How to Talk to Kids about Sex

January 28, 2022

Many families are now spending more time together than before, working and studying side by side at home. This increased proximity brings with it unique challenges and rewards.

Parents and caregivers may see the increased time together as an opportunity to start conversations around subjects that seem both important and overwhelming, such as puberty, sex, and relationships. 

Our team from The Potocsnak Family Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine is committed to helping families have these talks in a positive and stress-free manner. Below, our experts share tips on how you can start positive sexual health conversations with your young person. 

Talking to Your Kids about Sex

General Sexual Health Education

AMAZE Jr. is the way to go for content on questions like “Where do babies come from?Watch with the littlest ones in your life! For your 4th-8th graders who may have missed out on their school-based sex ed, you can supplement e-learning time by assigning AMAZE.org! You can watch the videos together, or have your kid choose a few videos to watch and then share what they learned back with you.  

Learn how to support your teen’s sex ed needs with Scarleteen, which has all the detailed info you could want on teen and young adult sexuality without any shame or stigma attached. Read up on topics ranging from LGBTQ dating and masturbation to sexual first times and disability and sexuality. 

For real-life examples on how to have a number of these conversations, check out our Never Fear Talks, short videos of actual young folks chatting about consent, masturbation and other similar topics with their chosen adult.  

How to Talk to Kids about Porn

As students likely have more unsupervised internet timthan ever before, here is an excellent resource on having relevant conversations at home about pornography.  

Talking to Teens about Sexting

Ask your young teen how they or their friends are handling romance, crushes, dating, and intimacyare friends sneaking out to see significant others, or are they relying more on communication via text, social media, DMs, etc.Check out this article on sexting in the time of social distancing.  

Private Time

An increased need for independence and an interest in exploring one’s body are common for adolescents. Emphasize to your kids that these needs are developmentally appropriate! Find ways to make sure each family member gets time to themselves. (This is extra challenging with everyone at home. Explain the importance of respecting the signs of private timesuch as closed doors, by knocking, asking permission, etc.!) If siblings share a room, help them make a schedule. For more advice regarding how to talk to your kids about masturbation, check out these helpful tips! 

How TV Can Help You Talk to Kids about Sex

Make sure your family takes breaks from being on separate screens. Watching TV together can be a great opportunity to spark a conversation without it feeling like The Talk. We’ve listed some of our favorite shows with themes relevant to young folk and their families below!  

  • Sex Education on Netfllix (ages 16+ on Common Sense Media — explicit language, conversations around sex and brief nudity) - sexuality, masturbation, STIs, communication, etc.
  • One Day at a Time on Netflix - sexism, homophobia, coming out 
  • Blackish on ABC.com and Hulu - puberty (season 4, episode 6 “First and Last) 
  • Mixed-ish on ABC.com and Hulu - first dates (season 1, episode 15 “This Charming Man”) 
  • Steven Universe on Hulu, Cartoon Network - identity, dating, big emotions, gender
  • Never Have I Ever on Netflix – crushes, dating, and navigating multiple cultural perspectives (ages 14+ on Common Sense Media) 

Other Ways of Talking About Sex with Your Kids

Our Never Fear Talks videos are real-life examples of adults and youth having quick, meaningful chats about how to navigate sexual health. Watching and then discussing these short, informal videos together as a family is a great way to get the conversation started at home.

The goal of these videos is to show that sexuality education at home doesn’t occur in one big “sex talk” but over the course of months and years via short and positive conversations that make youth feel comfortable about asking questions when they arise.

To that end, it is important for the adults to model that curiosity as well; an “I don’t know; let’s find out!” is an effective way to express to a young person that it is perfectly fine not to have all the answers and to make the conversation a collaborative experience.

We recommend looking for resources that are age-appropriate and relay the answers young ones are looking for in a way that is clear and not condescending. For example, if a young person had questions about HIV/AIDS and/or PrEP parents could access information from reputable sources such as National Library of Medicine or the Lurie Children’s HIV/AIDS and PrEP online resource and share what they learn with their young people. 

In answering specific questions from children and adolescents, we want to be conscious of what motivates the question. Recognizing their fears and concerns (which may include concerns around safety and disclosure) allows us to support them more effectively and keep lines of communication open.

Parents and guardians will be able to have successful conversations when they model non-judgmental attitudes, openness, and transparency with their youth. Young people need to feel heard and have their boundaries recognized. Parents and caregivers should be aware of who else is in their kids’ network of safe and supportive adults so they can remind them that they are not alone and can speak to someone else if they are not ready to talk about specific subjects and experiences at home! 

Talking to Teens about Sex Is Difficult

Practice is key when it comes to conversations on sexuality education! Having these talks may take some getting used to, which is why, with the support of National Library of Medicine, Lurie Children's has created curriculum specifically for parents and caregivers on HIV/AIDS, PrEP, and sexual health.

These virtual education sessions will help provide the necessary tools to have conversations with your loved ones. The curriculum for these educations sessions are in-line with the National Sexuality Education Standards (NSES) to ensure that those who attend are receiving age appropriate information for their young people. If you’re interested in participating in an upcoming virtual education session, please contact Dawn Ravine at dravine@luriechildrens.org.

We know that conversations around sexual health topics can be hard but try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Try to integrate these “talks” naturally into your everyday life. By showing comfort and confidence in navigating these topics, parents are setting their young people up to have nuanced conversations and make safer and informed choices when they become sexually active. 

Find us: For more resources on how to talk all things sex ed, visit us here and follow us on Facebook and Instagram (While on Instagram, go ahead and follow our friends Sex Positive Families and Scarleteen as well!)  

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