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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Vail

Talking to Kids About Sex

Parents and caregivers often come into my office with urgent questions about children's sexual behavior. Its not uncommon for adults to feel so uncomfortable discussing their children's sexual behavior that, even in the privacy of my office, they lean forward and whisper when asking about sex (at least at first). In the spirit of reducing discomfort and empowering you with knowledge, I wanted to discuss having the infamous "sex talk" with kids. The blue underlined sentences below are links to additional resources to explore on each topic.

The one-time "sex talk" is a parenting myth - effective parenting around sex involves creating safe and continual conversations that inform and support a child's developing sexuality. Below, I am going to detail some of the plentiful "teaching moments" that children provide their parents which can be a springboard for those key conversations about sex.

Body parts:

Helpful discussions begin as soon as the child starts to notice their body parts. Giving children appropriate vocabulary for their anatomy and bodily functions is a great start.


As the child grows older, they often explore their own body parts, and concerned parents race to my office with worries that their child is engaging in too much exploring or masturbation. Shaming the child for masturbation, a normal part of their development, can have life-long negative consequences and close the door on conversations about sex with your child. This phase of development provides an excellent opportunity to acknowledge the child's sexuality, open the door for safe conversations in as the child matures, and teach the child about private parts and privacy.

Body safety:

When a child starts identifying body parts or wearing a bathing suit, these can be great opportunities to identify which parts are "private parts." Tickling provides a wonderful opportunity to talk about "safe touch" - when a child tells you to stop tickling them, and you stop, you can explain that you are stopping to make this safe, they get to decide what feels safe with their body, and if someone touches them in a way that feels unsafe and refuses to stop when asked - they should tell you about that right away.

Thank you for taking a moment to review these resources and prepare for conversations which could positively impact a child you love for the rest of their lives! It is my hope that these resources will give you the confidence to "open the door" to those key conversations with your child, so when they have questions and struggles as they mature, they return to you as a trusted resource.

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