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How to talk to your child about sex


How to talk to your child about sex

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For today’s questions, we touch on a topic related to parenting and sex ed from you and we’re delighted to have sex educator Cath Hakanson share her answer below.

A lot of parents get stumped when their children are the first to bring up the topic or mention something related to sex. How do they usually react, and if wrongly done, what is the right way to do so?

Yes, most parents are stumped by sex ed or they can even feel like they have been hit with a sledgehammer.

Sex ed is not one of those things that you plan for, it comes looking for you. Like with everything else that you do as a parent, you start to think about it as the need arises. When did you kid proof your kitchen cupboards? I did mine for a reason, ie when I found my toddler reaching into the drawers and removing my sharp knives!

Sex ed is no different, and parents usually start to think about it for a reason. It may be because your child is always touching their penis or vulva, usually at the wrong time and place, and you don’t know what to do. You could be pregnant and your child is starting to ask questions about how babies are made. Or maybe you are starting to see some signs of puberty appear in your child.

And because we are unprepared for sex ed, our response reflects that. We either try to avoid it, or limit the conversation to less intimate issues. We get embarrassed and avoid eye contact or get flustered. We may put off giving them an answer by either brushing them off or not answering them properly. Or we turn it into a discipline issue instead of using it an an opportunity to talk.

These reactions are natural and to be expected when you are unprepared for your kids to bring up something related to sex.

The best way to change this reaction is by being prepared.

Start learning as much as you can about issues that are relevant and that they are interested in eg puberty, pregnancy, body parts.

To make life easier for yourself, have  back-up information that you can refer to.  There are some fantastic books out there that you can read with your child.

Start thinking of sex ed as an ongoing conversation. Kids learn best in small bites, so remember that it is about lots of little conversations, frequently.

Remember to keep it short and sweet, and try to keep it casual and everyday. Talk about masturbation as if you are discussing your plans for the weekend.

Sometimes you need to plan ahead. Some kids ask questions and some just don’t. So plan to start the conversations yourself. Try practicing what you plan to say (and how) with your partner or a friend.

Visit Cath’s profile below and all the links to her website and social media. 

Want to learn more about sex ed, sign up for Cath’s newsletter where you will receive regular, tips, practical strategies and encouragement delivered straight to your inbox.. it’s free!

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock
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Cath Hakanson

Cath Hakanson is a sex educator, nurse, researcher and counsellor who is known to her daughter “just a mum who talks about sex” (a lot). Cath’s Sex Ed Rescue is a revolution, an online resource and a service for pro-active parents designed to help parents talk to their kids about sex in ways that make sense and feel natural. Head on over to the website to sign up for Sex Ed Rescue regular tips, practical strategies and encouragement delivered straight to your inbox… it’s free! Access Cath’s free video series to master sex education, make yourself an askable parent and learn how to keep your kids safe. It’s available over at


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