Becoming a safe and compassionate source of sexual information for your child is a task that starts when your child is very young and that grows along with your child. Parents give children their basis for understanding their sexual identity and what constitutes a healthy sexual relationship. Each conversation lays the foundation for another.

These days, it might seem like young people know more about sex than their parents do but they don’t. Sometimes children repeat sexual words or phrases without full understanding of what they are saying. They may “know” about sex but it doesn’t mean they comprehend what it means. Sex and sexuality includes learning about caring, responsible relationships and healthy decision-making, not to mention having the skills to follow through on those decisions throughout life.

This section will help you learn more sexuality education, sexual facts and stages of child development so you feel better prepared to talk with your child. You can explore your own beliefs and find helpful communication tips and resources. Parents of children with disabilities will also find additional information about their special needs. Believe it or not, parents are still the primary source of sexuality education for their children. What you say or do not say makes a difference.

Talking to Your Children About Sex

Why parents avoid talking with their children about sexuality.

  • I don’t know what to say and I certainly don’t know the slang terms these days.
  • I don’t know the answer. I don’t want to look dumb.
  • Talking about sex is giving permission to do it.
  • My parents didn’t talk to me and I turned out okay.
  • My child is too young to learn about sex.
  • I don’t need to – my child will learn about it in school.
  • It’s not a topic we discuss in our culture.
  • I’ve taught them the basics — how to prevent pregnancy and diseases — what more do they need to know?
  • I am waiting until my son asks.
  • Her mom will tell her.
  • His dad will tell him
  • I am too embarrassed. I don’t know how to bring up the topic.

Why it is important for parents to talk with their children about sexuality

Talking about sex with your child may be uncomfortable and scary but ignoring the subject sends a strong message to your child that this subject is taboo. The underlying message is that sex is something to be embarrassed about.

The reality is that our world is surrounded by sexual imagery and messages that your child will absorb whether you like it or not. In North America, sex is used to sell many products from clothing to music. Do you really want your children to learn about sex on the internet or by watching MTV?

The best thing you can do is ensure that sex is an acceptable topic that is open for discussion at your house. Your child needs to know that even when you don’t have all the answers, you will provide a loving and safe place to wonder and ask questions. Embrace your right as a parent to be your child’s primary sexuality educator. Take a moment to recall how you first learned about sex.

Did one or both parents sit you down for a serious “sex talk”? Did you learn from a sibling? Did a parent or another trusted adult read books to you or give you books to read on your own? Did you stumble upon a pornographic magazine hidden under the bed? Was someone there to answer your questions? Was it from abuse? Was there someone you could tell?

Take a deep breath and get ready to find out who your children are and how can you support them. Oh, and have fun. Remember, car rides, doing dishes, going for a walk or doing yard work are great times for conversations made more awkward by eye contact.

The Calgary Sexual Health Centre provides “Talking with your Kids about Sexuality” workshops.

For workshop dates and locations see Upcoming Workshops.

What Do I Believe

Teaching your child about sexuality begins with understanding your own beliefs and values. The following statements are designed to help you explore your values and think about your attitudes towards human sexuality. Think about whether you agree or disagree with each statement, and use them as starting points for discussion with your partner or other significant adults in your child’s life.

What Do I Say

First of all, if you child is asking you about sex than you are doing something right. Knowing what to say is important, however, children won’t ask any questions if you are not approachable. You need to give your child permission to ask questions about sexuality and sometimes this means you have to be the one to start conversations. Just because your child is not asking questions, doesn’t mean your child doesn’t have any.

If you are not sure what to say or your child’s questions catch you off guard, just remember that it is okay to learn together.

Top Communication Tips:

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 whenever you bring up the subject of sex, then leave good resources around the house where they can be easily noticed and read or viewed when you are not home.

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

Give them more than 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 useless if a person is too uncomfortable to ask his or her partner to use one.

It is excellent to give the facts but when children ask questions, they are also looking for validation of their feelings and the changes they are experiencing in their own bodies. As a general rule, we suggest you:

Give children 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 spring time 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 setting sexual limits and boundaries, and respect.

Try not to jump to conclusions just because your child has asked a question. If your child has asked a question about oral sex, for example, it doesn’t mean they are having oral sex!


