kids in the park

Talk To Your Children About Healthy Sexuality

Talking to our children about healthy sexuality and personal safety are important parts of prevention. Research tell us that children who have positive feelings about their bodies, accurate information about sexuality, and open communication with their parents, may be less likely to be targeted by abusers.

Below are some tips to help you have ongoing discussions with your children:

  • Think about the messages you want to share—beforehand. As parents, we continuously convey messages to our children about our values and beliefs about sexuality. We do this through what we do, what we say, how we say it, and what we don’t say. These messages can have a profound and long-lasting impact on our children.
  • Start talking to them early and do it often. We start learning about sexuality from the moment we are born and this learning continues throughout our lives.
  • Be open, honest, and positive. Inform yourself: read a book, take a class, or contact a community or statewide organization with expertise in this area. If you are uncomfortable talking about sexuality, practice.
  • Seek opportunities. Take advantage of “teachable moments.”
  • Provide your children with accurate information—appropriate to their ages and ability to understand (developmentally-appropriate).  If you don’t know what to say or how to answer your children’s questions, offer to find the information or look for answers together.
  • Show your children they can talk to you at anytime and about anything. Be approachable. Listen. Try to understand their points of view. Be a consistent, reliable source your children can go to with all their questions.
  • Use the proper names for body parts (e.g., nose, ears, penis, vagina, etc.) This lets them know that their bodies are natural and good, okay to talk about, and worthy of protection. It also gives them the correct language for understanding their bodies, asking questions, and talking about potentially inappropriate behaviors.
  • Respond calmly when your children display sexual behaviors or ask questions that make you uncomfortable. Think about what you want to say before you say it. If you need time to gather your thoughts, take it. Teach your children that sexual feelings are normal and healthy.
  • Don’t just talk about “sex.” Share your values and beliefs. Discuss issues such as caring, healthy relationships, and respect.
    Don’t wait until your children ask questions. Some may never ask.
  • Learn the stages of healthy sexual development and what to teach children at each stage. Know and practice the messages you want to share.

You should also talk to your children about personal safety.

If you need support or information, please go to the Find Resources page. There are resources that can help, including books and websites.