On this week’s Red Table Talk, the Facebook Watch series co-hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris, and her daughter Willow Smith, Paltrow dropped in for a revealing discussion. “It’s always so delicate, talking about how we talk to our kids about sex,” said Pinkett Smith in a Monday sneak peek of the Wednesday episode.
“Oh my god. They — thank god — they, at their elementary school in 6th grade, had the craziest sex ed talk, it was incredible,” said the actress of her 17-year-old daughter Apple and 15-year-old son Moses, whose father is Paltrow’s ex-husband Chris Martin. “But, full-on everything, like they learned everything.” She added with a laugh, “I will never forget Apple’s face when she came home. [The teacher] told them everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything.”
“Had she not asked you any questions before?” asked Banfield-Norris. “No, not really,” answered Paltrow.
The Smith women revealed in turn that Willow (who was not present), started becoming curious about sex at age 5, which surprised Paltrow, whose docuseries Sex, Love & Goop premiered this week on Netflix.
Deciding when to talk to kids about sex is not easy but experts advise doing so early and at their pace, as dictated by age. “If you don’t talk to your kids, they’ll learn about sexuality from popular media, peers, and pornography, none of which teaches them about healthy sex,” licensed marriage and family therapist Jill Whitney, previously told SheKnows. “Kids often run across porn by age 11 or even earlier, so you don’t want to wait to get the conversation started.”
Whitney recommended starting organically. “Any time is the right time because it should be a series of conversations, which ideally happen more or less naturally,” she said. “So when kids are toddlers, teach them correct names for body parts. When sex comes up in a movie or TV show, look for an opportunity to explain or clarify. Use real-life examples to talk about healthy and unhealthy relationships.”
Using simple language is the best way to communicate, ideally before age 8 or 9. If a child hasn’t expressed interest in sex before then, said Whitney, parents should start talking. “You want to show that they can come to you whenever they have questions. Establish yourself as a trusted resource before their hormones kick in during the middle school years,” she said.
Currently, 30 states, plus the District of Columbia require public schools to teach sex education, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, while 28 of those states require HIV education.
Last week, Paltrow told Entertainment Tonight that she wants her kids to feel empowered when it comes to sex: “I will always just encourage my children to really listen to themselves, listen to their instincts, listen to if something you know feels right, and to act from that place.”
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