Children ask questions for all kinds of reasons:

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 and 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.

Learn about your child’s world. As your child matures, his or her world is changing at a rapid rate. By interacting with your child and learning about her or his world, you build a relationship based on trust, respect and love. You teach your child important lessons about intimacy and relationships that will form the basis for their future relationships with others.

We are surrounded by sexual language and imagery that can be very confusing and loaded with sexual messages that you may or may not want your child to be exposed to. We cannot always protect our children from outside influences, but we can give them the tools to critically think about what they are exposed to.

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”.

Stages of Child Sexual Development

Parents need to get past any notion of a single “Big Talk” about the birds and the bees. Sexuality education is an ongoing and evolving discussion that changes as your child grows. You aren’t off the hook until your child is an adult. And even then they may still have questions about parenting, relationships, childbirth, etc. Here are some general guidelines making sex education into an ongoing relationship:

Guidelines for 0 to 3 years old

  • I am curious and want to explore my own body and maybe yours too.
  • I talk openly about my body – including where pee and poop comes from.
  • I touch my genitals because it feels good.
  • I am able to say the names for body parts that you’ve taught me – head, nose, elbows, vulva and penis.
  • I experience vaginal lubrication or an erection as a reflex.
  • I imitate my same-sex parent.

To Support your 0-3 year old

Begin at birth with loving touch (this is different than genital stimulation).

Loving touch builds self-worth and trust. It also teaches a child about love and how to express it – fundamental to healthy adult sexuality.

Teach your child that all body parts are important. Use the appropriate names for genitals and body parts (head, nose, elbows, vulva, penis) and avoid shame about body processes. This teaches your baby that the body is valuable and worthy of care.

Begin teaching about private and public behaviors. For example, picking your nose or exploring your genitals is best done in the bedroom or bathroom.

Teach your child to say “no” to unwanted touch of any kind, regardless of who is attempting to touch her.

Teach your child about the anatomical differences and similarities between the sexes.

Speak about both genders as equally special.

Guidelines for 4-5 Year olds

If I am 4-5 years old

  • I am curious and exploring body parts, bodily functions and the differences between boys and girls.
  • You might find me “playing house” or “playing doctor” with my playmates and showing each other our genitals.
  • I may ask questions like: Why are you hairy there? Why don’t I have a penis? Why does my penis get hard? Can I marry you mommy? Where do babies come from?
  • I can identify my own gender (I identify as male or female regardless of my physical sex).
  • I am beginning to recognize the traditional roles of boys and girls.
  • I am conscious about my body and how it appears to others.
  • My sexual identity and feelings about sexuality are beginning to be shaped.
  • I may masturbate – rub my genitals on furniture or pillows – to sooth or relax myself

To Support your 4-5 year old

Continue nurturing positive feelings about his or her body.

Continue to teach your child that they have the right to say “no” to any unwanted touch.

Encourage your child to come to you with questions.

Answer sexuality questions with the same simple language you would any other question (at this point explaining what fallopian tubes are will probably go in one ear and out the other).

Widen your child’s perception of what boys and girls are capable of doing.

Know that touching genitals and masturbating is totally normal, even as you continue teaching the concept of privacy.

Know that for playmates of similar ages, exploring each others genitals in a consensual, playful, curiosity-focused manner is completely age appropriate, even if you do decide to suggest another game.

In some cases, imitating or participating in adult sex acts – oral, anal, vaginal sex – may be a sign of sexual abuse or exposure to sexually explicit media.

Physical trauma to genitals is a cause for concern and may require medical attention.

Guidelines for 6-8 year olds

If I am a 6-8 year old

  • My horizons are expanding. I am developing relationships with people outside of the family.
  • I may prefer to socialize with same-sex peers and may be teased if I don’t stick to pre-defined gender roles.
  • I have access to a great deal of misinformation about sexuality from peers and the media.
  • I am beginning to recognize the social stigma and taboos around sexuality. As a result, I may take greater care to conceal my sex-related exploration and play.
  • I may become more modest and want more privacy. Sorry if this happens overnight.
  • I may masturbate for pleasure.
  • I may show the first signs of puberty.

