Inside: Knowing how to talk to kids about sex, overwhelms many parents. Find out how to talk to kids about sex, when they appear uninterested.
A common concern from parents is about how to talk to kids about sex, when they just don’t want to hear what you have to say.
Like when they roll their eyes and say they already know it.
Or they stick their fingers in their ears as soon as you mention the word sex.
Or they just get up and leave the room before you’ve finished your first sentence.
Well… I’m afraid to say, but there comes a time when your kids just don’t want to talk to you about sex.
And it usually happens at about 8 or 9 or in their early teens.
Where they seem to either be not listening or they’re learning about it at school. Or worse yet, they think they know everything!
But… you’ll be pleased to know that it isn’t all doom and gloom. And that you don’t need to give up!
You’ll find more information about sex education in my Sex Education 101 page.
Are they listening (or not)?
Research tells us that even though teens say that they aren’t interested in hearing it from us and/or they appear to not be listening, that they actually are listening.
We also know that teens want to be able to talk to their parents about sex.
Research from Power to Decide tells us that nearly nine out of 10 teens say that it would much easier for them to delay sex and to avoid pregnancy if they could talk with their parents about it.
And more research suggests that nearly half of all teens say that their parents are the most important influence when it comes to making decisions about sex. But still, many teens wish they could discuss these issues more with their parents. Nearly two-thirds of teens say they wish they could talk to their parents more about relationships.
So we know that teens want to talk to their parents about sex, even if they don’t always act like it.
Your child might look like they’re not listening, but they are. And more importantly, even if they don’t hear the exact words that you’re saying, they know that you’re open to talking to them.
Which means that when they’re finally ready to start talking back, they’ll know that the door is still open.
Tips and tricks
There are a number of different ways to talk to kids about sex.
Find teachable moments
Teachable moments are where you find everyday situations and turn them into an opportunity to teach something, like something that you are watching on tv, a song on the radio, or even clothes shopping.
Once you start looking for them, you will find opportunities for talking everywhere.
Talk whilst doing something else
Another opportunity for sex education for tweens and teens is to strike up a conversation whilst you are both doing something together, like – driving in the car, kicking a ball, sweeping up the leaves in the yard, cycling together.
A lot of parents tell me that the car is one of their favourite places for talking (and not because their child can’t escape).
Talking while one or both of you have busy hands, just makes talking easier.
You have to find your golden opportunity and grab it!
Share your own stories
This is your opportunity to talk about your experiences of growing up – that first kiss, being the geek, having parents who were strict, your first love and maybe even your first sexual experiences!
Trust me, your child will listen and hopefully realise that you do understand. And you never know, it may strike up a conversation!
Eating together as a family is an opportunity for your family members to come together, strengthen ties and build better relationships. They provide the perfect opportunity for conversations to happen, where you can exchange ideas and encourage your child to be a critical thinker, as well as clarify family values and beliefs.
Answer their questions
If your child asks you a question, try your hardest to answer it then and there.
If you don’t, then you take the risk that they won’t ask you again. Or they’ll think it’s a topic that you aren’t comfortable with or that it’s not important enough to talk about.
If it really is the wrong time or the wrong place, let them know this and promise them that you’ll get back to them, letting them know when eg that night or as soon as you get home.
If you don’t know the answer, that’s fine. Let them know this and suggest that you find the answer together or that you’ll find an answer and get back to them. Again, make sure you do follow up or they will see you as an unreliable source of information.
Be a good role model
Kids often learn more by what we do, than what we say. So show your child what healthy relationships and smart decisions look like by living them yourself.
For example, don’t talk about people beind their back and then lecture your child about how to be a good friend. Your child is learning more by watching how you manage your friendships, than from your words.
Pre-warn them that you want to talk
This can be something as simple as ‘Hey, I want to talk to you tonight about a sex thing’ (and do make sure that you follow up). It pre-warns them and can sometimes make them more receptive to talking.
Text them/write a letter
Send them a casual message or write a note about something, like
- left condoms in the top bathroom of the drawer
- ring me if you need a lift home from the party tonight
- don’t forget our code if you need an excuse to come home early tonight
Make sure you have resources at home for your child to access. This means that they don’t need to turn to the internet for information, and can instead access it in an age-appropriate book.
Also by giving them books, you’re also letting them know that you’re open to talking.
You’ll find over 250 books reviewed and listed in my sex education books for children page. You’ll find books for tweens and teens as well as on specific topics like porn, consent, sexting, puberty, friendships and more.
Increase your own knowledge
Don’t forget about your own learning. It is pretty easy to forget a lot of information from your own schooling or your single days.
If you no longer have to worry about contraception in your own relationship, then there’s a very good chance that you’re not up-to-date on the best forms of contraception. Or you may not be aware that pornography is very different from the playboy magazines that you used to find hidden in the back shed.
So read the books that you buy for your kids, and be open to learning from your child as well.
And don’t feel that you need to know everything there is to know about sex. I’ve been working in this field for over 25 years and I still don’t know everything!
It is really important that you keep the conversation casual.
No one enjoys a lecture (adults included).
You don’t want to sound as if you are giving your child a lecture. As soon as that happens, they are immediately going to stop listening!
So keep the conversations short and frequent. 3 to 4 short conversations are much better than one long conversation.
And talk as if you’re making plans for the weekend or deciding what’s for dinner!
Try something new
Some strategies will work and some won’t.
And just because something worked in the past, doesn’t mean that it will keep on working. And vice versa.
The main thing to remember is…
If what you’re doing doesn’t work, then try something different.
When talking to resistant kids about sex, don’t give up. Sometimes you have to try something a few times before you’ll know if it works or not!
The trick is to use a few different strategies so that you keep on sounding as if it is everyday stuff that you’re talking about.
And remember, it isn’t necessarily what you are saying, but the fact that you’re open to talking, that is important. Your child needs to know that you’re open to talking about sex stuff. And by talking, you are giving them permission to come and talk to you anytime!
And don’t forget to talk about your values and beliefs i.e. eg don’t just talk sex but also how you feel about when first sex should happen.
And if you’ve never spoken about sex stuff before, just start off slowly – the more you talk, the easier it gets.
The most important thing though, with sex education for teenagers, is to just keep on talking – as they are listening!
Resources to help with talking about sex
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 blog posts to help with getting started, on a wide range of different topics – bodies, consent, diversity, porn, sexual intercourse and more.
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 are even some books in there for parents!
If you’re looking for some ideas on how to talk to your child about bodies, How to Talk to Kids 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 conversations 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.
Or if you’re looking for an activity that you can sit down and complete with your child, then you may want to look at my activity books. They are perfect for starting natural conversations whilst your hands are busy.
If you need some help with explaining sexual intercourse to your child, then How to Talk to Kids About Sex, will help you explain sex to your child in a way they will understand. It breaks sex 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 I have a number of different resources that will give you word-for-word answers that are age-specific.
If you want a printed book to hold in your hands, 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.
If you want the answers to questions about a lot more than just sex, then Sex Ed Quickies is your best option. This web-based app has answers to 300+ questions that kids commonly ask parents, including how babies are made, sexual intercourse, body parts, puberty, relationships, pregnancy, birth, masturbation, sexual diversity, gender, pornography, STIs, contraception and much more.
And if you get stuck, feel free to get in touch! You can contact me here.