Parents must be ready for children’s questions about sex

Published 10:03 am Tuesday, March 4, 2014

QUESTION: How can I be better prepared for my child’s questions about sex?

ANSWER: In Becoming An Askable Parent, the American Social Health Association offers the following guidelines in responding to your child’s sexuality questions:

First, make sure you know what your child is asking.  Ask your child, “Do you mean … ?” or “Do you want to know about … ?”

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Second, discover why your child is asking. Is your child trying to check a fact, make sure he or she is normal, test your knowledge, explore his or her own values, or satisfy curiosity?

Third, respond immediately to your child’s question, even if only briefly.  You can always resume the discussion later when you have collected your thoughts or when you have more privacy.

Fourth, be sensitive to your expressions and gestures. How we answer a question is sexuality education, too. A smile can make a major difference in how information is remembered.

Fifth, take the initiative, if necessary.  If, by age six, your child isn’t asking questions, it’s up to you to find moments to begin talking about age-appropriate sexuality issues.

Stages of sexual development result in expected behaviors and kinds of questions.

Three year olds often touch their genitals because is feels good and it reduces anxiety. This is the time to begin talking about public versus private behaviors.

Four to eight year olds engage in non-sexual childhood “sex play” such as “doctor and nurse” or “let’s play house games.”  They learn sex words, but usually don’t know their meanings.  They learn a sense of modesty and/or shame.  They tend to be interested in reproduction, pregnancy and birth.

As children get older, they want to know what words mean and to see their parent’s reaction. A nine year old asks, “What’s a prostitute?” He may have heard the word from friends or during a television program.  You want to answer the question, but you also want your child to know what you think of prostitution.  It helps to begin with the facts.  “A prostitute is a person who is willing to have sex in exchange for money.  This is not legal in most of our country, but it happens anyway.  Now I want to tell you what I think of prostitution….”

Remember, if children don’t learn about sexuality from their parents, they will learn about it elsewhere and the information may be incorrect and confusing and it may not agree with parental values.

If you would like to talk about raising children, call the free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-0528.  For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599.  Check out and It’s Perfectly Normal (Robie H. Harris) at the PRC Specialty Library (105 First Street S.E., Austin)