Talking About Sex

Talking to our kids about sex and sexuality may feel very intimidating. SERC staff work with parents and caregivers from many different backgrounds who want to learn about how to better communicate with their kids about sex.  We understand how difficult it can be. Following this are some tips we give when working with parents about this important topic.

First, go easy on yourself. It is normal to feel nervous or unsure, as our culture does not talk about sexuality or bodies very openly. Do your best and if it isn’t perfect, you can try again another time.  Allow yourself the opportunity to make mistakes and be forgiving to yourself. You are also learning!

The earlier you talk to your kids about sex and sexuality, the easier it will be for you to talk with them openly about these issues as they grow. Here are some suggestions of topics for each age group:

0-5

This is a great age to introduce the names of body parts to kids. We recommend giving kids proper names for their body parts, such as penis and vagina. Using words like these directly communicate to our kids that our bodies are good and are not shameful.

5-10

For children in this age range, we recommend to continue talking about body parts and normalizing different bodies. You can also talk about consent – consent means that every person owns their body and can decide who gets to touch it, how they can touch it and when they can touch it. You can teach your kids that nobody should be touching them in their genital areas, except their guardians for hygiene purposes (and health care providers during medical appointments). Additionally, if anybody is touching them in any part of their body that they do not like, they can tell a trusted adult right away.  Children own their own bodies and should understand that they have a say in how they are touched as much as possible.

Here are some other points to talk about:

  • Every body is different and every body is valuable. The bodies we own are valuable, and so are the bodies of the people around us.
  • Privacy – what it is and why it is important.
  • Bodies change throughout our lives. Their bodies will grow and change continually. Start to introduce the topic of puberty, which usually happens after age 11.
  • Everybody likes different things, and we should always ask before touching or hugging somebody.
  • Healthy relationships are based on respect, consent and kindness. We deserve these things and we need to offer these to the people around us.
  • Touching should never hurt or feel bad.
  • There are many different types of relationships – family, friendships and romantic relationships. Romantic relationships can happen between people of any genders. We need to respect everybody’s choices when it comes to their own relationships and their own identities.
  • Families all look differently. Some families have children, some families live with older relatives, some families share different households. All types of families are healthy and special.

11-12

At this age, your children will likely begin to experience the effects of puberty. This is an important time to talk with your kids about their changing body. It might feel hard and intimidating but it is worth it! Do your best to normalize these talks, and to let them know you are available to them if they have any struggles.

  • Talk more about puberty, including hormone changes, genital development, menstruation and sexual desire. These can all be scary topics!
  • Help your children understand the pregnancy process, including anatomy. Click here for more information on this.
  • Talk with your kids about STIs and how STIs are spread. Click here for more information about this. Be sure to talk about how STIs are just illnesses, like other viruses or bacteria, and if a person has an STI it doesn’t mean they are a bad person.
  • Bullying, including cyberbullying, is a big concern for this age group. Talk to your kids about safety, what to do in hard situations, and about skills for social media – privacy settings, what to post and what not to post, and to only talk with people they know in real life.
  • Families are diverse and everybody’s family looks different.
  • Consent means that your body belongs to you and that you get to choose who gets to touch you, how you are touched and when you are touched. If you are touched by anybody in a way that you don’t feel comfortable with, tell a trusted adult right away.

13+

Your children’s body belongs to them and they are making choices about their body daily. Help them gain the skills in making good choices about their body. For example, talk about the effects of peer pressure, the negative influence of social media, and help them see their strengths they bring to the world as a person. Build trust with them together as they navigate through life.

  • Talk about and model healthy relationships as much as you can. Healthy relationships are based on respect, consent and kindness. Everyone has the right to leave a relationship if they do not feel they are getting these things, or if they do not feel happy or fulfilled.
  • Help your kids understand the risks of sexual activity, including pregnancy and STI transmission. Provide resources for them, such as SERC, to understand these risks and the safer sex resources available to them, including condoms and birth control. Try to talk with your kids about birth control and safer sex supplies as much as you can, and normalize good decision making.
  • Talk about making good choices for their lives. Talk about the sexual activity checklist before engaging in sexual activities.
  • Talk about Teen Clinics as resources for youth to access. Provide them their Manitoba Health Card numbers so they can access health services on their own. Discuss this as a family.
  • Continue talking with your kids about the pregnancy process and STI transmission. Make sure they understand those two processes, and how to protect themselves from these. Help them know where they can access safer sex supplies.
  • Spend a lot of time discussing bullying and safety measures for digital media. Talk together about privacy settings and what should and should not be shared on social media.
  • Body image is a helpful thing to talk about at this age. Talk about body diversity, and how all bodies are good bodies.
  • Consent means that your body belongs to you and that you get to choose who gets to touch you, how you are touched and when you are touched. If you are touched by anybody in a way that you don’t feel comfortable with, tell a trusted adult right away.