Talking to School-Age Kids About Sex: What to Say When

Why it's important to address questions about sex early

talking to kids about sex - girl talking to pregnant mom's belly
Having "the talk" about sex with kids: How to answer when your child asks, "Where do babies come from?". Shestock/Getty Images

"Babies come out of the tummy, right?" "How did the baby get in there?" These are typical questions that a young child might ask about sex. And if your preschooler knows basic facts and body part names you may even get asked, "Yes, but how did the penis get in the vagina?"

These and other variations of questions about sex and reproduction are common in school-age kids' minds. No matter how much a parent might think they know how to address them, it's easy to get deer-in-the-headlights tongue-tied when questions about sex come up.

Here are some very helpful tips on talking to your child about S-E-X, and why it's important to keep the conversation going with your child, even if you feel like you have no idea what to say.

How to Talk to School-Age Kids About Sex

Listen. Talk. Repeat. A great rule of thumb to follow when talking about sex with your kids is ABLE: Ask, be ready to answer, listen to what they're saying, and encourage more questions, says Cora Collette Breuner, MD, chairperson of the AAP Committee on Adolescence.

Take your cue from your child. If your child asks a question and seems satisfied with the answer and goes on playing with his Legos, or seems uncomfortable and wants to stop talking about it, follow his cues. Let him lead the conversation and resist the urge to give him all the information in one sitting. "Maybe all he wanted was a Tweet, not a fifty-page report," says Breuner.

Do not try to dodge questions or try to wait to have the talk until your child is older. At age 8 or 9, some girls are going through puberty and those who are not yet experiencing puberty themselves know someone else who is.

 Elementary school-age kids absolutely have questions about sex and reproduction, and if parents are not comfortable talking about this topic, they'll get information their friends, the internet, and other sources, says Dr. Breuner. "If you're not comfortable, get comfortable," says Dr. Breuner. With younger kids, keep your answers quick and short.

"At age five, they don't need details," says Dr. Breuner. 

Look for good resources of information for yourself and your child. Books like can be very useful for kids who may want to get a lot of questions answered. If you're looking for talking points to help you figure out what to say, Advocates for Youth, an organization that works to promote effective adolescent reproductive and sexual health programs and policies, offers some very useful information about how to answer many kids' questions. Parents should also consult with their child's pediatrician and teachers to get their advice about how to talk to kids about sex.

Teach your child the importance of respecting oneself. "Talk about how she should always be respectful of her body, and to always respect others," says Dr. Breuner. Make it clear to your child that no one should be touching her in her private areas, and that her voice matters. If anyone touches her in a way that makes her uncomfortable, she should make it clear that "No means no" and that she should say loudly, "Stop! That's my body."

Keep the conversation going. Once you answer your child's questions, the conversation may naturally continue. He may come back the next day and ask something else to follow up what you were talking about, or ask you to clear up something he finds confusing.

Be open to addressing his questions, and try to find moments in the day when you have time to have a conversation—such as at dinnertime, during the bath, or when you're reading together at bedtime—to answer complicated questions. Be open and available, and remember that it's good for a child's development to talk about puberty, the body, reproduction, and other natural functions that are part of being human. "The only bad thing is to never talk about it," says Dr. Breuner.

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