To Support your 6-8 year old

Continue building the ongoing conversation about sex and sexuality. Some kids are asking basic questions that need simple answers. Some kids are asking complex questions that require more complete answers. Questions are often built on one another. Children may need time to process and generate a new question.

Check in with your child after answering a question – Is this what you were asking about?

Start talking about the changes that will take place when puberty begins.

Calmly explain the meaning of any sexual slang your child brings home.

Explain that there are different types of families and sexual orientations and all have equal value and deserve respect.

Continue to teach your child of the right to say “no” to any unwanted touch.

Know that masturbation is normal.

Note that inappropriate public displays of sexual behavior may be a sign of sexual abuse or exposure to inappropriate and explicit sexual materials. 6

Guidelines for 9-12 year olds

If I am 9-12 year old

  • I am ready to begin puberty. Pubic hair, breast size and penis size, menstruation, ejaculation and wet-dreams can be really confusing.
  • I am very conscious of my outward appearance and concerned if my body is normal.
  • I understand jokes with sexual content.
  • I have friendships with boys and girls.
  • I may be interacting more with the opposite sex and develop infatuations and crushes that include sexual attraction.
  • I may be kissing and hugging with others and perhaps touching genitals and breasts.
  • I may ask questions like What is a wet dream?; What is sex?; What happens when a girl gets her period?; What is a tampon or pad?; How do I know if someone likes me?
  • I may also feel very shy about asking questions.
  • I really value my privacy.
  • I may masturbate for pleasure and orgasm.

To Support your 9-12 year old

Acknowledge and discuss different rates of development.

Find a way to make pubic hair, breast size and penis size, menstruation, ejaculation and wet-dreams acceptable topics of conversation.

Be open to questions about intercourse, oral sex and contraception.

Share your values about sexual behaviors and relationships – your child will need something to work with in order to make responsible decisions.

Be interested in your child’s relationships with peers. Social skills develop through experience.

Help your child practice identifying his or her feelings and following through on decisions in order to enjoy a healthy sexual life.

Help your child understand that while they are maturing physically, there is a lot of emotional and cognitive growth to do.

Intercourse is not healthy at this time. However, keep in mind that 8% of teens report having sex before they were 15-years-old. 7

Guidelines for 13-17 year olds

If I am 13-17 years old

  • I am physically mature, but not yet emotionally mature.
  • I continue to be influenced by my peers (but less than before).
  • I have the ability to develop mutual and healthy relationships. I have the ability to learn about intimate, long-term, loving relationships.
  • I can understand abstract concepts related to sexuality, such as the positive and negative consequences of sexual expression and intercourse.
  • I know my sexual orientation (which gender I’m attracted to) or I am exploring which gender I am attracted to.
  • I may ask questions like, Are my breasts (or penis) too small?; Is it weird that I am a virgin?; Can I masturbate too much?; How do you know if you are gay or lesbian?; Can I get birth control without my parents’ knowing about it?; Does it hurt to have sex?

To support your 13-17 year olds

Teens continue to need clear and accurate information – facts and family values – on which to base potentially life changing sexual decisions.

With age-appropriate independence, most teens resist lectures and orders. Instead, find out what they already know and how they feel. Listen and stay calm. Prove that you can be trusted not to judge, even when you disagree.

Find opportunities to discuss:

  • All the options – not just intercourse – for experiencing intimacy and expressing love. Holding hands and kissing are sexual too.
  • How your child will make the decision to have sex.
  • How to prevent pregnancy. There are many contraception options.
  • How to avoid contacting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • What are the options should unprotected sex happen.
  • Scenarios of sexual coercion and abuse, ranging from lines like, “You would if you loved me,” to date rape.
  • Future life options: to marry or not, to parent, be single or childless.
  • The value and equality of different sexual orientations and sexual identities.

Provide opportunities for your teen to make decisions and figure out who they are and what they value.

Guidelines for 18 years old and older

If I am 18 years old and older

  • I am capable of intimate sexual and romantic relationships.
  • I understand my own sexual orientation, although I may still explore.
  • I am able to understand sexuality as connected to commitment and planning for the future.
  • I can shift my emphasis from self to others.
  • I may experience intense sexuality.

How to support young adults

Keep the lines of communication open and accept your child as an adult, not a little kid.

Offer choices and acknowledge his or her responsibilities.

