Many parents wait until a child reaches puberty to talk about sex. However, research shows that it is important to start discussing issues surrounding sexual health when your child is younger — and continue communicating about sex in an age-appropriate manner throughout adolescence. Not only can these conversations make children more likely report attempted sexual abuse, but they can also deepen your relationship and prepare you for the often-complicated teen years.
Start Conversations About Your Child’s Body Early
The age you tell your child what really happens during sex will greatly depend on the maturity of your child and your own beliefs. But no age is too young to start conversations about your child’s body: what’s appropriate in public, what’s OK in private, and what’s not OK for another person to do to them. Teach your children:
- It’s always OK to say no if a person touches them, even for a hug.
- If they get a funny feeling in their tummy or chest when someone touches them, tell a parent.
- If another kid asks them to stop touching them, they need to respect their physical boundaries.
Talk to Your Kids About What They See
Even if you have strict limits on your child’s electronics and media consumption, you will never be able to monitor everything they see. And that’s a great thing! Raising smart and resilient children means exposing them to all sorts of different things in life, whatever your personal beliefs are. That’s why it’s important to talk to your child about movies, songs, things that happened at school — even people you saw at the grocery store. These experiences can also provide a natural segue into explaining things like menstruation, gender differences in individuals, and why some families don’t resemble your own family.
Sex Ed Does Not Lead to Sex
Sex education in schools is a controversial topic for many parents, but sex education at home should not be. Studies show that the more adolescents know about sex, the more likely they are to:
- Delay having sex.
- Engage in less risky sexual behavior.
- Have a better understanding of consent.
- Have a lower risk of getting pregnant.
- Have a lower risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
While many teens will not have sex during their high school years, statistics also show that most people do not wait until marriage. It’s important for your child to know the facts about sexual health, pregnancy risks and STI prevention. (You do not want your kids taking birth control advice from random influencers on TikTok!)
If talking about sex with your kids is not going well, a trusted pediatrician may be your and your child’s best friend. (They can also provide an HPV vaccination.) Some young women may prefer to talk to an OB-GYN about their sexual health.
Talk with a Professional
If you — or your kids — have more questions about sexual health, St. Elizabeth providers are here for your family. Find a provider today.