Seven-year-old Nathan questioned his mother, “Where did I come from?” Nathan was not asking if he was born in Livermore or Los Angeles, however he wanted to know how he came to be, how his very being was created. His mother, Mary, answered his questions. Nathan kept asking until he got the whole “birds-and-bees” story out of his mom. He considered the information carefully then decided he would adopt children. Nathan couldn’t imagine that he would ever engage in sexual intercourse; it just seemed improbable to his seven-year-old brain.

Then Nathan grew up. When he turned 15, he had his first crush on a girl and at age 16, Nathan became smitten with a lovely classmate. Within a few months he and his new girlfriend were seeing each other frequently. His mother, Mary, was glad she and Nathan had already had numerous conversations about sex. Those early conversations had set the tone and prepared the soil for the conversations she now needed to have with her teenage son who was trying to manage a new love interest, a set of raging hormones, and a barrage of messages from the culture about what sex was all about.

In the hyper sexualized culture we live in our kids start learning about sex at a very young age. Just open your eyes at the shopping mall and take in the sex messages: gaping garments, bared bust lines, and provocative poses are visible at every turn. Even young children need adults to help make sense of the sex messages they are bombarded with.

Kids in middle school start experimenting with sex (30% of 8th graders are sexually active) and almost half of high school students have had sexual intercourse. They need trusted adults to help:

  1. Put sex into the context of real life
  2. Formulate values around sex, sexuality, and sexual expression
  3. Get the facts straight (there are many misconceptions and myths)

It’s best to start young. Books help:

Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask): The Secrets to Surviving Your Child’s Sexual Development from Birth to the Teens by Justin Richardson and Mark Schuster

So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids by Diane E. Levin Ph.D. and Jean Kilbourne Ed.D.

Why Do They Act That Way?: A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen by David Walsh

Staying Connected to Your Teenager: How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They’re Really Saying by Michael Riera

Have the talk; get started. The first or second conversation you have with your kids about sex will be uncomfortable. You will get past your discomfort and will then be able to transmit valuable information and values to your child about the important yet sensitive subject of sex, sexuality, and sexual expression. Your experience, your openness, and your perspective will help your child. Trust me on that.

Amy Sluss, RN is a family-life specialist, author and health educator from Pleasanton, CA. You may e-mail her at asluss@fab2bfem.com to request a free copy of her new product packet, Talking to Your Kids about Sex.