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When is it the right time to talk about sex to your child?

How do you know it is the right time to have an open conversation about sex to your child?


Jeffrey Gartrell | Family-medicine

Jeffrey Gartrell

It is difficult to know exactly when to discuss this issue because every child and family is different. Even at a very young age, children are curious about sexuality. From just 18 months to a year, children begin learning about their bodies, including body parts. After just a few years of age, a child may ask where babies come from or how they fit into their mother’s belly. As they move on to school, they notice interaction between males and females. Children often ask questions about these issues as they grow.

As children grow up, it is important to answer their questions. The best way to do so is in an age-appropriate manner to the level of their understanding. As to exactly what this level is really is up to the parents/family.

Some basic recommendations are to teach children 18 months to 2-3 years old the names of body parts, including private parts using their proper names. As children get a few years older, talking about where babies come from and how adults come to form relationships is helpful. As they get to be 8-9 years old, children commonly become aware of relationships between people and sex in general.

Typically, schools have a curriculum discussing sexuality around 5th – 6th grade. It is a good idea for parents to familiarize themselves with this so that they have a better understanding of what is taught and better insight of how to go about discussing this with their children. It is at this time that it is generally acceptable to talk about contraception, STDs, and sexual responsibility.

For parents, talking to their children about sexuality can be difficult. Knowing where to go for more information can be very helpful. There are several resources online for parents including information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Association of Family Physicians. I would encourage parents to search these resources and to discuss this with their primary care provider if they have questions or concerns.

Read more answers by Dr. Gartrell