It’s natural to shy away from the sex talk, but without it, there’s no guarantee kids will have the tools they need to navigate gender, sex, and sexuality as they mature into adulthood. ‘The Talk’ itself is a bit of a misnomer; sex education is a series of age-appropriate talks, from childhood through the teen years, conversations that build into open, unbiased discussion of everything from LGBTQ issues, to menstruation, to sex and relationships.
Sex education ideally starts as early as toddlerhood as parents use the correct terms for genitalia when teaching kids about body parts; if these words are normalized early, it makes later discussion of related topics easier. Also, it gives kids the vocabulary they need to understand their bodies, and, later, express their feelings and desires accurately. Similarly, consent can be introduced early: If toddlers don’t want to receive a hug or kiss from someone (even a family member), don’t make them. Diversity of sexuality can also be introduced and normalized early in simple ways.
As middle childhood approaches, the conversations can shift to preparing kids for the changes of puberty. For preteens and teenagers, later iterations of ‘The Talk’ can touch on masturbation, porn, sex, pregnancy, safety and the hallmarks of a healthy relationship — which is what all of these conversations are ultimately building toward.
Sex education for children and teenagers is only as awkward and uncomfortable as you make it. Kids will follow your lead. With the resources here, you can lead them to a confident understanding of their body and sexuality.