Continue to offer physical and emotional closeness, but respect her or his need for privacy and independence.

Appreciate your young adult’s unique qualities.

Facilitate his or her access to sexual and reproductive health care.

Continue offering guidance and sharing values.

Talking to Children with Disabilities about Sex

Regardless of the physical, mental or emotional challenges a child or youth faces, every person needs love and intimacy, needs to know how to express and receive affection and has the right to explore their his or her sexuality.

Every child will also develop into a sexually mature adult and need to make wise decisions about unintended unplanned pregnancy and how to stay safe from sexually transmitted infections and sexual abuse.

Unfortunately, reports indicate that children with disabilities are sexually abused more than twice as much as children without disabilities. 1 Children with disabilities are often taught to be compliant and made more vulnerable through an inherent lack of privacy and dependence on a large number of care givers.

Intellectual Disability

A child with a developmental disability will go through the same social and sexual developmental stages as any other child, just at a different rate. The information your child needs is the same as any other child. When and how you present the information will be as unique as your child’s learning needs.

Make it Concrete

Most people with intellectual disabilities have difficulty with abstraction. Simply put, your child may have a hard time visualizing what you’re talking about so you need to make the information you provide concrete.

Here are some tips to help you make sexuality concrete:

Keep the information simple and review it often.

Use appropriate drawings or other images to illustrate what you are saying

Keep your child’s caregivers informed. To avoid confusion, make sure that the adults in your child’s life use similar language and concepts.

Use family photos to explain relationships.

Make use of anatomically correct models and dolls to explain private and public body parts.

Use real-life stories and examples of private and public behavior.

Role-play appropriate affection and boundaries.

Practice saying “no” to unwanted touch.

Note: A child who cannot visualize images in his head will need pictures, not necessarily porn, in order to get excited or orgasm when he masturbates alone in his bedroom.

Images for Sex Education from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada

Inform Yourself

Talk to your local disability association and include your doctor in seeking information on the medical needs – including contraception, safe sex and pleasurable positioning – that need to be addressed in order for your child to enjoy a safe and satisfying sexual life.

Encourage and Practice Independence

As with all children, social skills are developed through experience. Intentional or unintentional isolation will never do. Despite the additional planning and worries that accompany parenting a child with an intellectual disability, be interested in and encourage her relationships with peers.

Physical Disability

A child with a physical disability will go through the same social and sexual developmental stages as any other child. They will be an eligible dating or marriage partner, with the hope of a satisfying sex life, whether people without disabilities are ready to see him/her that way or not.

Get Creative

In addition to hearing stories about relationships that work through and around disability, your young person may need help imagining the mechanics of sex with his/her particular level of physical ability. If you use a wheelchair or a catheter, for example, there are some sexual positions that may not be possible.

Creative Suggestions for sex with a physical disability from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada.

Inform yourself

Talk to your local disability association and include your doctor in seeking information on the medical needs – including contraception, safe sex and pleasurable positioning – that need to be addressed in order for your child to enjoy a safe and satisfying sexual life.

Encourage and Practice Independence

As with all children, social skills are developed through experience. Intentional or unintentional isolation will never do. Despite the additional planning and worries that accompany parenting a child with a physical disability, be interested in and encourage her relationships with peers.

If my child needs counselling or treatment about sexual health, can my child seek medical treatment without my permission?

Yes in most cases. Before a minor can receive any medical treatment, a physician must first get informed consent from him or her. Your child is considered a minor they  is under 18 years of age. Under Alberta law, there is no set age that allows a minor to consent to medical treatment. The health care professional that your child goes to see must decide if your child is a “mature minor”. If your child is a mature minor, you can only access the information shared with a health care professional if you have your child’s consent. If your child is not a mature minor, you can generally access information your child shared with their health care professional. Regardless of whether or not your child is a mature minor, in certain situations the health care professional may choose not to release information. For example, information might not be released if it could harm your child’s mental or physical health or safety, if it threatens the mental or physical health or safety of another individual, or if it identifies a person who provided information in confidence.

What would make my child a “mature minor”?

