Your Children

“The Talk”—it’s a looming reality of parenthood. The good news: you don’t have to combine a lifelong education about sex, relationships, and reproduction into one conversation. These topics can and should be talked about in stages. Questions from your children should be regarded as part of an ongoing conversation—one that will continue for years. 

Physicians and health professionals recommend starting early, and with the appropriate terminology. Dr. Laura Widman stresses the importance of being honest with children about their body parts. Don’t use fake or made-up names. When you address and identify parts of the body by their real and anatomically correct names, you’re not only respecting your child’s questions and curiosities, but you’re giving them a language they can use if something is wrong. Coding words like penis and vagina with euphemistic terms can create feelings of shame, embarrassment, and insecurity. You are the first and primary vessel of information for your child; you need to lay the groundwork for open dialogue. 

Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. Prep with a conversation and anticipate the questions your child might ask. Are you a single parent? Connect with other parents about how they handled these discussions. There should be no shame in these conversations. Remain neutral, don’t over-complicate it with emotional bias— even if your child asks questions or displays opinions that seemingly go against your values. A child can sense negative emotions or embarrassment, and it’s essential to make them feel safe. Sex should not make anyone feel embarrassed. 

Addressing sex with your child early-on can significantly lower chances of unexpected pregnancies, and also sets a strong foundation for helping them establish clear boundaries for their bodies, and take part in respectful, consenting relationships. Sex Ed Rescue is an excellent resource for parents and young adults alike. Amaze also provides valuable content and resources on topics ranging from puberty to sexual identity. 

Sex is everywhere in our culture. A responsible, positive relationship to sex starts in the home. If you’re able to create an open, honest atmosphere around this topic, and your child’s body, the positive effects will reverberate their entire lives.