As adults, many of us might say we were "scarred" by our parents when they tried to talk to us about sex — or that we never got "the talk" and just figured it out on our own, says family physician and parenting expert, Dr. Deborah Gilboa — a.k.a. Dr. G. So when it comes time to teach your own children about "the birds and the bees," how should you go about it?
HOW DO I TALK TO MY KIDS ABOUT SEX?
There are three main things to keep in mind when talking to your children about sex and consent and answering their questions about love, where babies come from and more, according to the doc.
DON'T TRY TO GET EVERYTHING INTO ONE CONVERSATION
The biggest mistake parents commonly make when talking to their kids about sex is trying to get all the information into one conversation. "It's not THE talk," Dr. G says, "It's way better to have 50 two-minute conversations over a long period of time than to try and have one 100-minute conversation, of which they hear 30 seconds."
The good news is that starting this dialogue can happen from when your kids are very young, according to Dr. G. "With young kids, even talking to them about clothing and covering up is starting the sex talk," she says. "That we cover parts of our body and we respect people's bodies and we don't touch just anywhere on people's bodies — that's all part of the consent and sex talk."
ASK MORE, TALK LESS
Another thing to keep in mind is that you don't have to talk first, the doc says. Instead, you should ask first. By asking your kids what they've heard, what they know and what they think, they'll talk to you first. "You understand what vocabulary they're using, you know what you can correct for them if they're wrong. When you ask them to tell you where they're at, you dive in at the right place for your kids," Dr. G says.
YOU CAN PUT IT OFF… BUT NOT FOREVER!
Kids will be kids, so if your child decides to ask you these kinds of questions in line at the grocery store or in front of family at Thanksgiving, remember that you don't have to answer right away. Whenever it comes up, you can put it off, Dr. G says — as long as you make a promise to revisit the topic, and you keep it.
So, if your child asks you a question about sex while you're in the car or in public, the first thing you should do is let them know that you appreciate them asking you.
You can say something like, "'Thank you for asking me. I am the right person. I'm so glad you're asking me and I appreciate it, it's a good question.' And then say, 'We're going to talk about it after dinner. I really want to give it the attention it deserves, I want to be able to really think about it and focus on you,'" Dr. G advises.
"But the thing is, if you make that appointment, you have to keep it," the doc says. "You can answer [their question] and you can put a value with the information. That's what schools can't do, that's what the internet doesn't do, that is the purview of the grownups in your kiddo's life."