One of the hardest topics for most parents to address is the topic of sex. There is so much uncertainty and confusion about the best way to handle it. In fact, many parents avoid the talk altogether in hopes that the school will just teach it. It can be downright terrifying for some parents. One of the biggest questions asked is, “At what age should moms teach sex education?” Let me offer some help on this.
At what age should moms teach sex education?
Please note that these are 100% of my opinions on this topic. Please know that I am not negating your right to parent your kids the way that works best in your home. I’m simply trying to offer some wisdom for those who ask.
Talk to your partner before you talk to your kids
Many times parents will head into this conversation without considering their partner’s opinion on the issue. Take some time to sit down with your partner and discuss your views on what ages different parts of the conversation about sex should take place. Talking about sex with kids isn’t one conversation. It’s a lifetime of different conversations based on their maturity. Ask your partner the following questions.
- What are our views on sex education?
- What boundaries do we want to set?
- What ages are you comfortable discussing different topics related to sex?
The conversation starts before you think it does.
The conversation about sex actually doesn’t start when kids ask where babies come from. It starts at a much younger age. You see, the conversation about sex starts with the foundations you set for touch and personal space. When you work with a child on their ability to say no, the difference between good touch and bad touch, and when/if they can say no.
Talking about sex with kids 2-4 years old
Children between two and four are typically not ready for more in-depth conversations about sex. At this age, the goal is to discuss boundaries and lay a foundation for future conversations. At this age, children are working to form their boundaries and learning right from wrong. Here are a few things to consider when discussing sex with children two to four years old.
- Good touch/bad touch – This conversation is one that can start when children. When I worked on this with my daughter, we used modesty barbies to discuss areas that were not to be touched. At this age, it is ok to talk to kids about places that are inappropriate to be touched vs places that are appropriate. Having a consistent conversation about this can help them to protect themselves while also preparing them for a future conversation about consent.
- When/How to say No – When I was small you hugged a grown-up if they told you they wanted a hug. There weren’t really boundaries in place. It always made me uncomfortable. When you are talking with your two to four year old, let them know that they are allowed to say no to touching and teach them how. This might mean discussing ways to respectfully say no and when to leave a situation.
- What personal space is – Not only is it important to teach small kids it is ok to say no, it’s also important to have a conversation about what personal space is so they know that other people have the right to tell them no. At this age, it may be as simple as “Your friend doesn’t want a hug right now. Can you find another way to show you care? Maybe a high five?” Having these simple conversations when they are young will help you to have more significant conversations as they get older.
Talking about sex with kids 5-8 years old
Children in the five to eight-year-old range are starting to go to school and get more curious about their bodies and physical affection. Add to that the conversations about crushes, kissing the opposite sex, and the added curiosity kids get with their own bodies and it’s time for a new conversation. Five to eight is typically not the age for “The Talk” but it might be time for some of it. Here are three things to address at this age.
- Let their questions set the depth of the conversation. Many times it can be overwhelming and parents either over or under share about sex with younger kids. Sometimes when kids ask about sex they are asking for less information than you realize.
Let their questions lead the conversation. This might mean saying something like, “What do you think it is?” Let them set the tone for the conversation and you will avoid oversharing.
- Talk about dating, crushes, and those expectations. When you are talking with a kid in this age group, have an honest conversation about dating and crushes. Kids in this age bracket are often told they should have boyfriends or girlfriends.
It can be good to have a conversation based on your parenting perspective about how you think your children should approach this. Know your why before you have this conversation so that you can explain it easily.
- Talk about appropriate vs inappropriate content. Many children start their usage of porn as early as seven to eight years old. Talking with your children about the types of videos and photos they are looking at when at school or with friends is an important conversation. You don’t have to get over-descriptive. Instead, keep things simple and set boundaries about the parts of a person’s body they should or should not see online or in magazines.
Talking about sex with kids 9-11 years old
As children get closer to the nine to eleven-year-old mark, the conversation changes completely. In fact, at this age, many children are already talking about or being asked about sex-related topics at this age. Some children this age are even already having sex. When moms teach sex at this age it will have a different format. Here are some tips for talking about sex at this age.
- Have a talk about puberty. – During this age, puberty will begin for many children. Start by having a conversation about how their bodies will change and what that will mean for them. This can be a time for conversations about periods, wet dreams, erections, and how hormones impact their bodies. Your goal with this conversation is to prepare them, not scare them.
- Talk about the basics of sex and reproduction. – When holding this conversation with a nine to twelve-year-old keep things simple. Discussing just the scientific side of things can be helpful at this age. Try not to go overboard sharing about everything to do with sex. Instead, read the reactions of your child and take it at their pace.
- Talk about your beliefs about sex and sexual activity. This can be a great time to start the conversation about sex and sexual health with your child. Topics like waiting for marriage, waiting for the right person, or ways to protect themselves can be so important. No matter what your views on sex at this age are, having an honest conversation can protect your child.
Talking about sex with Teens
When your child becomes a teenager the conversation definitely changes. The conversation moves in a different direction as you prepare your kids to grow up and face a big world. At this age, the pressure from peers to have sex becomes much more prevalent. This is the most important time to continue the conversation you’ve been having their whole life. When moms teach sex to teens it’s important to handle it carefully. Here are some tips for talking about sex with teens.
- Be honest about the consequences. Every choice has consequences. Pregnancy, STDs, and emotional struggles can come from a sexual encounter with the wrong person. Have an honest conversation about some of these downsides to sex. It is important that when your children make the choice to have sex, they know about the negative side of things.
- Be honest about safety and consent. With so much social pressure on teens to have sex, it is so important to have a conversation about safety and consent. This is a good time to talk about how items like drugs or alcohol can impact consent. It’s also a good time to talk about how to safely protect the boundaries of others and your own boundaries.
- Be ready to answer questions. Sometimes the initial conversation is only the beginning. Keep an open dialog with teens so that they can ask questions as they have them. It’s better for them to find the answers to their questions from you than to get answers from their peers or the internet.
To sum it all up
At what age should moms teach sex education? It’s a life lesson you will teach from when they are small until when they are adults. Continue to keep an open and honest dialog with your kids. Answer their questions honestly and be ready to help them figure things out if they ask. Don’t overshare but be ready to answer questions when they come up.