How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex

You know it’s an important talk to have. But starting it can be, well, intimidating. Here are some tips to get the ball rolling.

Look for door openers

Parents should look at their surroundings and try to find teachable moments when spending time with their kids, says Barb Flis, founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.

For example: “You’re watching a television program, and there’s something of a sexual nature or some decision-making around having sex.” That’s a door opener to talking about sex, she says.

While parents may experience discomfort at bringing up the topic, Flis adds, they should not ignore the teachable moment out of embarrassment or a fear of not knowing what to say.

No lectures, please

Resist the urge to get on the soapbox and pontificate.

“When everybody’s watching TV, nobody wants a lecture,” Flis says. “In fact, kids don’t like lectures at all.”

Instead of going on a long spiel, parents should ask their teens what they think about sexual situations they hear about or see on TV. Open-ended questions allow parents to gauge what their kids are thinking.

“Unless you know where their thinking is going,” Flis says, “you don’t know how to direct your conversation.”

Having “The Talk” only one time, too, does not do much. Frequent small talks spread over time are much more effective, she says.

Take advantage of a captive audience

In the years before adolescents start driving themselves around, they need mom and dad to be chauffeurs to and from school, friends’ houses and sports practices. When carting your kids and their friends around, listen to what’s going on in the backseat.

“Especially (with) middle school kids, it’s amazing the way they have conversations as if you’re not even in the car,” Flis says.

After the friends are gone, parents can ask their children what they thought about what a friend said.

Just talking is not enough

Parents should help their teens practice skills such as assertiveness and making a plan to stay safe, because words just are not sufficient.

“There’s a difference between intention and behavior,” Flis says. “We might intend to not do something, but when kids are with their friends and they’re wrapped up in the emotional moment, their behavior does not always match their intention.”

As teens change and develop into adulthood, she says, their brain functions may work against them. Teens mainly rely on the emotional part of their brain and not their frontal cortex, which controls decision-making and catches up around their early 20s.

Encouraging and strengthening those behavioral skills can help reinforce the message parents want their teens to follow.

Be open-minded

When advising parents who search for information online, Flis warns them that they are unlikely to find a resource guide on sexual education that completely fits their values system.

“It’s just impossible,” she says, “so go with an open mind, look for the information you’re seeking, see how it sits with you and your values system – and if it doesn’t, then don’t use that piece of information.”

Websites that some may find too liberal or conservative can still hold good information that parents can use.

“You want websites that are going to give you all of the information, not just some of it,” she says.

This post was originally published in 2012 and has been updated for 2016.

Metro Parent Editorial Team
Metro Parent Editorial Team
Since 1986, the Metro Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for metro Detroit families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -


Metro Detroit’s Best Youth Soccer Leagues

If your child is interested in trying soccer, sign them up for one of the many youth leagues in metro Detroit.

Visit Michigan Science Center for Free During Concert of Colors

Learn when your family can visit MiSci for free this summer.

Dine Out for Less With These Kids Eat Free Deals at Metro Detroit Restaurants

Eat out without breaking the bank! We've picked our favorite kids-eat-free deals around metro Detroit.

How Students at Charter School in Taylor Champion Health and Wellness

Brought to you by The Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University

- Advertisement -