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Five Reasons You Find It Difficult To Talk To Your Kids About Sex

September 21, 2022

– and What To Do About Them

Kids in a classroom - what they hear in school is important; awareness is important when you want to talk to your kids about sex

What bothers some parents about talking to their kids about sex?

You might be one of those parents who has shied away from having “the talk”. So when embarrassing questions are asked (like Mummy, how did I get into your tummy), you hide behind your computer or phone. 

But, more and more, we realise that successful parenting needs to be hands-on.

As our kids go through the most formative years, we must be part of their “journey of enquiry and discovery” around crucial topics like sex, periods, and puberty!

Being their friend, confidant, guide, and support will increase their confidence, reduce their vulnerability, and helps keep your child safe from peer pressure, grooming or being sexually abused.

Your Child’s Age

Some parents see their kids as too young to talk about intimate issues and forget that we live in an age where kids may be a little older mentally than we realise.

I don’t only mean the exposure to television and computers – but even chatting with their school friends from different families.

My little girl was about 7 or 8 when she came home with a story of a classmate who had a boyfriend. And apparently, it was cool because the classmate’s older sister also had a boyfriend.

So, you can see how a child might innocently come across information or terms at a stage when you don’t think they may even know it.

They may not know the whole meaning, but you should not assume you know all about their depths of knowledge.

Some parents are thinking – “oh, I have a couple of years before we need to have the talk”.

No. It would help if you understood that you don’t know everything being discussed in the playground. So, you can be proactive and ask open questions to see what may emerge.

Even if you don’t think they have already heard some of these terms – you should, at this stage, ensure they are familiar with ideas about personal space, privacy, and touching that is appropriate or not etc

Related to this is setting boundaries that should be observed between persons, no matter how friendly or related they may be to you and your family.

Family of four, african background - mum, dad, son and daughter, casually dressed while sitting on sofa - In your family its important to gauge when to talk to your kids about sex

Fear of Promiscuity

The second challenge some parents experience is believing that talking about sex with their kids leads to promiscuity.

If you think about it a little, they are really saying that ignorance is bliss.

And that is so wrong. No one advocates that we share explicit, graphic descriptions and discussions with children – absolutely not! 

And in fact, it is crucial that information sharing is AGE appropriate.

This means that the kids can understand it. Still, it is also sensitive, so you are not exposing them to graphic information.

Parents think that once you mention sex talk, we ask you to reveal or expose kids to intimacy – no, this is not the case.

It is possible to have a chat with the kids and not use explicit and graphic descriptions in any way.

What YOU Believe About Sex

Some parents may feel embarrassed talking about sex. Ok, this next sentence may be a hard one to swallow.

But I’d like to put it out there that your comfort or discomfort with sex may influence your wish and ability to discuss it in simple terms with your kids.

Some of us come from very conservative or religious backgrounds where sex talk is taboo.

Issues like periods or breast development are not discussed.

Or random erections and wet dreams for boys when they get to puberty – not explained.

So as parents, it may be very challenging to open up and introduce the subject or respond to it when your child asks questions.

To make matters worse, your attitude gives the subject negative connotations and unintentionally makes it mysterious.

What Your Child Believes

If I say to you, don’t look at that man across the road wearing a red hat – what’s the first thing you do? Look for the man across the street wearing a red hat.

This is how your child thinks: “So, where can we get the information if we can’t mention it at home?” They will get it in whispered conversations on the playground.

Then the opinions of their peers and older ones will lie unchallenged in their minds.

They may share videos and images in school to answer the question – what is this “sex” that Mummy and Daddy don’t even want me talking about?

Another related point is that some people/parents have also had bad sexual experiences, so it may be challenging to discuss.

So, if you are experiencing real difficulty broaching the subject in a friendly and innocent way, it may be to do with your personal experience regarding sex.

African mum and daughter - she knows talking about sex to your kids is an important responsibility

How Close To Your Children Are YOU?

Parents who are not close to their children will face challenges in having intimate discussions.

This is if you do not have an open and friendly relationship with your child.

If you are too strict or use the ‘stick’ much more frequently, a distance between you and your child can be created. It doesn’t mean that you do not love them.

Still, your manner of parenting may create gaps, distrusts, bottlenecks, and tensions that make it hard to hold these conversations openly or freely.

Please don’t get me wrong – it is good to set boundaries for children: bedtimes, homework time when to play or do similar things – these are boundaries.

It is good to provide discipline to your child in a measured way.

But if your child associates you with fear from verbal or physical abuse, the setting to hold these discussions is already gone.

You cannot be a confidante for this child.

This can make them vulnerable to outsiders who will take your place and provide a ‘safe space’ to unburden themselves.

You must be that ‘safe space’ or place of refuge for your child, and no one else should take your place as long as you live.

Sadly, many ‘outsiders’ are waiting to exploit children’s vulnerability and intentionally lead them down the wrong path hiding under the pretext of being kind and friendly when they are indeed grooming your child.

So, please watch how we develop the relationship with our children.

Dad and daughter of African background sitting a table - all parents should be able to talk to your kids about sex

You Don’t Know What To Say

Lastly, you may not know how to say what needs to be said.

And that’s ok. We are not born with manuals on how to be great mums and dads.

But you can at least start by providing your kids with a safe space, being aware of who your kids are and the possible issues around puberty and sexual development.

That’s half the job done already.

Other Suggestions

You can ask other parents if you have that type of circle.

By sharing your thoughts, you might develop ways to broach the topic.

You can speak to your child’s teacher about age-appropriate ways to introduce puberty or sex.

You can find books that do the same – explain puberty issues for girls and boys and how to present the subject. 

It’s good to let kids know that no one has the right to touch or make them uncomfortable.

We should let them know that sex is something that grown-ups who love and are committed to each other do privately. 

As your child ages, you can decide how much more in-depth conversations should be.

But the fact that you can speak about it openly and frankly at home makes it less likely for them to be impressed when someone at school is getting excited about it. 

You can talk about where periods come from one day; and how babies are made the next time. 

You can discuss why breasts get bigger as you get into puberty.

Why underage sex is not the right decision and what to do if they feel under pressure from anyone saying they should French kiss or play adult games.

We as parents should feel happy that our child wants to discuss these things with us, their primary models at this stage.

And it’s the chance to get the fundamental truths and facts in there – to arm them so they are well equipped.

Don’t worry, Be Present

Lastly, know that children are very observant.

They watch what you do and try to imitate you. So, your words must match your own behaviour and actions.

Remember that you are their foremost model. “Do as I say, not as I do” does not work with children.

Let me know what you think about these five reasons that make it difficult to talk to your kids about sex and any more in the comments section.

More Reading

Editing By AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on various healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality healthcare. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner here.

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Askawayhealth aims to deliver reliable and evidence based women's health, family health and sexual health information in a way that is easily relatable and easy for everyone to access.

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