A health care professional will decide that your child is a “mature minor” if your child understands the nature of the particular medical treatment as well as the consequences of going ahead with the medical treatment or refusing it. Whether or not your child is a mature minor is determined on a case-by-case basis. A 14 year old can be a mature minor while a 16 year old may not be. Similarly, your child might be mature enough to consent to one medical treatment but not another.

Can my child purchase condoms or other sexual health products without my permission?

Stores are not allowed to check identification before selling condoms, spermicides or contraceptive sponges. Unlike cigarettes, for example, in Canada there is no age restriction for purchasing condoms. Sexual health products such as spermicides and the morning after pill, may be kept on the store shelves or behind the pharmacy counter due to legal requirements, pharmacist preference and/or lack of shelf space. The pharmacist usually interacts with your child regarding the use of a sexual health product when such products are kept behind the counter. If your child gets a prescription filled for the birth control pill, the pharmacist will review usage instructions and answer any questions, as they do when they dispense any prescription medication.

What is the age of consent for sexual intercourse (when is it too young)?

The legal age of consent for sexual activity is 16 years for a teenager who has sex with someone of the same age or older; however, teens age 14 and 15 years old may only legally engage in consensual sexual activity with individuals who are no more than 5 years older than themselves. Young people age 12 and 13 years old may not legally engage in consensual sex with anyone more than 2 years older than them and a child aged 11 or younger cannot legally consent to sexual activity with anyone. Consent means two people (or more) deciding to do the same thing at the same time, in the same way with each other. Any sexual act that is initiated upon someone without consent is illegal. When it comes to sex between two people who violate the age of consent laws, the older person is always the one held accountable, never the younger person.

What is the average age that most teens have sex for the first time?

The statistics vary depending on what source of information you consult. The average age that teens start having sex is 16.5. For first and second generation immigrant youth it is 17.5. This does not mean that they are having regular sexual intercourse, just that on average they have had at least one sexual experience by this age.

Myths and Reality

Myth: Talking about sex encourages sex

Reality: Study after study shows that talking to your child about sex does not lead to sex. In fact, when sexual questions and behaviors are freely discussed within a family, children are less likely to be obsessed with the mystery of it all. Research shows they have less sex and safer sex when they do.

When children have accurate language for private body parts, they are more likely to report abuse.

Myth: Kids don’t want to talk about sex with their parents

Reality: You have no idea how important you are. Despite the eye-rolling and protests from your children (“Gross me out!”), kids still want good information from their parents. You are their primary role model. Surprisingly, when the Canadian Association for Adolescent Health conducted a survey in 2005, they found that more teens (43%) than mothers (10%) see parents as the most useful and valuable source of information about sex and sexual health issues.

Myth: I don’t have all the answers, It’s best to leave it up to the experts

Reality: You don’t need to know all the answers to your child’s questions. Your ability to fire off details and facts is a lot less important than making sure your kids know you’re available. You’re building a relationship, not becoming an encyclopedia.

Be honest. It’s all right to say, “That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer, but I’ll find out.” It’s alright to change your mind upon reflection.6Depending on the age of your child, you could even practice looking up answers together in books or on the internet.

At the same time, it is wise to be prepared and proactive about your child’s sexual health education. Visit the library or bookstore and talk to friends or health care professionals to figure out how you feel about sex and sexuality. Reflect on how were you brought up, what you value and what you want your kids to value. Working through your own feelings will ensure you are available and prepared to support your child.

Read about some Books and Websites to get you started.

Myth: Kids will pick up what they need to know

Reality: Oh, they’ll pick up information alright but is it what you want them to learn? There’s no shortage of sexual messages out there and many do not promote healthy sexuality.

On the Internet, your child will inevitably find graphic depictions of all things sexual. Your child will also find pornography as spam in his or her e-mail, sent by strangers met in chat rooms or through links in file-sharing programs.

Pornography can only provide a distorted view of what human bodies look like and what they are capable of doing. Most porn sex is focused on parts of the body and not on the whole person. It often depicts gymnastic positions and moments of degrading pleasure that are entirely separate from the concept of loving relationships. Furthermore, since most porn is made for men, it usually presents only a male point of view of sex where women are only too eager to service the sexual needs of men, regardless of their own needs or feelings.

On television, your children will hear a lot of sexual references, but few messages about safe and responsible sex. Unrealistic beauty in teen dramas and sexist music videos do little to promote feeling good about one’s body and place in the world.

