How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex in 4 Easy Steps

Amina Evangelista Swanepoel (Author)

When it comes to talking to kids, there is one topic that causes the majority of parents to turn silent. Sex. While it is understandable, it is unfortunate because studies and interviews with young people show that they would prefer to get their information about issues relating to sex and sexuality from adults they trust. Adults like their parents.

Whether or not you have been open with your kids about sex before, you can follow these easy steps in order to begin speaking with your children about sex and sexuality. No matter what your views are on these topics, wouldn’t you prefer that you and your partner be the ones teaching your children?

Step 1: Be honest.

Don’t lie to your kids. It does them a disservice if as they grow up, they believe in things that are factually incorrect. It will also harm your relationship when your kids get old enough to realize that what you told them wasn’t true. Don’t let your child be the one who believes babies are delivered by storks or found in cabbage patches. Do tell your children the truth. If you don’t know the answers to their questions, be honest about that too, and turn it into a learning lesson for your whole family.

Step 2: Be direct and give the simplest answers you can.

When young children ask about the birds and the bees, they’re not usually looking for very long explanations. If they ask where babies come from, they’re usually satisfied by a simple answer stating that babies are made by mommies and daddies and that they grow in mommies’ bellies.

As kids get older you can start to give more explanation about sperm cells and egg cells and how babies are formed, and of course the dreaded – “how-do-the-sperm-and-egg-both-end-up-in-the-same-place?” question. While these kinds of questions make many parents anxious, if you’ve been honest and open with your kids since they started asking about these things, then this won’t feel awkward. It will be just like any other conversation. Which brings me to step 3.

Step 3: Do use the words penis, vagina, and sex (among other words) when discussing sex and sexuality. Do not use code words.

Sex and sexuality are natural, and should not be turned into taboo subjects that kids think are off limits. I asked my FB friends yesterday what code words they heard for penis and vagina growing up, and the list included: pototoy, peting, potots, junjun, junior, bilalay, et-its, pikoy, dingdong, pitoy, patintin, pachuchoy and bird for penis. For vagina, code names included kengkeng, pookie, pekiks, keps, lalay, pipay, kiki, pikikay, potay and pukingking.

Why use code works? Why can’t we call a penis a penis and a vagina a vagina? These are not dirty words. We don’t give other body parts like noses, elbows, knees, or toes any other code names, so why do we do it with these? Some people think it seems cute, but using code names for these body parts is dangerous. From a young age, children learn that words that have anything to do with sex or sexuality are somehow inappropriate and shameful. At the same time, they are bombarded with sexy images, songs and noontime shows. When they experience the unavoidable confusion, they’re unlikely to approach parents who they think won’t be straight with them. Instead they ask their friends or watch pornography, which are the last places they should be looking for answers.

Step 4: Even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable, do use any instances that your child is asking you about sex to discuss this important topic with him or her.

Don’t cut off the conversation by simply saying “That’s bastos or rude”, or by saying “Don’t do it ‘til you’re married” and end it at that. Take the time to listen to your child and then explain why you feel the way that you do about sex. Talk to him or her about why sex is important, and how it creates a special bond. Explain why it is best for couples who are old enough to understand the physical and emotional realities that come with it. Teach your child about why sexual relationships are not something to take lightly. If you are religious, teach your child about what your religion calls for, and why you follow these instructions. Have a conversation so that your child actually understands more about sex.

Following these steps and teaching your children about sex will be far more effective in helping them to delay sex than simply telling them that sex is not allowed. This strategy often makes young people more curious.

Even if you’re nervous, try to talk with your kids about sex. If they’re still young, wait for them to approach you and follow the steps above. If they’re already in their teens, it’s not too late. You can still initiate the conversation and open up the possibility of discussing these kinds of topics in the future. After all, we all want the best for our children, and helping them to avoid unplanned pregnancies and early sexual relationships is definitely in their best interests.


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