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How to Teach Your Kids About Sex and Consent

Sex and Consent Education For All Age Groups

It's completely normal to feel nervous about how you'll talk to your children about sensitive topics like sex and consent. You want to raise educated, empowered kids, but you might be wondering what to say, what's appropriate for different age groups, and how exactly to approach these topics.

The good news is that you aren't alone, it's been done before, and there are so many different ways you might get these conversations going. This list of tips and resources is split into age groups so that you can start researching and thinking about how you'll talk about these important topics with your kids.

Teaching preschoolers about sex and consent

Explaining sex and consent to young children can be tricky. Psychotherapist Lisa McCrohan has some great advice that I find to be very developmentally appropriate:

“Every parent I know wants their child to grow up to be confident, be resilient, feel good about who they are, and show compassion toward others. As parents, we want to communicate: "You matter. Your body matters. Your consent and boundaries matter." This is regard, and it begins the moment our children are born.”

Lisa's advice can be found in full here . Note that things aren't focused on sex so much, but on helping your child build self-respect, empathy for themselves and others, and on understanding boundaries.

Teaching grade schoolers about sex and consent

In elementary school, bodies change, friendships form, and the foundation for how your child approaches things like sex and consent is laid.

You can start by:

  • Using appropriate names for body parts, like penis and vagina.

  • Teaching the differences between good touch and bad touch.

  • Explaining that all living creatures reproduce, including people.

  • Talking about healthy friendships and relationships, including the importance of communication (this foundation will help them when they enter intimate relationships later in life.)

Older grade schoolers also need to be taught about puberty and their changing bodies.

Teaching teens about sex and consent

Once your child enters the later years of middle school, and eventually high school, hormones enter the picture and they're more likely to become sexually active. This article from Psychology Today has 3 big suggestions about topics to cover:

  • The basics of sex, including the science behind it.

  • Protection and contraceptives, how to use them, where to get them, and why they're needed.

  • “What if” scenarios, like pregnancy and STDs.

Parents must also accept their that kids are going to be making their own decisions. That's why it's so important to create a comfortable environment where these conversations can happen. You can't control them, but you can continue to give them information and support them.

Teaching young adults about sex and consent

The conversations aren't over when your child goes off to college. In fact, helping them navigate their sexuality remains an important parenting task.

This Huffington Post article has tons of great tips about teaching kids of all ages about sex and consent , and I particularly like the inclusion of advice for older kids:

  • Talk about healthy masculinity. The article emphasizes the need for young men to understand this concept, but it's also important for young women to hear.

  • Create an open dialogue around what might happen at a party. Ask your child how they'd know if they had too much to drink, how they would help themselves and their friends if something happened, and other questions.

  • I'd also continue the conversation around consent specifically. Emphasize that your child can always say No, and that they must always listen to someone else's No.

As you can see, there's a common theme here: Communication. These are tough conversations, but kids crave information. It might be (very) awkward at first, but I promise it's worthwhile.