Curated from: Sexual Wellness Blog - Jenny Keane
What age should you start talking to your kids about sex at?
Ouf! I get this question so much. Here is the truth. You cannot start soon enough. “The Talk” should never be a one-time event. It should be an on-going conversation. If you have been to Orgasm Online with me, you already know our sexual development starts from infancy. As children grow and mature they only have more questions. Start to see “the sex talk” as a continual conversation that will evolve as your child grows.
Sometimes you might read the recommended age to talk to kids about sex is 11 yrs old. But here is what I think, if you wait until your kid is 11 to talk about sex, the amount of information you’ll have to impart will be overwhelming. Trying to explain sex to an 11-year-old when you’ve never talked about anything sex-related before can be way too much all at once.
They say kids as young as 6 years old are coming across porn so although we want to protect our kid’s innocence and believe they are too young to be engaging in this conversation, they already know. If you aren’t controlling the narrative then you can be absolutely sure somebody else is…whether that is mainstream porn, friends, etc.
Part of our role in all of this is to create a comfortable, open, shame-free environment to open the channel of communication for children to come to us with their questions. You should strive to be the first person they want to turn to. In doing so, we set them on the path towards healthy, loving, adult intimacy. Start talking to kids about their genitals as children will make it easier talk to then about crushes when they’re nine, or about consent as a teen.
Studies and research continually shows kids who feel connected to their parents are less likely to engage in early or risky sexual behaviour. The more you empower kids and teens with knowledge, the more likely they are to make healthy choices.
There is so much to say on this topic but as a starting point, below are a collection of age-appropriate books and recommendations that might set you on the right track…
Tip: Children are curious creatures. If you feel shy about talking to your kids about sex, I always recommend having books about healthy sex lying around the house or on the bookshelf…They will find them :)
For Goodness Sex : Changing the Way We Talk to Teens about Sexuality, Values, and Health
Author | Al Vernacchio
Age | Teens
Sex education today generally falls into one of two categories: abstinence-only or abstinence-based education--both of which tend to withhold important, factual information and leave young adults ill-equipped to make safe decisions.
For Goodness Sex, offers an approach to discussing sexuality as a natural part of life, along with tools and insights adults need to talk young people and help them develop healthy values and safe habits. With real-life examples from the classroom, exercises and quizzes, and a wealth of sample discussions and crucial information, I might call this book a gospel for teen sex education in the twenty-first century.Buy here
Girls & Sex
Author | Peggy Orenstein
Age | 9+
When it comes to teaching about sex obviously, it’s not just about body parts. It’s teaching media literacy around the ways women’s bodies are depicted in the culture. Peggy Orenstein interviewed more than seventy young women, along with a varied set of experts from psychologists to sex educators. The result is a provocative (at times uncomfortable) fascinating, and vital conversation:
Are we teaching girls to be assertive everywhere except the bedroom? Where or from whom do teens learn about pleasure? Do they see a boy’s pleasure as equal to a girl’s? How should girls navigate relationships in a culture that consistently reminds them they must project sex appeal at every turn?
I think it is important to remember when reading this book, it is written by a journalist, not an educator, so there is definitely a very specific narrative. BUT nonetheless, a fascinating read.
Peggy Orenstein has a version for boys you can check out hereBuy here
Decoding Boys : New science behind the subtle art of raising sons
Author | Dr Cara Natterson
Age | 9+
If you are raising boys, you absolutely should read this book. Dr Cara Natterson offers science, strategies, scripts, and tips on subjects like:
- Recognizing the first signs of puberty and talking to our sons about the wide range of "normal" through the whole developmental process
- Why teenagers make irrational decisions even though they look mature--and how to steer them toward better choices
- Managing video game and screen time, including discussing the unrealistic and dangerous nature of pornography
- Why boys need emotional and physical contact with parents--and how to give it in ways they'll accept
- How to prepare boys to resist both old and new social pressures--drugs, alcohol, vaping, and sexting
- Teaching consent and sensitivity in the #MeToo culture
I have to say this book is fascinating and makes sense of so many behaviours boys display as they go through puberty. Decoding Boys is a like a lifeline …and would have absolutely helped me understand my brother growing up! Ha! Couldn’t recommend it enough.Buy here
V is for Vulva
Author | Nova Halfwilde
Age | 4+
I adore this book! Full of colour it is something for the 4-5 year olds. It is a radical, diverse, inclusive, body positive picture book for young children.
‘V for Vulva’ is a gender neutral introduction to the human reproductive organs aimed at pre-school children and their parents and carers. Their goal is to have an honest and safe visual resource for children who are curious about reproductive organs that acts as a safe alternative for those who end up accessing graphic porn at a young age, while encouraging open discussion between children and the adults in their lives.Buy here
What Makes A Baby
Author | Cory Silverberg
Age | 3+
When the question, “where do babies comes from?” hits your household this is a great book to read to curious children. The book explores the science of egg meeting sperm to form a fetus. The book doesn’t talk about sex or the logistics of how one makes those ingredients meet, but in a very thoughtful way talks about how some bodies have sperm and some have eggs. It strips away gender and doesn’t define relationships in heteronormative ways.
He also has another book called, Sex is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and YOU for kids around 7+
Let's Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect
Author | Jayneen Sanders
Age | 7+
This book is a great resource for teaching children about body ownership, respect, feelings, choices and recognizing bullying behaviours. Teaching young children about body boundaries, both theirs and others, is crucial to a child's growing sense of self, their confidence and how they should expect to be treated by others. It is meant that the topics within the book become discussion points for the family.Buy here
If the above recommendations didn’t hit the spot here are a few more for you.
For books about development, there is also From Diapers to Dating by Debra W. Haffner, and Talk to Me First by Deborah Roffman
Positive Sexuality: A Kid’s Inclusive Guide to Being Body Aware (Kids Aware) by Sara Matilde Perry.
For kids themselves, I recommend getting Robie Harris’s series of books when they’re younger, and then in high school and college, the bible is Heather Corinna’s S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties.
Six Minute Sex Ed Podcast
Six Minute Sex Ed is a podcast hosted by sex education teacher, Kim Cavill. Most episodes are about 6 minutes long, like the name says, and are broken into two levels. Level One is good for listeners of any age, but is designed for younger listeners and Level Two is geared for tweens, teens, and adults. Cavill intends for these shows to be listened to as a family so that discussion can happen after. She understands lives are busy, so the podcasts are short, to the point, and full of great information to help you stay connected with your kids while having really meaningful conversations about sexual health and body autonomy.
Sex Ed School, YouTube Channel
Sex Ed School is amazing, and you need to be watching these 10-15 minute videos with your kids. Hosted by Eva, a sex researcher, and Nadine, a sex educator, the episodes cover topics like genitals, gender, consent, kissing, and love—including self-love, i.e. masturbation. The hosts are in front of a group of middle schoolers in a classroom setting and have lively discussions with the students on all of these topics. You also see other kids talk about these topics with the hosts using simple terms and easy to follow lessons that empower children while teaching them about bodies and the respect they deserve. Great for ages 7/8+ I think.