couple in bed

How to explain sex to kids (without dying of embarrassment)

Inside: Learn how to explain sex to kids in a child-friendly way that gives them the right amount of information about how babies are made.

 When it comes to parenting, there are some jobs that we don’t welcome.

Things like those super smelly, extra large pooey nappies where the poo ends up absolutely everywhere.

Or changing a wet bed in the middle of the night when it is freezing cold.

Or how to explain sexual intercourse to your kids!

As parents, we all know that at some time - either now or in the not so far future – we’ll need to talk to our kids about sex. And for most of us, it is a scary thought.

What if I say too much? 

Won’t they lose their innocence?

What if they ask me a question?

Well, I’m sorry to break the bad news, but your child is already learning about sex.

As soon as kids start watching the television, listening to the radio, hopping on the internet and start mixing with other kids, your child will start to see and hear different messages about sex.

And often the messages that they receive messages about sex are usually inaccurate, misleading and confusing. The sorts of things that you don’t want your child remembering.

So, whether you like it or not, you are going to have to start talking to your kids about sex, whether you like it or not! So the sooner that you learn how to explain sex to kids, the better!

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

Okay, before I even start talking about how to explain sex to kids, I want to share something with you.

I have professionally (and personally!) been talking about sex with people for over 25 years. I am extremely comfortable with talking about sex and I rarely feel uncomfortable.

But… my kids still ask me questions today, that can make me squirm (even with all my training and comfort with talking).

So, it doesn’t matter who you are and how comfy you think you might be around sex, you need to be prepared for squirming. It is just a fact of life. But the more you talk about sex with your kids, the more comfortable you will feel. (And if anyone ever tries to tell you that they never get embarrassed talking about sex with their kids – they are lying!)

Before you get started

Before you even think about explaining sex to your child, there are a few things that you need to remember.

  1. Embarrassment is normal. The more you talk, the sooner that you will feel more comfortable with the whole thing.
  2. You can’t give them too much information. Well, technically you can give them too much information, but it doesn’t matter if you do. Kids promptly forget anything they don’t understand or aren’t ready to hear. As long as you explain things at the same level of understanding as you usually do, you’ll be fine!
  3. KISS – Keep It Super Simple. Try to explain sex in the same way that you would explain how milk is made.
  4. Small, frequent, repeated chats. We no longer have just the one talk about sex, it is about many chats over the whole of childhood.
  5. Say ‘I don’t know’ if you don’t know the answer to their question. If you don’t know the answer to their question, tell your child that you’ll get back to them later with an answer. And make sure that you do!
  6. Share your values and beliefs about sex. Start letting your child know what sexual behaviours and attitudes are okay and not okay in your family. And make sure that you also explain why you feel this way.

Is my child old enough?

A lot of parents worry about whether their child is old enough to hear about sexual intercourse.

It’s a valid fear, and is a question I have asked myself at times as well. 

So if you have some lingering doubts about whether your child is old enough (or not), then you should read  this article and complete the quiz  to find out if your child is the right age to talk about the birds and bees.  

You might be surprised by what you find!

Stop! Too much information!

How to explain sex to kids

Now, when looking at how to explain sex to kids, it is important to remember that it is a conversation that happens very slowly and gradually over a number of years.

How many times do you have to tell your kids to not leave their towel lying on the bathroom floor?  

Many times!

So we need to have lots of small little conversations for a long time!

Ideally, you should start to explain sex to kids in the preschool years.

But relax, it isn’t really sex that we are explaining.

We are just answering their questions about where babies come from, how they are made and how they get in.

At this age, kids are just trying to work out how the world works. And they are trying to understand where they were, before they were born.

Where do babies come from?

So the first question that they usually ask is about where do babies come from.

Try to keep the answer basic and just tell them that they came from inside your tummy (or uterus if they are ready for more technical terms). There is plenty of time to add in the details as they grow older!

How are babies made?

Once they understand that, they usually move onto wanting to know how babies are made.

Again you can keep it simple and just tell them that you need a part from a man (cell or sperm) and a part from a woman (cell or egg) to make a baby. That is all that they really need (or want) to know.

You can find more detailed information in this article about how to explain where babies come from.

How do the egg and sperm meet?

And then, kids usually want to know how the egg and the sperm meet. Or how the part from the man got inside the woman.

So you can tell them that the sperm leaves the man through his penis and goes into the woman’s vagina. The sperm finds the egg, they join together and a baby is made.

When talking to your kids about sex, don’t forget to let them know that sex is just for adults and not for kids.

And relax, your child is totally fine with hearing about htis. They just see it as another ‘weird thing’ that adults do. 

 

Relax! I’ve got this!

The more you talk, the easier it gets

As parents, explaining sex to kids, can initially feel a bit tricky. We all feel awkward and uncomfortable when we first start something new.

Can you remember what it was like when you brought your first baby home. How awkward you felt when changing their nappies, and how the first nappies leaked or fell off all the time? And then a few months later, you could put a nappy on that would contain all discharges and always stay on!

Talking to kids about sex is a bit the same. You feel really awkward at the beginning, but eventually, you get accustomed to it. You may still feel uncomfortable, but the level of discomfort will decrease over time. So how to explain sex to kids does get easier over time.

The important thing to remember though, that it isn’t just about what you teach your child. It is the fact that you are talking about  the tricky stuff that matters.

If you can talk to your child about sex, they will know that they can talk to you about anything. It will open the doors for ongoing conversation about anything – the things that parents want to know about.

So learning how to talk to kids about sex, is one of the most important things that a parent can do!

Resources

My mission is to create resources that will help you to naturally talk to your kids about sex, all while respecting your personal values.

Which means that inside this website, you'll find lots of resources to help you with talking to your child about love, sex, relationships and growing up.

My Sex Education 101 page includes all of the information on sex education. You'll find lots of different blogposts to help with getting started, on a wide range of different topics.

You'll find videos about sex ed in my Sex Education Videos resource page that you can watch with your child or to learn more about sex education yourself.

You’ll also find an extensive range of sex education books for children, for kids of all ages. There's even some books in there for parents!

If you're looking for some ideas on how to talk to your child about bodies, Let's Talk About Bodies, will help you to start naming the private body parts and to have shame-free conversations with them about bodies. It is filled with lots of different ideas on how to have natural converasations with your child about their body. 

You'll also find some child friendly anatomically-correct cartoon illustrations of the genitals and internal reproductive organs that are appropriate for children from the age of 3 and up. Let's Look at Different Body Parts is a printable that will help take the awkward out of talking to your child about their body, so they grow up feeling educated, confident, and comfortable in their own skin.

If you need some help with explaining sexual intercourse to your child, then Let's Talk About Sex, will help you explain sex to your child in a way they will understand. It breaks it down into simple steps that  take the stress out of explaining!

If you're unsure about how to answer your child's questions about sex, then The Sex Education Answer Book will give you age-specific answers to the most common questions kid's ask parents about sex.  Which means you don't need to worry about finding a child-friendly explanation that your child understands. 

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 empower their child to make smart sexual decisions. To find a better way to talk about sex, you can join my community of parents and visit my shop for helpful resources.

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