Age Appropriate Sexuality Education: What To Tell Your Children and When with Barbara Huberman

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Barbara Huberman will discuss when to talk to your children about the 'birds and bees' and how open conversations about sex will help your child make the right choices.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live. Today we will be discussing "Age Appropriate Sexuality Education: What To Tell Your Children and When" with Barbara Huberman.

Barbara Kemp Huberman was the founder and president of the nationally recognized Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition of North Carolina from 1985-1995 and has been actively involved in human sexuality education and adolescent sexuality issues for over 30 years. Huberman is an expert consultant on adolescent pregnancy prevention and sexuality education and is currently the national director of Training and Sexuality Education for Advocates for Youth, formerly the Center for Population Options, based in Washington, D.C.

Barbara, welcome to WebMD Live.

If you'd like to ask Barbara a question, type /ask followed by your question (e.g. "/ask How are you?")

Huberman: Good evening.

Moderator: Describe some of the principles of effective communication about sexual health for parents to know.

Huberman: When we choose to become parents, there are many things we take on in terms of helping our children grow into mature, responsible, respectful human beings. And for every parent, one of those roles we take on is helping our children to understand who they are as sexual people, what kind of behaviors are appropriate, what values they will have as they grow up, the relationships that they engage in and, ultimately, their own self-worth about themselves as a sexual person. So, some basic things that are helpful for all parents, regardless of the age of their children, are to recognize that while children receive information and are influenced by many other sources as they grow up, for instance, the media, their peers, sex education at school, parents are still the best and primary sex educators for children. When we ask young people, over and over they say I wish my parents could talk to me more and I wish we could have better discussions as I grow up, as my body changes, as relationships change and as I grow into being an adult. The second principle for adults is that there are many times and events in helping your child learn to be a sexual person. Being a sexual educator is not just one event, the birds and bees talk, but many, many teachable moments. These are opportunities that parents get from birth until their children are grown to help them understand, gain information and knowledge and explore who they are as sexual beings. It can be a TV show, it can be an event in the family, such as a new baby or a pregnancy, it can be an article in a newspaper, it can happen in a car pool, not necessarily a class room. And, it certainly happens from the moment children are born.

Another important principle is that when we asked parents, tell us more about how you talk to your children about sex, they frequently say I feel uncomfortable, my parents didn't talk to me. Where do I begin, how do I do this? So, if you're a parent who feels like, perhaps, you've not had these conversations, it's never, never too late to begin. And, it's okay to say to your child, no matter what their age...my folks didn't talk to me about this, but it's really important, and as uncomfortable as I am, I want to talk to you and I want you to feel comfortable coming to me with your questions and concerns any time. Parents also need to know that being a sexuality educator of your children is not just about facts, biology, body parts, it's about values and beliefs and feelings, hurts and joys. And, because parents talk to their children, what we know from research is that in families where there is positive healthy communication, and children feel that they can go to their parents, these children generally delay the initiation of sexual relationship until they're older. And, when and if they do become sexually active, they are more likely to use contraception and protection against STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).

And, the last principle for parents is, listen, listen, listen. There is an old proverb that says the reason God gave us two ears and one mouth is so we can listen twice as much as we talk. And if we give our children opportunities where they can talk and they can share and we just listen without judgment, without criticism, without fear that if a child asks us a question or talks about a sexuality issue that they're automatically doing it, then children are much more likely to grow up to be healthy sexual humans.