Parenting: Sex Education – What to Say, When to Say, How Much to Say

Talking about SexThe recent article in the papers about two primary school boys (aged 8 and 10) who forced a Year 1 girl to perform oral sex after browsing an adult movie site on their school computer has reminded me that I am overdue to discuss this issue with Aristotle. Sex education should begin at home because children need to know that they can approach their parents about this contentious topic. After all, wouldn’t you rather be the one to give your child the answers he seeks rather than to have him get the wrong information from misguided friends?

When Aristotle was younger I gave him a broad but accurate overview on the process of how babies were made but I glossed over the part about intercourse. I’m afraid I have been rather neglectful on this subject since. It’s hard to know just how much you should explain and what information to hold back until your child is older so I did some checking up. There are a lot of resources and books available on this subject if you’re unsure about how to approach it. These are a few books and websites I found useful…

How to Talk to Your Child About Sex

This is a book by Linda and Richard Eyre which can be pretty useful for parents struggling to find the right words to use when discussing this topic with their children. This book provides discussion outlines on how to broach this topic with your child at various ages. It has been divided into 5 sections based on the age of your child:

  • 3 to 8 year olds – preliminary “as needed” talks
  • 8 year olds – the “Big Talk” (puberty and sex)
  • 8 to 13 year olds – follow-up talks
  • 11 to 16 year olds – behaviour discussion
  • 15 to 19 year olds – discussions of perspective and personal standards

3 to 8 year olds

I said No!The recommendation is not to start the “Big Talk” until your child is at least 8-10 years old. This age will vary from child to child based on your child’s maturity. Before this age, address any issues and concerns on an as required basis. If your child expresses curiosity about the subject, provide an explanation without going too in depth.

There are some things that you should discuss with your 3 to 8 year old:

  • modesty – dressing appropriately and covering up private parts
  • respecting and protecting our bodies – teaching children what kind of touches are okay and what are “bad touches”, e.g. if someone tries to touch their private parts.

With our children are exposed to so much more information through TV and computers, we need to be more vigilant than ever about the content they have access to. As such, we need to put in place protective measures, such as blocking adult content on computers and making sure they don’t watch inappropriate shows on TV. If your child sees something questionable, you will have to assess the situation to decide on how to deal with it and what to discuss with your child. What you say and how much you tell your child will vary from child to child based on their level of curiosity and maturity.

Better Health Victoria is a website that has a couple of great articles with more information on this subject that you can refer to:

The Big Talk

This can be a difficult subject for parents to discuss with their children but it is a very important one, nonetheless. As I said before, it is better for you to discuss this subject with your child than for your child to seek information from the wrong sources. If you’re struggling for a way to explain it to your child there is a website – The Hormone Factory – that you can go through with your child that covers topics like safer sex, when to have sex, masturbation, boy bits, girl bits, puberty, etc. There is also a section covering safety issues like safety on the Net, teasing and bullying, good touch vs bad touch, etc. These should build upon the earlier discussions you have had with your child on these topics.

Follow-Up Talks

Even after the Big Talk, you should continue to maintain open lines of communication with your child to discuss further topics with your 8 to 13 year old, such as:

  • birth control
  • abortion
  • rape
  • abuse
  • prostitution
  • masturbation
  • homosexuality
  • AIDS
  • pornography

Internet SafetyInternet Safety

In this day and age, this is probably one of the biggest concerns that many parents have. If you’re worried about this, there is a useful website called “ThinkUKnow” that is a terrific resource for parents and kids. Although it is an Australian website and some of the information may not be relevant, it does provide useful information on how to stay in control without banning your kids from being online. There is also advice on cyber-bullying, scams, and how to protect your computer.

Education is Key

It is impossible to ensure that all inappropriate content is blocked from your child so your best defense is to educate your child on this subject. Sometimes your child may learn about new words and terms from friends at school or there may incidences that trouble him so it is equally important that your child feels comfortable enough to approach you about it.

More Resources

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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