Talking to Your Kids About Sex
Sexuality is an important part of being human. It involves more than the physical act of intercourse with another person. It affects how we feel about ourselves as males and females, and even impacts some of the choices we make. That is why it is a good idea to talk to your kids about sex. They are going to learn about it somewhere, so it is best that they learn it from their parents. The best age to have the discussion is when your children become teenagers.
Talking with your teenager is important to helping him or her develop healthy attitudes toward sex and to learn responsible sexual behavior. Openly discussing sex with your child also enables you to provide accurate information. After all, teens will learn about sex somewhere. But what they learn might not be true, and might not reflect the personal and moral values and principles you want your children to follow. In addition, teens need to understand the possible consequences of being sexually active -- including pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases , as well as being emotionally hurt.
It is important for children to understand sexual feelings and relationships before they become sexually active. In fact, studies have shown that teens who have discussed sex with their parents are more likely to wait longer to begin having sex and to use contraception.
First of all, focus on the facts. Consider using the following list of topics as an outline:
Some parents are uncomfortable talking to their kids about sex. It may help to practice what you are going to say before you sit down with your son or daughter. Be sure to pay attention and listen, as well. It may be helpful to have both parents present for support. Some teens may be embarrassed to talk about sex or to admit they don't know something, and so may not ask direct questions. Look for opportunities to bring up sexuality issues with your children. Opportunities may come from a scene on TV or in a movie, a book or article, or the appearance of visible changes in your son or daughter, such as the growth of breasts or facial hair. Explain the physical maturation process and the sexual arousal process. Remember to respect your child's privacy, and try to show that you trust him or her to make good decisions.
When talking with your teen, consider the following teen sexual rights, which were developed by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS):
Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology.
Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, WebMD, Oct. 2003.
Portions of this page copyright © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2004
Last Editorial Review: 3/28/2005