It’s not easy, but it’s important to talk with our kids about sex and sexuality. What makes it harder is that the conversation is more that one talk, it’s an ongoing dialogue with them that grows and evolves as they get older.

This page offers tips that can help you navigate that ongoing conversation. For information about why the conversation is important, visit our page on Talking to Your Children About Sex. You can also visit Stages of Child Sexual Development for guidelines on what you can expect and talk as your child grows.

Tips for Talking to Kids

Reflect on how you grew up

Be honest

Listen and stay calm

Look to your community

Talk about your family values

Look for everyday opportunities

Use correct language

It’s never too late

Learn together


Start early and continue to talk about sexuality as a healthy and normal part of development…because it is! Having a penis or vagina is as normal as having elbows and knees. Children who learn that sexuality is a normal part of being human are more likely to ask questions as they mature. Avoiding questions or teaching children about everything except their sexual parts gives them a powerful message that this subject is off-limits.

Be prepared and have good resources on hand. Reading books together is a wonderful way to learn about sexuality. If your teenager gets embarrassed when you bring up the subject of sex, leave good resources around the house where they can be easily noticed and read when you are not home.

Give accurate information and use concrete examples. This is where things get more challenging because children need accurate, age-appropriate information. Giving a detailed anatomy lesson to a four-year-old isn’t all that useful, and vague references to “planting seeds” will not satisfy a nine-year-old. Using proper language and concrete examples will give your child the language they need to ask questions and make sense of what they are learning.

Accurate information is about more that just the facts. Sexual facts are only a small part of teaching children about healthy sexuality. Every question and conversation is an opportunity to talk about values, life skills and relationships. Knowing how to use a condom is helpful, but a person needs to be comfortable asking their partner to use one.

When children ask questions, they are also looking for validation of their feelings and the changes they are experiencing in their bodies. As a general rule, we suggest you give good information, validate their feelings, and
let them know they are appreciated and loved.

Use teachable moments. You don’t have to wait for your child to ask a question before you talk about sexuality. Take the initiative and open the conversation by using teachable moments and examples to draw from. For example, visiting the zoo or a farm in springtime will give you plenty of opportunities to talk about pregnancy and birth. Or watch a movie with your teenager and talk about the sexual messages it is promoting.

Don’t pry and respect your child’s privacy. Teach your child early on that privacy is a right. By modelling healthy boundaries, you are teaching your child crucial lessons about respect and setting sexual limits and boundaries.

Try not to jump to conclusions. For example, if your child asks a question about oral sex, it doesn’t mean they are having oral sex! Stay calm, and clarify the question.

Keep a sense of humour! If you can laugh at yourself, you will teach your child that sexuality is fun and joyful. However, never use humour to belittle or make fun of your child’s questions. Keeping a sense of humour about sexuality will enliven the conversation and ease the discomfort or tension that often goes along with having “sex talks.”

Answering Questions

Our child’s questions can sometimes catch us off-guard. To help keep your cool and deliver a response that meets your child’s needs while building your relationship, try this four-part approach: check-in, affirm, clarify, and answer.

1. Check-in

  • What are my own values and beliefs?
  • What is my body language saying?
  • How does my voice sound?
  • Can I answer this question now?

2. Affirm

  • Thank you for asking me.
  • That’s a very good question.
  • I’m so glad you asked.
  • I’m the perfect person to talk to about that.
  • Lots of people your age wonder about that.

3. Clarify

  • Can you tell me what you think/know/understand?
  • Can you ask me the question again?
  • Can you tell me where you heard/read/saw what you’re asking about?

4. Answer

  • Fill in the gaps in knowledge.
  • Find the answer together.
  • Provide the scientific information.
  • Provide your family values/beliefs and explain how they may be different from others.

Why Kids Ask Questions

Ask for information. Every child has a desire and a right to know about sexuality. It’s part of being human. Your child may be seeking clarification about something they have heard from other children or through media.

Ask what is normal. Sexual maturation brings up all kinds of questions about what is normal or not. Children receive all sorts of messages about sexual behaviour. They often wonder whether their feelings and behaviours are acceptable or not.

Ask for permission. Your child may be asking questions to assess your values and comfort with particular topics. They are testing to find out what they can talk to you about.

Ask to shock. Children sometimes ask questions to test their parent’s reactions and boundaries.