Teaching Your Kids About Sex: Do's and Don'ts

Who, what, where, when, why, and how to talk sex with your child.

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Do explain their rights, responsibilities, and what's at stake. 

Despite their physical developments, kids still have a lot of growing up to do. In fact, the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with rational decision-making, does not fully develop until age 21, Berman says. "You combine that with raging hormones, and the fact that they see themselves as immortal and infallible ... it's not a great combination."

All the more reason to communicate to your child the consequences of sex. And it's not just intercourse. Experts suggest that other kinds of sexual activity may be prevalent and put kids at risk for contracting diseases. "Try to help them understand that it's a responsibility ... they shouldn't let somebody else push it on them," Homme says. You can present your values while explaining that, "ultimately, it's your body" and advise your child to make wise choices.

According to Roffman, most parents want their kids to understand that sexuality should be connected to a relationship. Studies support the notion that "sex in the context of intimacy is what leads to lasting satisfaction and happiness," says Roffman. "Sexual intercourse is, in my estimation, the most fundamental, powerful behavior there is on the face of the earth...It has the ability to give life, potentially take life, and change any number of people's lives forever ... and that's not child's play."

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