How To Talk To Kids About Sex

Do you remember the dreaded sex talk given to you by your parents? Most likely you fall into one of two camps. You belong in the first camp if your only memory of this talk is the recollection of a flushed, burning face staring at the carpet hoping-no, praying-that this moment would mercifully end… like two seconds ago. You belong in the second camp if you have absolutely no recollection of THE TALK. And the reason for this? This would be because it never happened.

Now, those of us who endured those uncomfortable few minutes (really, was it that much longer?) may wish that we had been one of the “lucky” ones who were able to avoid the issue altogether. But according to BMJ’s editorial, Increasing communication between parents and their children about sex, there’s reason to hope that these uncomfortable discussions become commonplace.

Why? According to this article, some studies have shown a correlation between parent/child communications about sex and delayed age of sexual activity. Another study showed that children who were “talked with” used condoms at a higher rate. Regardless of the small amount of data showing positive results regarding teenage sexual activity, most professionals… most people really… would agree that better communication can only be a good thing.

This is partially the reason that numerous programs designed to increase parent/child communication about this sensitive topic have been developed and implemented. After all, I remember feeling awkward when my parents talked to me about sex but I doubt that they looked forward to the conversation either. Since it’s an all-around difficult subject matter, both kids and parents avoid broaching the topic.

Since sex talks are A) important and B) an easy task to avoid, innovative programs that encourage communication are essential. The program highlighted in the article, Talking Parents, Healthy Teens, is one such program. Identifying the fact that many parents can’t or won’t travel long distances or dedicate after-hours to educating themselves about effective ways to discuss sex with their children, the program goes to parents.

Sex ed has entered the workplace.

Although it’s not unusual for companies to offer personal development seminars such as investing basics or preventative health measures during lunch hours, it’s uncommon to find workers brown-bagging it so they can attend their sexual communication class. But this might change.

This particular program was successful on many grounds: a proper number of participants completed 7 or 8 sessions. Participants continued to discuss sexual issues with their adolescents months after completing the program. And both teenagers and parents reported that the program resulted in “consistent significant effects on communication.”

The positive effects of good communication skills should never be undervalued. And yet too often we forget that, like any skill, proper communication takes practice and effort. Refresher courses and learning new ways of communicating might help us in many areas of our lives, including helping to keep our adolescents sexually safer. And while communication isn’t always easy, it’s accessible to everyone. So maybe, just maybe, the dreaded sex talks don’t have to be quite as awkward after all.


Kirby, D. (2008). Increasing communication between parents and their children about sex. BMJ, 337(jul10 2), a206-a206. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.a206

J. R. White

J. R. White is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She has over five years of experience in education and pedagogy.
See All Posts By The Author