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Talking about Sex With Kids: Take the Fright Out of ‘the Talk’


Published:

If the thought of talking about sex with your kids makes you sweat, you’re not alone. More than half of parents haven’t discussed sex with their preteen, according to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation. But experts say it’s not something you should skip.

The “birds and bees” talk builds the foundation for a healthy attitude toward sexuality and an open dialogue with your child that continues through adolescence, says Laurie Watson, licensed marriage family therapist and clinical director of Awakenings Center for Intimacy and Sexuality in Raleigh. Here are suggestions for how to approach the topic with your children, from preschool through the teen years.

Ages 1-6
Puzzle pieces

Although toddlers and preschoolers are too young for clinical descriptions or copious details, it’s never too early to begin preparing for a healthy understanding of sex.

“Young children have a natural curiosity about their own bodies and the bodies around them,” Watson says. “Talking about bodily functions, gender differences and sex should simply be a woven, continual conversation.”

Beginning in toddlerhood, all children should learn the names of their body parts, including their genitals.

Children may begin to ask questions about where babies come from around age 5 or 6. This doesn’t need to be an anxiety-filled discussion; keep answers simple and straightforward, without going into too many specifics. There’s plenty of time for that later.

“Once children understand the basic anatomical differences between men and women, you might explain that babies are made by two bodies fitting together like a puzzle,” Watson says.

Ages 7-12
Personality Pointers

The best way to talk about sex depends on your child’s personality. Some kids are full of questions, while others specialize in squirming and eye-rolling when parents go anywhere near the topic. Whatever your child’s personality type, keep talking, Watson says.

“Curious children will easily expand your conversations,” she says. “Avoidant children certainly still need the information. Anxious kids also should be assured that their lack of interest or even disgust is normal, but that eventually they will enjoy this wonderful aspect of special relationships.”

If a child hasn’t brought up the subject by age 8, parents need to assume responsibility for covering most general topics, Watson says. By age 12, a child should know and understand facts about conception, pregnancy and birth; that sex is part of loving adult relationships and feels good; puberty-related body changes; how to handle increasing feelings for love objects; the meaning of slang words and jokes; and their family’s social and moral values regarding sexual expressions.

Ages 13-18
Open Platform

Sex is very much on the minds of most teens, says Susan Kuczmarski, author of The Sacred Flight of the Teenager: A Parent’s Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go. Unfortunately, few adults initiate conversations about sex with their teens, but they should, Kuczmarski says.

“The most important thing you can do is talk,” she says. “This establishes openness between you and your teen on sex-related issues. You want your teen to feel comfortable coming to you to talk later, and the best way to ensure this future dialogue is to initiate it early yourself.”

Can’t muster enough cool to bring it up? That’s OK, Kuczmarski says.

“If you’re not comfortable talking about sex, fake it. Comfort will grow with frequency.”

Many small conversations are better than one or two “big” ones, she notes; conversations about sex, dating, love, desire and even passion should be discussed casually and often.

“Ideally, if you started talking when they were younger, you’ll be more comfortable talking as your child enters the teen years,” Kuczmarski says. “If you didn’t, there is no time like right now. So just start.”

Malia Jacobson is a nationally published health journalist and mom.

 

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View map »


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Cost: $11

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Downtown
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Cost: $70/month

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View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
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View map »


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Cost: FREE

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Suite 215
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Sponsor: Crossroads Plaza/ Kimco Realty
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New Horizons Fellowship
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Cost: Free

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Online
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Charlotte, NC  28271
View map »


Sponsor: Engage Art Contest
Telephone: 980-999-1447
Contact Name: Ranika Chaney
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More information

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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Join one of our talented Mid-South Fencers’ Club coaches for a one hour virtual lesson to the fast paced and exciting sport of Olympic Fencing! This will be a FREE ONLINE class. All you need is...

Cost: free

Where:
Mid-South Fencers' Club ONLINE
125 N. Gregson St.
DURHAM, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Mid-South Fencers' Club
Telephone: 919-286-3100
Contact Name: Jeff Kallio
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It's time to play... TAKEOUT BINGO!!!  Take a screenshot or download the game board. Mark off the locations you visit. Share your progress on Facebook and Instagram using #CRTakeoutBingo. Send...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Crossroads Plaza
Crossroad Blvd
Suite 215
Cary, NC  27518
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Sponsor: Crossroads Plaza/ Kimco Realty
Telephone: 864-979-2291
Contact Name: Katie Earnhardt
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
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Get your summer vibes going at the 1st Annual Hubb’s Beach Blast at Hubb’s Farm in Clinton, NC.  Hubb’s Beach Blast will feature two of beach music industry’s top groups, Jim Quick and...

Cost: 20-50

Where:
Hubb's Farm
10276 US HWY 421 N
Clinton, NC  28328
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Sponsor: Hubb's Farm
Telephone: 910-564-6709
Contact Name: Tammy Peterson
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