to your children about love, intimacy, and sex is an important
part of parenting. Parents can be very helpful by creating
a comfortable atmosphere in which to talk to their children
about these issues. However, many parents avoid or postpone
the discussion. Each year about one million teenage girls
become pregnant in the United States and three million teens
get a sexually transmitted disease. Children and adolescents
need input and guidance from parents to help them make healthy
and appropriate decisions regarding their sexual behavior
since they can be confused and overstimulated by what they
see and hear.
about sex may be uncomfortable for both parents and children.
Parents should respond to the needs and curiosity level of
their individual child, offering no more or less information
than their child is asking for and is able to understand.
Getting advice from a clergyman, pediatrician, family physician,
or other health professional may be helpful. Books that use
illustrations or diagrams may aid communication and understanding.
have different levels of curiosity and understanding depending
upon their age and level of maturity. As children grow older,
they will often ask for more details about sex. Many children
have their own words for body parts. It is important to find
out words they know and are comfortable with to make talking
with them easier. A 5-year-old may be happy with the simple
answer that babies come from a seed that grows in a special
place inside the mother. Dad helps when his seed combines
with mom=s seed which causes the baby to start to grow. An
8-year-old may want to know how dad=s seed gets to mom=s seed.
Parents may want to talk about dad=s seed (or sperm) coming
from his penis and combining with mom=s seed (or egg) in her
uterus. Then the baby grows in the safety of mom=s uterus
for nine months until it is strong enough to be born. An 11-year-old
may want to know even more and parents can help by talking
about how a man and woman fall in love and then may decide
to have sex.
important to talk about the responsibilities and consequences
that come from being sexually active. Pregnancy, sexually
transmitted diseases, and feelings about sex are important
issues to be discussed. Talking to your children can help
them make the decisions that are best for them without feeling
pressured to do something before they are ready. Helping children
understand that these are decisions that require maturity
and responsibility will increase the chance that they make
are able to talk about lovemaking and sex in terms of dating
and relationships. They may need help dealing with the intensity
of their own sexual feelings, confusion regarding their sexual
identity, and sexual behavior in a relationship. Concerns
regarding masturbation, menstruation, contraception, pregnancy,
and sexually transmitted diseases are common. Some adolescents
also struggle with conflicts around family, religious or cultural
values. Open communication and accurate information from parents
increases the chance that teens will postpone sex and will
use appropriate methods of birth control once they begin.
with your child or adolescent, it is helpful to:
your child to talk and ask questions.
a calm and non-critical atmosphere for discussions.
words that are understandable and comfortable.
to determine your child=s level of knowledge and understanding.
your sense of humor and don=t be afraid to talk about your
sex to love, intimacy, caring, and respect for oneself and
open in sharing your values and concerns.
the importance of responsibility for choices and decisions.
your child to consider the pros and cons of choices.
open, honest and ongoing communication about responsibility,
sex, and choice, parents can help their youngsters learn about
sex in a healthy and positive manner.
on related issues, see other Facts For Families (#31 When
Children Have Children, #30 Children & AIDS, # 9 Child
Sexual Abuse, #63 Gay and Lesbian Teens).
#62 Updated 02/98