mother and child sitting on bench using a teachable moment as an opportunity for sex education

How to find teachable moments for sex education

Inside: Teachable moments are everyday opportunities that give parents the opportunity to talk to their kids about sex. They help make sex education a lot easier!

Teachable moments are everyday situations that give you an opportunity to talk to your child about sex.

They provide parents with an opportunity to bring up specific issues about sexuality with your kid. Teachable moments also help you to make sex an open, ongoing discussion with your kids.

Teachable moments are a simple and easy strategy that all parents can quickly master. You just need to start looking for them, work with them for a few weeks, and soon you’ll be having lots of discussions about sexuality with your kids.

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

The 3 parts of a teachable moment

A teachable moment needs 3 things.

First, it requires an open relationship between you and your kids – you need to be willing to talk with your kids about sexuality!

Second, you need a catalyst - an event or object that illustrates the sexual point ie the teachable moment. A catalyst is the conversation starter, the reason the teachable moment is occurring at that specific time and place.

Third, a teachable moment requires a sexuality fact. Sexuality is such a broad area that you can almost find a sexual message in anything.

 Remember, there is more to sexuality than having sex. Talk with your child about all the other parts, like affection, trust, respect, responsibility, and intimacy.

How to find a teachable moment

Catalysts or the trigger/reason  for a teachable moment  can be found  in a lot of places. They can be found in:

  • Everyday routine
    • talking about the parts of the body when changing a nappy
    • talking about inappropriate touch when bathing the kids
    • talking about what happened during their school day and what it means, such as ’Mum, Tim said that I was gay today’
  • When you are out driving or shopping
    • talking about how a baby grows inside it’s mother when seeing a pregnant woman
    • talking about homosexuality when seeing two men holding hands in the park
    • talking about body image when seeing a billboard where the model is stereo typically thin and beautiful
  • Books, tv shows/cartoons, movies, and music
    • talking about the fact that unlike the movie, sometimes girls fall in love with girls, and not boys
    • talking about the lyrics of a song, and talking about the values associated with it
    • choosing a particular book to introduce a topic eg choosing a book that talks about kissing/hugs to introduce boundaries around touch.
  • A momentous event
    • talking about the latest sex scandal in the media
    • talking about events that happen at school eg the first girl in the class to start her period (menstruation)
    • talking about special events eg Child Protection Week, World Aids Day

Basically, you can find teachable moment everywhere! Once you start looking, you will be surprised at how many you start to find!

Examples of teachable moments

To help you in noticing everyday opportunities that could become a teachable moment,  you'll find over 30 examples.

Tips for using teachable moments

  • Ask a gentle question to see what your child thinks or feels
    • ‘See that person over there, why do you think they have a big tummy?’
    • ‘You know that movie we just watched, how do you feel about the fact that girls always seem to fall in love with boys?’
  • Offer correct information as required
    • ‘That person has a baby growing inside them.’
    • ‘Yes, most girls do fall in love with boys but sometimes they fall in love with girls too.’
  • Offer your own thoughts
    • ‘How do you think that lady made that baby? I think they needed a special part from a male to make it.’
    • ‘Some people think it is wrong to fall in love with someone of the same sex. What do you think about it?’

Sometimes it is easier to find a teachable moment when you have a reason to talk.

 For example, you may have a heard a story on the radio about the high number of kids accidentally finding pornography.

So you decide that you had better find a teachable moment so that you can talk about pornography.

By knowing what you want to talk about, you will find it easier to find that opportunity about the conversation.

It could be something as simple as noticing that your child is on YouTube.

You might ask them what they are looking at and then casually mention to them that they may sometimes find private movies or pictures on YouTube.

It could be just a short comment or it could be a 5 minute casual chat.

And remember...

  • You can’t say too much – what they don’t understand will be forgotten!
  • Find out what your kid already knows - ask more questions, than you answer!
  • Keep it short and sweet!
  • Talk whilst you are doing something else eg driving the car, washing the dishes, folding the washing.
  • If you share your values, explain why eg ‘I don’t believe in sex before marriage because of what our religious beliefs are’.
  • Give factual information.
  • It's okay to say "I don't know," but follow up as soon as possible.

Teachable moments for sex education are a great way to make sure that sex education happens in your home. They provide everyday opportunities to casually talk about a whole range of sexual topics that you may not normally talk about.

Resources

My mission is to create resources that will help parents to naturally talk to their child about sex, all while respecting your family values. 

If you’re unsure about how to start explaining sex to your child, then Let’s Talk About Sex, will help you to explain sexual intercourse to your child in a way they will understand. 

If you’re worried about how to answer their questions about sex, then The Sex Education Answer Book will give you age-specific answers to tough questions kid’s like to ask about sex.

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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