When is the right time to talk to your kids about puberty and sex? I wish I knew! What I will say is for me we have always talked about our bodies and so taking that further to talk about puberty and sex wasn’t as embarrassing as I thought it might be. My boys are 15 and 16 now and I think we started to talk about puberty and how their body changes when they were about 8. Mainly as children mature earlier today and I didn’t want them to start experiencing changes in their bodies without having discussed it.
I grew up in a home where talking about things was encouraged, nothing was really taboo for discussion and my Dad was way ahead of his time and had no issues with talking about periods. Also when my children were toddlers I underwent a hysterectomy and a double mastectomy. My husband is a farmer son and the boys grew up learning about nature and how animals had babies from a young age.
What NOT to do when talking to kids about Puberty and Sex
One of the most important things is not to get embarrassed about it. If you are embarrassed then they will feel that and think it is something to be embarrassed about, whereas, bodily functions are perfectly normal.
It’s never too early, don’t leave the conversation too late. Children are getting exposed to these topics in school and on TV a lot sooner than you think
Use actual terms for parts of the body, not nicknames and be honest and open as a family. For girls, the genital area around the vagina is called the vulva. For boys, there’s the penis and the testicles. We used these terms from birth.
Don’t lecture or have a long talk and cover it all at once. It will never sink in and you know kids they will get bored and stop listening.
What to do when talking to kids about Puberty and Sex
Take small steps and make it age-appropriate for your child, but try and get there before the playground gossip!
Watch your child and for their lead – If they are embarrassed or looking disinterested then stop talking at them and get them to ask questions or save it for another time.
Books are an ace way to help teach kids about puberty at their own pace or if they or you are embarrassed. I popped one into the boys’ rooms for them to read and just said if they had any questions to ask – and they did!
Let your child know that you’re available any time to talk. But it’s also important to initiate conversations – I used to find it easier to take tricky subjects when we were in the car as they didn’t have to keep eye contact with me, but also they couldn’t just leave.
Explain that these changes are normal and that they can make you feel different, but you are there for them no matter how they feel and that you love them unconditionally.
Think about how you wish you had been talked to about sex and puberty. Just because you are talking openly about sex and puberty doesn’t mean your child is going to r=ush off and experiment. Those boundaries are important.
Find out what they do know. One of my most used phrases at this time was “what do you think”. Often they have ay more knowledge than you expect.
What about sexual feelings? Feeling sexually aroused is all part of growing up and it’s important to tell them that this is natural but give them the privacy they need to figure it out for themselves. As much as it’s useful to have lots of information, letting children discover things by themselves is also vital. We used to say that it is a normal bodily function and need but is something done in private like going to the loo.
Talk about respect and consent from a very early age. Children should be taught that their body is theirs from a very early age and puberty an excellent time to discuss sexual consent. reinformce that no means no and that they can say no at any time (and their partner can too). Everything should stop there nad then. This also goes for sexting and sending and receiving nudes. it is so important to talk about self respect and also let your children know that they can talk to you with no judgements.
Remeber that things change. Just because intimate shaving wasn’t a thing when I was growing up doesn’t mean that it isn’t now. So do your research and be prepared to talk about trends. This also aplies to the fact that porn is so accessible nowadays and we need to remind children that this isn’t “normal”.
Tell them about the law. Explain sexual consent to them and that it is illegal to have sex if they’re under 16, especially if their partner is over 16. They could be arrested for having sex with an underage partner, or if they are underage themselves and their partner is over 16, their partner could be in trouble with the law.
Help keep them stay safe. They may not be having an intimate relationship, but sexually transmitted infections have risen dramatically in the last decade amongst young people, so it’s important that your teenager knows about STIs and the importance of safe sex.
Talk about your Values. This has been one of the ways that I start conversations and also try and instill the values that I have with my children, but I also have to accept that they might not have the same values as me and that is OK. I explained that for me sex belongs in a loving, or at least equally respectful, relationship at a legal age.
As they get older it is important to let them know that not everyone their age is having sex. Recent figures show that three out of every four girls and two out of every three boys haven’t had sex by the time they’re 16. So no, they’re not all doing it and your child shouldn’t ever feel they have to do something they don’t want to do.
Books to help children understand about Puberty and Sex
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