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How to talk to your kids about sex

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






The sex talk

Have you had the sex talk with your kids? It's the one thing that can strike fear in the heart of all parents: the moment you realize you can't put off the sex talk any longer. But where do you even begin? Right here at SheKnows.com.

How should you talk to kids about sex?

We all know how great kids are at asking questions. And we've all got our stock answers: Ask your dad, I don't know, ask me later, I'm on the phone, not now…. But eventually, your kids are going to want to know about sex, and they're not going to take no for an answer. And frankly, they shouldn't.

As parents, we have a responsibility to make sure our kids learn about sexuality in a healthy, non-threatening way. And, believe it or not, you are the person best qualified to teach your kids. Yes, you.

Ignoring your kids' natural curiosity is not a good plan. In fact, Planned Parenthood says that studies show that parents who talk to kids about sexuality accurately and honestly have kids who are more likely to delay having sex -- and use protection when they do, ah, do the deed.

Still not convinced? Think back to how you learned about sex. For many of us, it was a book in a bag, a health class full of snickering kids, or an older sibling who may have exaggerated just a little bit. Is that the experience you want for your kids?

Starting the conversation

Where to begin exactly? Well, the next time your kids pose one of those difficult questions (But how did the baby get in there?), stay calm. Planned Parenthood lays out four steps to get through, and they're pretty straightforward and easy to follow.

1. Validate, and get some information. Tell your child, "That's a great question. How come you're asking today?" This reassures your child that she's not weird or strange for asking, and it gives you a chance to find out what prompted the question -- that is, if she saw or heard something.

2. Dig a little deeper. Ask, "What do you think the answer is?" This is a chance to get inside your child's head a bit and see how much she already knows.

3. Give an honest answer. You answer can -- and should -- be in keeping with your values. For example, it's fine to talk about pregnancy as something that happens within a marriage if that's your belief. But you will need to be ready for followup questions if your child has been exposed to another reality.

4. Make sure your child understands. You can say, "Does that answer your question?" or "Do you have any more questions?"

Use teachable moments

Once you feel ready to tackle the talk with your child, you may find that she suddenly stops asking questions. In that case, you can initiate the conversation via a teachable moment.

Teachable moments happen all the time. You're watching TV and two characters kiss. A friend or family member is pregnant. Your child sings a song lyric you know she doesn't understand. As before, keep your cool, and open the discussion.

"What do you think about that?" "What do you think that means?" "How did that make you feel?"

Just remember, the conversation about where babies come from is a lot easier than the conversation that starts with, "Mom, I'm pregnant." Talking to your kids today can open up the lines of communication you'll need in the future.

Still feeling insecure? Check out this video from Planned Parenthood or download their Parent Guide at www.plannedparenthood.org for talking to kids about sex.

More tips on having the sex talk:

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