If it's time for the sex education talk with your kids, you'll want to read on. We have tips and tricks, plus a selection of helpful kid-friendly videos too!
“Daddy, why were you and Mommy making noises last night?”. “Mommy, what’s a vibrator?”. Yup, as parents, we’re often caught off guard by ‘curious’ questions from our kids. It’s natural for kids to ask questions about their bodies and new concepts, but it can be daunting for parents to talk to their children about sex. Is it the right time to have this conversation? Will my kids understand? Is my explanation too technical? Should I distract my child with something else and avoid the question altogether?
With the increased prevalence and access to the internet, information is available at the click of a button. Children today are aware of sexual content earlier than ever before. As a parent, you may want to protect your children’s innocence and avoid talking about supposed “adult” topics. But would you rather proactively guide them to avoid falling for misconceptions and abuse, or face the painful consequences of a series of misinformed choices? Studies show that children who have participated in sex education are less likely to face sexual health risks than children who have received little or no sex education. Schools and teachers can certainly support your child’s sex education. However, they cannot replace parental support and conversations with parents.
So, how can you as a parent talk to your kids about sex?
- Firstly, you’ll want to find ways to proactively bring up the topic of sex education in a conversation. You could point out specific information while watching movies, or show cartoon videos on sex education to spark a conversation.
- It’s important to be positive when educating your children and avoid too many “don’ts”. Sex education is about equipping your children with the right knowledge and guiding them down the right path. A “do not do this” and “do not do that” approach can lead to the child rejecting sex education and ignoring the useful information you are trying to impart.
- If you are uncomfortable with your child asking questions about sex education in public, politely explain why you prefer to discuss such topics in private. An angry, embarrassed, or disappointed response can only make them feel like they can not approach you with such topics.
- It’s okay if you do not know all the answers to your children’s questions. Kids are very independent these days and are constantly learning new slang and phrases. Be upfront and tell them you’ll get back to them when you have gathered enough information about the unfamiliar topic, rather than giving vague or incorrect answers. This way, you can gain your child’s trust in you and increase the likelihood that your child will come to you instead of falling for misinformation.
Here are a few tips on how to answer some of the most common sex questions from children.
“Why does my voice sound different?” or “When will I have breasts?”
Puberty can be daunting for kids. Their bodies are going through changes that can be challenging – physically and mentally. It’s important to educate them before they hit puberty so they are not put off by the changes. Educate your daughters about the menstrual cycle, what the different terms for periods are, how to prepare for periods, and what they can do if they get their period at school.
Educate your sons about wet dreams and ejaculation. Reassure them that the changes are normal. Sometimes they may be concerned that the other kids in their class are showing visible changes while they are not. Let them know that everyone goes through puberty at different paces, and that the age at which one enters puberty does not necessarily mean a good or bad thing.
Puberty can also be a time when kids develop insecurities about their body image. Pay attention to whether your children are affected by bullying or mental health issues. Tell them about your personal journey through puberty to help them feel safe and strong. Having an open discussion with your children is the key to ensuring an open relationship and conversation about sex related queries.
“Where do babies come from?”
It may be impulsive of us to change the subject when asked this question or narrate the whole, ‘stork dropped you on the porch’ tale, but a quick and fun cartoon video on the subject can help your kids understand this very important aspect of human biology so as to better equip them for future questions. Being evasive will only make your kids thirsty for such knowledge and search the internet or ask their friends about the same, spiralling into a number of myths and false expectations about sex.
If you are uncomfortable talking about human sex, use other mammals as examples to explain the situation. This can also be a good opportunity to relieve the pressure of the topic of ‘losing one’s virginity’ and teach your children about the importance of safe sex. Let them know that they deserve a warm, loving and respectful relationship and should not settle for anything less. For older kids, you can go a step further and talk about sexting, STDs, and sexual preferences.
“Sometimes I feel funny hugging this person.”
In many unfortunate cases of child sexual harassment, the children were unaware that what they experienced was in fact abuse. Be proactive to help prevent such scenarios by empowering your kids with the right knowledge. Sexual abuse is indeed a very sensitive topic and it is difficult to explain it to your children. You could start by talking to your children about what “private parts” are. While parents often try to train children to be obedient and listen to adults, you could also present them with scenarios where it would be okay to say ‘No’ to an adult. Suggest ways for them to get out of uncomfortable situations.
At the same time, respect your child’s boundaries. Consent education starts with you setting a good example and respecting consent. If your child is uncomfortable with a hug or sitting on your lap, respect that feeling. Movies are great for teaching sexual consent. Due to time constraints, movies often fast-forward intimate scenes without showing consent. Point this out to your kids every chance you get! You can also use the two-minute cartoon video below to talk to your kids about sexual abuse.
“I saw some photos of naked people playing games. Why were they naked?”
You’d be surprised how early kids come across pornographic content, despite all the blockers and safeguards. Anything from a spam email to innocently typing a word with an indirect sexual meaning can lead your kids to pornographic content. Explain to your kids that porn is just a representation of someone else’s fantasy and does not represent reality, rather than berating or yelling at them for watching such content. Let them know that it is okay to watch porn occasionally and that you are available to talk to them about it if they feel it is affecting their studies or relationships. If kids are learning about sex and relationships based on porn, it can be detrimental to their future relationships. You can explain to your kids how porn is different from real-life relationships. There is often no consensual sex in porn, which makes it a teachable moment explaining why consent is a must.
The bottom line
Sex education is an ongoing process, not a one-time download of information. Engage your children in a format that works best for them and for you. With younger children, you can start by educating them on the basics of human anatomy, leading into more specific topics. Cartoon videos (like the ones above from BoCo) and books can help make these conversations easier and less awkward. As your children get older and more mature, you can go into more detail.
Sex education is not reliant on just one parent, but a team effort. Talk to your children together, to show them that you are approachable and that there is no shame in respectfully talking about vaginas and penises, regardless of gender. It may not always be comfortable to talk to your kids about sexual topics, but even a small step towards overcoming your discomfort can help your kids have healthy and safe relationships in the long run. With the tools to make sex education less embarrassing and more informative, we must empower our children and ourselves to remove the stigma of sex education to ensure a healthy future for everyone.
This article was written for HoneyKids by BoCo – a non-profit social impact venture aimed at simplifying sex education. At BoCo, they create kid-friendly yet honest sex education animation videos based on reliable information resources, including doctors and health organisations. They tackle several topics ranging from puberty, reproduction to sexual abuse and more. These videos can also help parents initiate conversations on sex-ed topics without any awkwardness. The project has been awarded the Young Change Makers grant by the National Youth Council – Singapore.