“Where do babies come from?” This is just one question that children ask their parents as they start to wonder about sex and in return hope to find out the answer. Unfortunately, however, not all parent’s want to answer that question or any sex related question for that matter, or even know how to.
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Many parents’ today do indeed want to contribute to their children’s knowledge of sex. However, even though parents, who are comfortable with their own sexuality, don’t always know of the best way to approach the topic with their children or even know how talk to them about it (Crooks, Baur, 2011).
“Research shows that positive communication between parents and their children can help young people establish individual values and make healthy decisions” (Parents Sex Ed Center,” 2010). It is important for adults of school age children to maintain an open relationship with their children in order to provide the ability for them to feel comfortable enough to talk with you about whatever they may ask. Teaching sex to your own children can be a task they may make you feel uncomfortable and something that you may find difficult to do. However, by being honest at an early age can allow for honesty and open communication as your children grow (“Parents Sex Ed Center,” 2010).
As children grow, a process begins that a parent can follow in order to develop a wholesome sexual education relationship with their child. Whether it’s starting off answering questions such as, “where do babies come from,” or talking about being sexually active and how to practice safe sex, it is important to be able to talk to your children about this topic and feeling comfortable enough to do so.
Starting at an early age, usually by around age four, many children will ask where they came from, how babies are made, or by asking the names of their own sex organs (self-discovery). Many parents may just put off these types of questions in hopes that their child will forget about it and the parent feels a sense of relief in not having to answer. Instead, the parent is making a mistake in not answering and thus unknowingly creating a communication block (Crooks, Baur 2011).
When young children ask these types of questions, they aren’t expecting a complete anatomy lesson, but they are looking for some answer. In this case, be honest with them. Use proper names, and perhaps briefly discuss the basics of sexual intercourse (Crooks, Baur 2011). It is important to make sure that after answering your child’s question that not only do they understand but also to make sure they are aware that it is okay to ask questions and that they can come to you and ask for more information whenever they’d like (Crooks, Baur 2011).
Along the way, it is important to teach your children manners, as in we don’t touch ourselves in public and we don’t touch other people’s bodies. It is also good to teach appropriateness and privacy. If by age five or six your child has not started to ask questions, you need to initiate the conversation (Crooks, Baur 2011).
By the pre-teen years, physical changes are going to occur. At this point it is important to talk to your child about the changes that will occur and what they can expect. While this is taught in school, it is good to let your child know that you are there for them, it is not something for them to be embarrassed about, and that what they are experiencing is all a part of growing up and that they are not the only one. Even though children may not have experienced these changes yet, such as menstruation and ejaculation, it is important for them to be aware of it before it happens so as not to worry them (Crooks, Baur 2011).
The teen and young adult age is the hardest for parents to talk about with their children. No matter how much a parent may want to shelter their children, it is vital to understand that your growing child is going to experience sexual feelings.
Teens find it difficult it talk with their parents about sex because of embarrassment, the fact that their parents may not understand them or the belief that their parents will assume they are already sexually active. Parents must remember that a lot of information that children receive on sex is from friends and the media. For this reason, a parent must know that the less information they give, the more misinformation their child is going to acquire.
Some parents worry that by providing sex education to their children they are condoning certain behaviors. However, according to Avert.org, one study showed that in a review of 48 studies of sex and STD education programs, such programs either did not increase sexual activity and in some cases actually showed a decrease with an increase in condom use or other contraceptives (“Sex Education that,” 2010).
In April of 2002, Seventeen Magazine and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a survey. This survey was given to 15 to17-year olds in the United States about sexual health communication between themselves and their parents. Results showed that little over a half had discussed with their parents how to know when they were ready to have sex, 43% of teens discussed with their parents how to talk to a significant other about sexual issues, 52% of teens discussed condoms with their parents and 49% discussed other forms of contraception (“Teens and Sexual Health,” 2002).
Another study of 14 to 17-year olds shows that parents who talk to their children about the use of condoms before first sexual intercourse, had actually increased the likelihood that adolescents would used protection whereas talking about condom use after first sexual intercourse did not (Parents Sex Ed Center,” 2010).
A few important things to remember when talking to your teen:
1) Always remember how you felt and that you once experienced what they are now going through.
2) While conversing with your teen, remain respectful – share your feelings and thoughts but also listen to theirs.
3) Don’t jump to conclusions. Just because they are coming to talk to you or ask
a question, does not mean that they are sexually active
4) Don’t underestimate your teen. A parent should know their child well enough to know that they have their own values, beliefs, and are able to make responsible, mature decisions when they have proper information to go along with it (Parents Sex Ed Center,” 2010).
Before parent’s can be comfortable talking with their children about sex, they must be comfortable with themselves and with one another. It is necessary for parents to become in touch with their own feelings and develop sensitivity to their own sexual feelings. Parent’s who are not comfortable with talking to one another about sex, surely won’t be comfortable with talking to their children about sex. With that said, parents should practice if they feel that may help. They have to be able to be comfortable both saying and hearing sexual words (Gordon). “This is important because children are sensitive to the emotional value parents give to certain words or may pick up what their parents feel rather than what their parents say “(Gordon).
Most often, parents feel embarrassed to talk with their children about sex, whether their child brings it up or it is time for the parent to bring it up. It may be because they just don’t want to or possibly because they don’t know how. While many parents today really do want to contribute to their children’s sex education they just quite aren’t sure how to approach the topic. By being comfortable with yourself and letting your child know that you are able and wanting to answer sexual questions at an early age will allow them to understand that as they become older they know that you can provide accurate information and be someone that they can talk to.
Crooks, R., & Baur, K. (2011). Our sexuality (11th ed.). Wadsworth.
Gordon, S. (n.d.). Why sex education also belongs in the home. Education.com.
Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Why_Sex
Parents sex ed center. (2010). Advocates for youth. Retrieved May 3, 2010 from
Sex education that works. (2010, May 1). Avert. Retrieved May 4, 2010, from
Teens and sexual health communication. (2002, July). Kaiser Family Foundation.
Retrieved May 4, 2010, from http://www.kff.org/entpartnerships/upload/