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Explaining sex education: where do I start?

Recently I was asked by a parent, about explaining sex education to their kids, and not knowing where to start!

They are not alone, as most parents just don’t know where to start!

There is all this information out there on what you should do, explaining sex education and how to do it,… but how exactly do you get started? And where?

You’ll find more information about sex education in my Sex Education 101 page.

Explaining sex education: the starting point

At the end of the day, the starting point for sex education depends on 4 things (before you even think about explaining sex education):

  1. the age of your child
  2. which stage of sexual development your child is at
  3. knowing your family values and beliefs about sex and sexuality
  4. your level of confidence

The age of your child determines how you will phrase what you say. For example, the answer to the question ‘how are babies made’, will vary depending on how old a child is. A 4 year old will be happy with a simple answer like ‘ it takes a sperm from a man and an egg from a woman to make a baby’. But that answer won’t work for a 14 year old who will need much more detailed information about sex and fertilisation. So information needs to be age appropriate before you think about explaining sex education to your child. Provide information to your child in the same way that you would provide information about other everyday things, such as how rain is made, why the sky is blue, etc.

Children develop sexually just as they develop physically and emotionally. So it is important to know which stage of sexual development your child is at, and what stage they are next heading towards. This means that you will then know what they are interested in, which means that you can get ready by upskilling and buying some books. You can find detailed information about the stages of child sexual development here. Understanding where your child is at, will help with explaining sex education to them.

It is pretty important for you and your partner to be pretty clear on what your sexual values and beliefs are. By this, I mean what exactly do you feel about things like, sex outside of marriage, contraception, abortion, masturbation, nudity. You need to be clear on what your family values and beliefs are so that you can then clearly share them with your child.

And then it comes down to your own level of confidence. Confidence happens slowly as you gradually build up your pool of knowledge and comfort with the topic. The more you talk, the easier it gets. It is a bit like wearing a new pair of shoes. They may feel really uncomfortable and strange to start with, but gradually, as your wear them more and more, they start to feel more comfortable. Sex education is a bit like that. The more you talk, the easier (or more comfortable) it gets!

So, as you can see, there are a few things that you need to think of before you get around to explaining sex education to your child!

In summary

The important thing to remember though is that sex education isn’t about what you say, but about the fact that you are talking!

The end goal is for your kids to know that you are askable and that they can approach with any questions or concerns that they may have about sexuality.

Your kids knowing that they can talk to you is a lot more important than what you actually say. And it doesn’t actually have to be an in-depth conversation to even count. It can be about lots of casual everyday responses to their questions as they ask them. Or about looking for teachable moments or everyday opportunities to strike up a conversation.

You can also find some great books that will help with explaining sex education too!


Do go and have a look at these resources as they will be helpful when explaining sex education to your kids.

An age by age guide to what kids need to know about sex (and what to do)

Phew! It’s Normal. An Age by Age Guide for What to Expect From Kids & Teens – And What They Need From Us

About the Author Cath Hakanson

I'm Cath, a sex educator living in Australia with my husband and 2 kids. I help parents to talk about sex (with less cringe and more confidence) and to empower their child to make smart sexual decisions. You can join my online parent support group here and visit my shop for helpful resources.

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