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How to Talk to your Kids About Sex


Talking about sex has always been uncomfortable for parents. Experts say to think of it as an ongoing process, not as "the sex talk."

Ideally, it’s a process that begins with a child’s first questions about where babies come from, says Susan Isaacs Kohl, director of White Pony Preschool in Lafayette and author of five parenting books. "You can demonstrate over time that you’re open to talking about sex."

Psychologist Andrew Pojman, of the Oasis Center in Walnut Creek, agrees: "The issue is openness. Your children need to know that they can talk about sex with you and be accepted and supported and understood."

These tips will help with your ongoing communication:

Take advantage of opportunities to talk about sex, such as when there’s a reference in a movie, so it’s not something that gets broached only when it relates to your child personally.

Do not talk about sex as shameful or "secret." Explain that it can be beautiful and should be private.

Discuss the emotional impact and the physical risks of sex.

Remind your child how to set boundaries with other people, and to always consider whether she feels comfortable in a situation.

Explain your values, and remember to listen to your child. Understanding what he is going through will be enormously helpful.

Lastly, if you suspect your child is engaging in risky behavior, follow your instincts and ask about it. Pojman says too many parents "get caught up with the idea that they have to have proof."

Books for parents:

Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask), by Justin Richardson, M.D., and Mark A. Schuster, M.D., PhD. (Crown, 2003)

Sex & Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense About Sex, by Deborah M. Roffman (Perseus, 2001)

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