Where Do I Start?
Consider who the person will be that begins to talk to your child about puberty and breaches the topic of sex. This person needs to be available as questions arise, clear about your family values and beliefs, and open to talking about topics that sometimes are uncomfortable. Most often the best person to do this is the parent or caregiver, as they know the child best and understand how their bodies are changing, how they think, and how they learn. If your child has questions they don’t want to address with a parent, or want more information about detailed medical facts or issues, you can supplement the information you give your child by having them talk to someone else (e.g., the nurse practitioner at your doctor’s office). If you do decide that you cannot address these topics with your child, ask a trusted family member or friend with the same morals and values as your own family.
A free online video you may find helpful when considering how to begin addressing these issues with your child is “How to Have the Sex Talk with Your Child” (See "Resources and References" link below). It is common to feel a little uneasy when talking about sex, as long as you don’t let your own discomfort prevent you from educating your child. To minimize embarrassment, think about switching your emotional brain off for a moment and become an informed resource of medical facts to teach your son or daughter. It is important to note you don’t have to have all the answers, none of us do. Your main purpose is to be “askable” (open to questions) and willing to share factual information as clearly and accurately as possible. For example, if your child asks “Why does my penis get hard?” try to simply answer the question factually by saying, “Your penis becomes hard when there is a change in blood flow. This is natural and can happen at any time for no particular reason.” If you don’t know the answers, say you will find the information and get back with them. If your child finds it difficult to know what is appropriate/inappropriate to talk about, provide them with rules about this and then give them factual information.
Think about how much information your child is able to process when learning something new and tailor your explanations to fit this. For example, you may need to provide just one fact at a time. Some parents find that their child does better with a conversation if they are not looking directly at them (can be less embarrassing or less socially confusing). If this is the case with your child, try initiating the conversation during a simple activity such as building Legos or even during a car ride; either during or after the conversation follow-up by showing your child visual information (written rules/lists, pictures, or video) to increase their understanding. Add in any other methods that have been useful when teaching your child other things in the past, such as social narratives (written-picture information that explains a concept). Try to answer your child’s questions, stay calm, and do not overreact if you are surprised by something your child says, so that they continue to be open to talking with you in the future.