Tag Archive for: sex

When to Talk to Your Kids About Sex

Start ongoing conversations with your kids.

There’s a TV commercial showing a father and his very inquisitive daughter sharing a meal. Rapid-fire, she asks why the sky is blue, why zebras have stripes, if turtles like cheese, why she has fingerprints, etc. For each question, the dad gets a little help from an insurance agent who is seated right behind him. However, when the girl asks her dad where babies come from, the agent asks for his check and quickly disappears. 

Where do babies come from?

That question can make adults squirm and respond with some creative answers. One answer even involves eating a watermelon seed that grows in mom’s belly. When one mom returned the question, her daughter replied, “When two people love each other, the dad buys a pumpkin seed and gives it to the mom. Then her stomach gets big like a pumpkin!”

It’s great that children are actually asking their parents for this information. While the topic might cause tremendous angst for some, there is no better person to answer than their parent. Instead of sidestepping the question or giving a crazy answer, use the opportunity to provide enough age-appropriate answers and muster enough boldness to encourage more questions in the future.

Many parents say they want to be the ones to teach their children about sex. Yet teen and young adult surveys show that’s not the case. TV and the internet are their top sources for information and ideas about sex. School, parents and peers are next on the list.

It’s great to start talking with your children about sex when they are young, even though some parents want to wait until their child brings it up.

If you cringe and have a deer-in-the headlights look at the thought of discussing sex, your child may believe the topic is off-limits. Experts say parents should start having age-appropriate conversations with their children around age 6.

At this stage, children are often curious about their bodies and why their body is different from their sibling’s. They may even be hearing things from other kids. It is important that children have accurate information from the person they should be able to trust: their parent. So take a deep breath and wade in the water.

Young children often ask where they came from. For starters, a parent can ask their child where they think they came from. The child might actually be asking where they were born. With a serious sigh of relief, that is easily answered. Another option for 5- and 6-year-olds is to read a book. Baby on the Way or Where Did I Come From? are good examples.

For elementary-age children, focus conversations on correctly naming sexual organs and private parts, personal boundaries, pregnancy and building healthy relationships. If they are old enough to ask questions, they are old enough to receive correct answers. Clarify the question and keep your answers age-appropriate, brief and simple. If they want to know more, they’ll usually ask. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. You can always say, ”Let me get back to you about that,” then make sure that you do.

The thought of talking with your child about sex may cause your heart to race and your stomach to flutter. But remember, they are only asking because they are curious. Parents are their first and best teachers.


Teen Sex and the Brain

A teen's choices can impact them more than they realize.

There’s an ongoing debate about whether teen sex is really harmful over time.

Drs. Joe McIlhaney and Freda McKissic Bush wrote Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children. They say that casual sex during the teen and young adult years affects bonding later in life.

Imagine sticking some clear shipping tape to your sweater to remove lint. The first time you pull it off, it grabs fuzz and some hair. It’s still a little sticky, so you continue to use it. But eventually, the tape loses its stickiness.

Similarly, research indicates that sexual activity and having multiple partners hinders the ability to develop healthy, mature, and long-lasting relationships.

What does teen sex have to do with brain development? Probably more than you realize.

  • The prefrontal cortex is still developing until the mid-20s. This part of the brain is responsible for setting priorities, organizing plans and ideas, forming strategies, and controlling impulses. It also initiates appropriate and moral behavior.
  • During the teen years, sexual activity triggers chemical reactions within the brain that help shape it.
  • This brain transformation has a huge physical and psychological impact on all things sexual. A person’s decision-making ability, which comes from the highest center of the brain, can lead to the most rewarding sexual behavior. That is, unless premature and unwise sexual behavior during adolescence damages the brain’s formation for healthy decision-making.

Additionally, the authors sound the alarm concerning an apparent relationship between teen sexual activity and depression. 

Studies indicate that:

  • Sexually-active teens are three times are more likely to experience depression than their abstinent peers.
  • Sexually-active girls were three times more likely to have attempted suicide*.
  • Sexually-active boys were seven times more likely to have attempted suicide than their virgin friends.

McIlhaney and Bush say that parents play a critical role in helping teens develop in a healthy way.

  • Surveys consistently show that teens primarily look to their parents’ advice about sex. Structure, guidance, and discipline from caring adults can positively mold the adolescent brain.
  • Teens need parental support as they take healthy risks, like learning to drive, trying out for sports, or going off to college. Activities like these help young people separate from their parents and grow as individuals.
  • If parents or other caring adults don’t guide their teens, their poor choices can negatively impact their future.

Although it may be complicated and uncomfortable, you can prepare your child for some genuine threats to their well-being. (For example, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, and the emotional baggage of seeking to bond with multiple sex partners.) Taking these issues seriously and keeping the lines of communication open are essential to healthy relationships in the future.

*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).