How to Talk to Your Kids about Sexual Health

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PodcastASHA podcast: Dr. J. Dennis Fortenberry on how parents can have effective sexual health conversations with their kids

Educating a child about sex is an important part of his or her healthy development. Their early understanding of sex, love, intimacy and their own sexuality can help mold their values, behavior, and even their self-image, for a lifetime. You, as a loving parent (or caregiver), are uniquely qualified to be your child’s first and best teacher.

Educating your child about sex involves much more than explaining how the physical side of sex works. You’ll want your child to understand that emotions, intimacy, moral values, personal responsibility, sexual orientation, gender differences and self-image all play a role in establishing our sexual selves.

Some parents ask...

"Can’t the school take care of it? I don’t want either of us to be embarrassed."
You may be uncomfortable talking about sex with your child. If so, say so. He’ll appreciate your honesty and your admission may even serve as an ice-breaker. Remember, talking about sex should be a running dialogue between you and your child, not an endurance contest for both of you trying to get through “the talk about the birds and the bees.”Consider what might happen if you leave this responsibility to others:

And the most important reason of all:
Research shows that teens are less likely to have sex at an early age if they feel close to their parents and if their parents clearly communicate their values.1,2

So how do you start the conversation? What's the best age to start talking? What if I don't know all the answers?

Keep reading to learn how to start the conversation with your kids . . . and what to do if you don't know all the answers (hint: it's okay!).



1. Resnick, M.D. et al. (1997). "Protecting adolescents from harm. Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. Journal of the American Medical Association. 278: 823-832.
2. Blum‚ R.W‚ & Mann Rinehart‚ P. (1998). Reducing the Risk: Connections that Make a Difference in the Lives of Youth. Minneapolis, MN: Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health‚ Department of Pediatrics‚ University of Minnesota. pp. 16-20 3Nickelodeon, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Children Now. (1998). "Talking with kids about tough issues: A national survey of parents and kids."