By watching movies, your child will learn that people meet and quickly and inevitably end up in bed together, without ever exploring the broader range of sexual expression – kissing, talking, holding hands and just plain getting to know each other.

Left on her own, your child will pick up whatever, often exploitative message, is in the interests of advertisers to promote.

Unfortunately, your child’s peers may be equally misinformed. A recent survey found that 1 in 4 teens believe practicing oral sex is the same as abstinence. Another found that 39% of teens think you can trust all or most of the information found on the internet.

Take the initiative. What your child picks up on his or her own is a great starting point for a conversation. Despite their protests, kids need adult help to figure out how the sexual imagery and messages they hear about sex defines and influences them. They may also need help finding media and friends that reflect their values about who they are and who they want to be.

Myth: If I am too embarrassed I will screw up.

Reality: Embarrassed is a great place to start. Laugh. Admit you feel awkward. Remember, this will all be very funny in the years to come.

Every day occurrences like a neighbor’s pregnancy or a kiss in a movie are a great way to start a conversation. You could ask, “What do you already know about this?” Much of your job is to listen and stay calm. There is no single right way to build this relationship with your child.

Remember to respect your child’s privacy and model respect for yours. There may be some details about your sex life that you’re just not willing to discuss. Furthermore, your child may be ready to end the conversation long before you are.

Myth: I’ve talked about body parts, intercourse and safe sex, I think I’m done.

Reality: Sex education involves far more than plumbing. It includes everything your child will eventually understand about being themselves. Sex and sexuality includes learning about caring, responsible relationships and healthy decision making, not to mention having the skills to follow through on those decisions throughout life.

It is excellent to give the facts but when children ask questions, they are also looking for validation of their feelings and the changes they are experiencing in their own bodies. As a general rule, we suggest you:

Give children good information;

Validate their feelings; and

Let them know they are loved.

Myth: He’s too young to learn about sex

Reality: Sex education begins at birth as you teach your child how to give and receive affection. Even if you say nothing about sex, your child learns by watching the intimate relationships around them, and gender roles. Children quickly learn what topics are shameful and which body parts cause embarrassment.

Sex will only become more confusing. Give your kids age appropriate but accurate information that you can build on. A three-year-old may only need to know that he has testicles and a penis, while girls have a vulva and a vagina. An eight year-old-boy may be ready for information on special chemicals called hormones that will make his voice lower and a girl grow breasts. In general, if you give children too much detail, it goes over their heads and you will soon see them fidget or otherwise disengage from the conversation.

Myth: My values don’t apply to this generation

Reality: It’s important for your children to get to know you and your values about sex — the information you use to make your make your decisions – even if they don’t adopt them, as they struggle to figure out how they feel and how they want to behave.

If you don’t know what you value, visit the library or bookstore and talk to friends or health care professionals to figure out how you feel about sex and sexuality. Reflect on how were you brought up, what you value and what you want your kids to value. Figuring out that you feel uncomfortable, but still value being available is fine.

Myth: It’s inappropriate and creepy for fathers to talk to their sons and daughters about sex and sexuality.

Reality: Fathers can offer valuable support to their children, even on very private matters. Sons look to their fathers as important role models when it comes to how to behave in their interpersonal relationships. It is not only appropriate but also extremely important for fathers to have frank and honest conversations with their children about sexuality, puberty and relationships.

Myth: Children with disabilities are asexual or oversexual and cannot control their urges.

Reality: All children develop socially and sexually throughout their lives. Every child experiences a full range of sexual emotions such as the need to be liked and accepted and the need to express and receive affection. Every child’s body will change and experience puberty. In fact, a child with a developmental disability will likely experience puberty earlier than her peers.

The idea of an oversexed child with uncontrollable sex drive is as helpful and realistic as imagining a young person with disabilities to be asexual or eternally child-like. Hormonal changes can affect all children but some children with developmental disabilities are less apt to know what to do with all these feelings. A large part of educating your child about sexuality is teaching him or her about boundaries and relationships with others.

Not only are these misconceptions demeaning, they are dangerous if it keeps you from sexually educating your disabled child. Education is central to creating safe and positive interactions, regardless of a child’s abilities.