The ABCs of the Birds and the Bees

Talking to your kids about sex can be an uncomfortable experience, but the benefits of being honest with your children far outweigh the cons. The more open you are with your children about the changes their body and emotions will go through as they get older, the less likely they are to take risks with their sexual health. In fact, studies show that talking to them about sex actually delays sexual activity.

While this open-ended conversation will be different with and unique to each of your children, here are some basic dos and don’ts to keep in mind.

• DO approach the topic and any questions your kids may have with age-appropriate answers. Always be simple, honest, and accurate.

• DON’T scold or punish them for exploring their bodies or being curious. You want to be clear from the start that their private parts are private, but keep it a judgment- and shame-free zone or you’ll stop the conversation before it even begins.

• DO make it clear that you’re always available to chat. Remember, if they can’t get the information from you, they’re going to get it somewhere else—likely friends who are just as clueless, or online, which can be inaccurate or more than they’re capable of understanding.

• DON’T wait until they’re teenagers to start a more detailed discussion. Starting at age 9, you’re going to want to start explaining what puberty is so they know what to expect in advance. Be clear that all the physical and emotional changes they’re going to experience are completely normal.

• DO read books about reproduction with your children, starting at age 6. While some kids are eager to ask questions, others will be more reluctant. If they don’t start the conversation, it’s up to you to get the ball rolling.

• DON’T let them think reality is anything like what they see in the media, online, or in TV shows or movies. By providing them with information about the difference between healthy and unhealthy behaviors, you’re laying the groundwork for your children to make responsible and safe decisions.

• DO strategize ahead of time. As your kids head into their teen years, you’re going to want to think of at least five values you want to teach them about sex. It’s important to talk about the physical and emotional risks, like pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases that can come with being sexually active. Be very clear about what you expect of them. Above all, be calm, relaxed and listen to whatever they may have to say or ask.