All parents must decide when to talk to kids about sex, how old children should be and exactly how much information needs to be imparted. Talking about "the birds and the bees" can be uncomfortable for many parents and knowing when and where to start can be difficult. Moreover, parents often don’t simply want to talk to kids about the mechanics of sex, but they usually also want to impart their value system to help kids make good choices about sexual behavior.
Many experts suggest that you should talk to your kids about sex early, but that these early talks should be age appropriate and cover only a small amount of information. Additionally, some experts suggest that private parts should referred to by their proper names instead of nicknames even with young children (e.g., two or three years old). This is important, they suggest, since it can make later discussions about sex less uncomfortable. Correctly naming body parts can help kids clearly understand what parts are considered “private.”
Experts also note that it is necessary to let children know, at a fairly early age, that they own their private parts and not to allow others to touch them in inappropriate ways. When you talk to kids about sex, thus giving them information that can help them avoid sexual predators, you can empower them to tell you if anyone takes license with their bodies.
Almost invariably, children may exhibit curiosity about where babies come from or, perhaps every parents nightmare, they may stumble upon their parents in the act. Again, when this occurs, instead of making sex a taboo subject, providing a basic and age appropriate explanation may be the best response. For instance, when you talk with kids about sex when they’re still fairly young, about five to eight years old, you should probably keep explanations simple. You can use pictures or books if these are helpful for you. Encourage children to ask questions, but also remind them that everybody learns these things at different ages. Stress when you talk to kids about sex that home is the best place to ask questions and get information, since not all kids will know the same thing at the same time.
Regardless of where your live, where your children attend school, or what your religious orientation is, it’s true that children tend to discuss sex at school, even as early as first grade. The trouble with this is that children often receive wrong information and their peers may further caution them not to tell anyone about their discussions. It’s therefore sensible to use a gradual process of informing children along the way, so when questions occur at school, your child will trust you enough to ask you. When sex is shrouded in mystery, they may be less likely to talk to parents either as young children or as teens.
The average age of first sexual experience in the US is 16.5 years. This is an average figure, which means some kids may have sex as early as 11 or 12, and others will wait until they are adults. You can reasonably expect that children may be aware of other children having sex by the time they’re in fifth or sixth grade. If you talk to kids about sex early and often, knowledge of another child’s sexual experience can help be a way to assert moral authority, and to teach the values about sexual activity you want to teach. Children will be exposed to conflicting values; so continuing to encourage questions will help guide your children according to your family's values.
In all, being open to kids asking lots of questions, giving age appropriate information as needed, and helping correct children’s misunderstandings can be the best approach. If the subject is really just to challenging for you to discuss, speaking to your child’s pediatrician, church group, or school administrators can provide some helpful recommendations. When you talk to kids about sex, avoiding shame-based judgments on questions can avoid an otherwise quick path to shutting down conversations forever. Instead, keeping an open mind and trying to remember that kids are usually curious and often get information wrong, may be the best thing you can do for your children.