Here are some common questions that parents have and some answers to help:
Start early with age-appropriate information about sexual health. This can include facts about sex and reproduction, information on body parts, personal hygiene, healthy relationships and consent. To understand what kids should know at different ages, see Teaching Sexual Health's information by age.
Talking about sexual health works best with many short ongoing conversations rather than one long talk. There are many ways to bring up the topic. Build information into everyday conversations. For ways to make talking about sexual health easier, visit Tips for Talking. Just remember, start early and talk often!
Don’t be alarmed - this is a common question that kids have. How much detail you give depends on their age and stage. It may be helpful to ask some questions to get a clear idea of what they’re trying to understand, so you can give the answer they need. For example, a 3-year-old may be satisfied with "many people have a special place inside their body called a uterus. Babies grow there.” However, a 6-year-old may have more questions about how the baby grows and may want to know how it will come out. You could give more detail by saying “when a sperm joins an egg during sex, a baby grows in the uterus and is born through the vagina”.
It's important to teach your child the correct names for all body parts including genitals, and to avoid nicknames. Teaching the correct names is a great way to promote health sexuality. It sends the message that these body parts are normal. Teaching your child the right terms to use can help them stay safe if someone tries to touch them sexually. You can be specific about what improper touch is and they will have the knowledge and words to tell an adult they trust if something does happen. Go to 'okay' touch and 'not okay' touch on this page for more information.
Children start puberty at different ages. Most kids will start somewhere between ages 8 to 16. Give your child the facts about their body and puberty before they start to experience changes. This will help ease any fears and show them that these changes are normal and healthy.
Teach your child that their body is their own and no one can touch it or look at it without their permission. Help your child recognize how they feel when they are in safe, uncomfortable and unsafe situations. Be a trusted adult – one your child can tell anything to. Always believe them when they tell you about a not okay touch. Ensure they know there are no secrets around touch and all kinds of touch can be talked about. Conversations about okay and not okay touch are ongoing and will change as your child gets older.
Sexual orientation is a person's emotional and sexual attraction to others. It can change and may not reflect their sexual behaviours. Gender identity is a person's inner sense of identity as woman, man, both, fluid among genders, or no gender. This identity forms regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth. For more definitions and information, go to Gender Identity and Expression and Sexual Orientation.
Talking about safer sex is easier if you're already talking about other aspects of sex. Safer sex means reducing the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Any type of sexual contact or activity involves risk.
It's important to talk to your teen about the factors they may want to consider before deciding to have sex. You also need to talk to your teen about consent, birth control, and condoms so that they ave all the facts they need to protect themselves. Talking to your teen about safer sex practices will help them make healthy decisions. For more information, see Sexual Decision Making.
Sometimes getting your child to talk with you about what they're feeling and going through can be hard. There are a few things you can do to help you and your child feel more at ease in talking about sexual health. This is called being an "Askable Adult". Being an askable adult means you're approachable. You listen and you respect the privacy and feelings of your child, teen or any other person coming to you. An askable adult teaches through words and also their own behaviour. They are calm and don't judge when it comes to problems, questions and the behaviour of others. Go to the Parent Guide for Teens to learn more about being an askable adult for your teen. To learn more about becoming and askable adult for your child, go to the Parent Guide for Children. For more tips on talking about sex, go to Tips for Talking about Sexual Health.
A teachable moment is an opportunity for conversation that presents itself in daily life. It gives parents a way to start discussing topics that might be hard to start talking about. There are many ways that teachable moments can be helpful in talking about sexual health. For example, news stories on the radio or TV, scenes from TV shows or movies, or social media posts can be good starting points for important talks. Situations that involve people in your family or social circle (such as a pregnancy) are also good starting points. Teachable moments give you an opening to talk about your values and beliefs about sexual health with your child. To learn more about talking about your values and beliefs, go to Family Beliefs & Values. For more talking tips, go to Tips for Talking about Sexual Health.