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Tips on Having "The Talk"

Photo by: iStock

‘The Talk’ can be overwhelming or just another part of life, depending on many factors; how your parents addressed it, how comfortable you are about showing love to your spouse and your kids and how ready you are to accept that your kids are growing up. Aisha D. Pope, LCSW, and co-founder of Roots and Wings Consulting in La Mesa, California, explains, “Ideally, ‘The Talk’ isn’t a single event. Rather, it’s a series of discussions that start when we start teaching them the names of their body parts and continues well into adolescence and possibly young adulthood.”

1. Teach your child about personal space and that it’s important that she knows how to say, ‘no.’ You can broach this subject as it relates to going to the bathroom and that no one is allowed to touch your child’s private places. Pope says, "Starting talks about body parts, body safety and boundaries early on teaches your child that these are normal conversations in your family and sets the stage for future discussions.”

2. Be honest. If your child walks in on you being intimate with your spouse, don’t get angry. He might be frightened, especially if he hears sounds that sound like you’re in pain or if he sees what might look like Daddy attacking Mommy. Tell your child to meet you in another room and explain that’s the way parents show how they love each other sometimes. Pope adds, “Acknowledge that this was uncomfortable, scary, and maybe a little embarrassing for all of you. Use this opportunity (without shaming or blaming) to review your family rules about privacy, knocking on bedroom and bathroom doors, etc. And lock your doors next time!”

3. Make sure your child knows that sex is not something to be embarrassed about and that you and your spouse are always around if they have any questions. If she grows up thinking that sex is taboo, she might, out of curiosity, experiment early. By taking the mystery out of sex and puberty and the normal changes involved, kids are less likely to rely on schoolmates, the Internet or firsthand experience to find the answers to their questions.

4. Explain the changes that both boys and girls experience as they reach puberty. Physical, mental and emotional changes can be scary for kids, even if they’re aware of what lies ahead. Hearing about these changes is very different than experiencing them.

5. Don’t procrastinate. If your child sees animals mating on a nature show or sees a couple making out in public, jump on that chance to start a dialogue. It might turn into “the talk, " or it may just start a chat where your child can ask a question or two.

Even if you’re not ready to talk about sex, your child might be. Deferring to your spouse might only confuse your child, especially if your spouse sends him right back to you. Pope says "Avoiding the talk won’t make your children less curious. They will seek out the information, and it’s highly likely they’ll find it in ways you won’t approve of. If you want your child’s information to be accurate, age appropriate, and consistent with your family values, it’s up to you.”

Shelley Moench-Kelly, MBA, is a New England-based writer and editor whose freelance clients include Google, L’Oreal Paris and

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