Kids are full of questions and curiosity about the world around them, so every parent knows it is just a matter of time before their child starts asking questions about sexuality and sex. Some parents welcome these questions while other parents dread them; regardless of which category you fall into, the questions will come, so I want to help you prepare yourself.
(This information is mainly geared towards talking with children ages 6 to 12, but it can also be modified for teens.)
How you navigate these questions can depend on how you think about sex yourself, such as: “it is something people shouldn’t talk about” or “sexuality does not start to develop until the teen years”.
It is important for parents to be available for their children’s questions as they may arise instead of trying to tell their child one time what sex is (aka “having the talk”). Children may ask questions such as:
- What is a period?
- Why do boys get erections?
- How do people have sex?
- Can I get AIDS from holding hands?
- How big will my breasts get?
When answering these types of questions remember to:
- Stay calm
- Keep it brief
- Use the correct terms such as penis, breast, vagina
- Ask if you answered their question
For example: your 10-year-old daughter asks the question, “How big will my breasts get?”
I’m not sure yet; you will have to wait until you are a young adult to know. Girls breasts grow to many different sizes and start growing at different ages. Does that answer your question?
Pre-teens spend a lot of time wondering if they are normal, so keep this in mind and remind them that their body will develop and change at different times then their friends’ bodies. If your child feels you are comfortable answering questions about sexuality and you provide them with the answers they need, then this will keep the lines of communication open between you and them. Take these opportunities to briefly tell them what your values and beliefs are about sex.
Jennifer Wilmoth, LAMFT