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How to answer tough parenting questions (about sex)

Inside: A parents's guide to answering tough parenting questions about sex. How to answer their questions without giving too much information or dying of embarrassment.

When you take an open and honest approach to sex education, this means that you usually need to answer those tough parenting questions about sex (instead of avoiding them!).

And with some kids asking up to 73 questions a day (if not more), there’s a very good chance that some of those questions might be about sex! 

So let’s look at how best to approach your child’s questions about sex!

Why kids ask questions about sex

So why do kids ask so many questions?

Simply, it is how they learn about the world around them. 

If they see something they don’t know (or understand), they’ll ask for an explanation. The world is a big place and your child is seeing it for the first time.

And your answers help them to get to the bottom of things!

So as your child develops, you can expect them to be curious about things like:

Why you need to answer their questions

We don’t just answer questions to satisfy our child’s curiosity.

We also answer them so that our child sees us as their main source of information about sex.

In today’s world, kids are bombarded with mixed messages about sex on a daily basis. Billboards, radio talk shows, songs, movies, tv shows, the internet and from their friends.

Kids are hearing about sex at a much younger age than we were. And they are hearing things that they don’t understand.

So we want kids to come to us with their questions, so that we can help them to process what they have heard. We don’t want them worrying about what they heard, and coming to their own conclusions. Or even worse, turning to google for their answers, where there’s a very good chance that they will stumble upon pornography

So we answer our kid’s questions because we want to set ourselves up as being their main source of information.

We want to become an askable parent

And if your child knows that you’re askable, then there’s a very good chance that they’ll come to you with their questions. Instead of turning to the internet (where who knows what they’ll find, probably porn) or getting unreliable information from their friends. 

family walking on the beach

Starting early means that they're more likely to keep on talking with you as a teen!

How to answer questions

The best approach to answering your child’s questions about sex, is openly and honestly.

If they’re old enough to ask the question, then they’re usually old enough for the answer.

Now, if you’re worried that your child is too young for this much information, then I have a parent quiz that will help you to work out if your child is ready to hear about sex (or not).  

Try to answer their question as if it is one of the many other questions that they ask each day. This way they won’t see the topic as being shameful.

Keep your answers brief, factual and positive (irrespective of your child’s age). If they want more information, they will usually ask for it. You can even ask them if that answered their question or if they need more information.

Have a phrase for questions that are asked at the wrong time or place, such as: ‘That’s a good question, but let’s talk about it once we get home’. (Then make sure you do!)

Try asking your child what they think, before answering. You could try saying ‘What made you think of that?’. This will then give you a little time to think of an answer and to work out what your child already knows. 

If you’re unsure about the meaning of their question, check in with them. For example, ‘Do you mean how do babies grow when they are inside their mother? Or how do a two people start a baby growing?’

And remember, it may feel awkward when your first start but the more you talk, the easier it gets!

What if you don't know the answer

Sometimes kids will ask questions that we don’t know the answer to. It happens to us all, even me!

When this happens, the best approach is to be honest and to say ‘I don’t know’.

And then let your child know that you’ll find the answer for them. You can either look for the answer together, or get back to them later with it.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to get back to them with an answer. They’ll be okay with you occasionally forgetting, but if you make a habit of it, they’ll start to think you don’t want to talk about that topic. Which means they’ll stop coming to you with their questions.

And if you’re unsure about how to word your answers, you can find some age-specific responses in The Sex Education Answer Book or in Sex Ed Quickies.  

family laughing

Answering questions doesn't have to always be serious. It's okay to laugh!

What if they don’t ask questions?

Some kids don’t ask a lot of questions about sex and relationships, but this doesn’t mean that they’re not interested. They may have picked up the unspoken message that this isn’t an okay subject to ask about.

When this happens, it’s up to you to change things. You need to let your child know you are willing to talk with them about love, sex and relationships.

You can be upfront and try saying to them ‘I know that we haven’t talked much about sex before, but I’d like to change that. So if you have any questions about it, I’d like to answer them for you.’

You can also start looking for opportunities to get questions happening.

For example, the mother of your child’s friend is pregnant. You could try saying ‘Did you notice that David’s mum’s tummy is getting bigger? That’s because she’s going to have a baby and she’s carrying it inside her. Do you know how the baby got inside her?’.

And then see where the conversation goes. 

How to know when you’re doing a good job

If your child feels comfortable asking you questions about sex, then you know you are on the right path.

It means that they know that you’re okay with talking about sex, and that they are starting to see you as their main source of information about sex!

Congratulations!

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, 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 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 How to Talk to Kids 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 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  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. It 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.

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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