The Birds and the Bees: Talking to Your Kids About Sex

Written by Dr. Dave Currie

family_talkkidsThe May 2005 issue of Cosmo Girl, a popular magazine among teen and pre-teen girls, published the results of a 70,000 person study on the sexual behaviour of youth. Consider some of the findings:

  • 69% of young people think that sex before marriage is okay
  • The average age at which teens lose their virginity is 15
  • 39% of teens have engaged in oral sex

We cannot stick our heads in the sand and hope our kids will develop healthy sexual attitudes and behaviours on their own. They live in a sex-saturated society that screams its messages at them: Everybody’s doing it! Whatever feels good for you is right! There are no consequences! Sex before marriage is not only okay, but expected!

If everybody else is talking to our kids about sex and pushing their views on our kids, shouldn’t we talk to them too? But many parents let their fears overcome them and fail to build into their kids in this most critical area. Others want to talk to their kids, but don’t know how. Here are some thoughts to get you started.

Get brave

You want to be the first one to tell your children about sexuality. It’s much better to start with a clean slate, rather than having to undo the faulty information they’ve picked up from friends or television. Unfortunately, in most families, this does not happen. And the number one reason for that is fear.

None of us is fully comfortable with having these discussions with our kids; it’s not an easy thing to do. Ultimately, though, it’s our responsibility and it’s what our kids need from us. So we need to be brave enough to do it. The good news is, as you courageously talk through the tough issues with your children, not only will you be equipping them with the information they need to make wise choices, but you may also be pleasantly surprised at how your relationship with them deepens in the process. They will open up and share more of what’s going on inside them as they see that they can trust you in even the most sensitive areas of life.

Sex talks should be natural and gradual

If you’re hoping you can get this all out of the way with one good heart-to-heart talk when your child is ten, I’m afraid you’re in for an awakening. Yes, you will need to have the definitive sex talk with your child at some point (if you want to be sure they hear it from you first, it needs to happen by the time they are eight or nine.) But there are going to be many other opportunities to teach your kids both before and after The Talk.

It could happen when your five-year-old daughter asks her pregnant mom, “How did the baby get in your tummy?” It could come when your young son and daughter are taking a bath, and your boy suddenly notices there’s something different about his sister. Perhaps it will be when you’re watching TV as a family and something you weren’t expecting comes on, or when your child notices a teenage couple making out in the mall. Regardless of how and when it happens, the questions will come.

These are natural questions that are all part of the process of your child growing up and learning. Sex education is not just a one-time, sit down talk. It’s a process that begins when the child is young and continues through the teen years. Throughout those years, parents should be continually gauging their kids’ maturity and determining how much information they can appropriately handle at a given stage. Don’t give them more than they can take, but don’t give them too little, either. Remember, if they don’t get it from you, they will get it somewhere else.

Create a rite of passage experience

When it comes time for the first major sex talk – the one where you give them all the basics – turn it into a big event. Rather than the parent and child sitting uncomfortably at the kitchen table, scared to look each other in the eye, make it a celebration.

This is an important step in the process of your son becoming a man, or your daughter becoming a woman. Commemorate it with a special event. Take them out for dinner and a movie – make it a real date. Beyond just the talk, turn it into a special time that allows for genuine trust and relationship to develop. This will remove the stigma and set the stage for your child to come to you with their questions and concerns in the future.

Assume they know more than you think

I know parents who think that at age 11 or 12, their kids still don’t know anything about sex. Let me tell you: unless you have them living in a glass bubble, they know a lot more than you think they do. Kids talk. Kids see things on TV. In our culture, we are surrounded by sex, and our children pick up on it.

That doesn’t mean they have perfect knowledge; far from it. They have likely misunderstood a lot of what they’ve seen and heard, and even if they’ve heard the culture’s message clearly, it likely isn’t the message you want them to hear. That’s why your role is so critical. Most kids have a lot of pieces of the puzzle, but they are fragments. Your job is to help them put it all together in a way that reflects your family’s values. Talk openly so they can see how it all fits together.

Don’t be afraid to be frank. Be appropriate, of course. But keep in mind that the messages your kids are getting from the media, their friends and even their teachers are very graphic. Kids today are just not as innocent or naïve as we wish they would be. So we need to tackle the issues courageously, transparently and honestly.

Model healthy sexuality

Your kids will pick up on how you feel about sex. They notice how Mom and Dad treat each other. They may even notice the sparkle in your eyes when you’re having fun together. If you have healthy sexuality in your marriage, as your kids get older they will begin to understand the gift that sex is to a married couple.

On the flip side, I’ve spoken to far too many boys whose first exposure to sexuality came when they discovered their dad’s Playboy collection under the bed. You cannot expect your kids to develop healthy sexual attitudes and practices if they see you doing otherwise. The apple usually doesn’t fall too far from the tree. So make sure you are living the way you want your kids to live as they mature.

Value transfer is critical

There are two sides to sex education. On the one hand you’ve got the technical side: explaining what sex is, what different parts of the body do, and how babies are made. Then there’s the values side: the role of sexuality within life and marriage, appropriate behaviour, and how to treat a person of the opposite sex. While schools may do a good job of teaching the technical side, in many cases the value side is lacking. The sexual values and norms taught at school may not reflect the beliefs of your family. Only you can impart the values that you want your kids to have.

I recommend that same-sex parent (moms with daughters and dads with sons) explain the technical details to the child. The child will usually feel more comfortable asking sensitive questions of the parent of their gender. The opposite-sex parent has a critical role in teaching the child how to relate to the opposite sex. Moms, take your sons on dates and teach them to hold the door for you and pull out your chair. Help them to learn what it means to treasure a girl. Dads, take your girls out and treat them like princesses. Set the bar high so that they will one day look for a guy who will treat them as well as you did, rather than having low expectations and settling for someone who mistreats them.

I can’t stress this enough. I’ve worked with young people for over 18 years now. I’ve seen so many kids getting into the teen years with skewed values and concerning the opposite sex. Instead of respect, their attitude is one of taking: what can I get out of this person that will make me feel good? This is the perspective that media promotes, so kids grow up thinking that this is how it is.

There is another way of approaching sexuality. It’s a way that sees sex as a precious gift from God, to be enjoyed within the commitment of marriage. It’s an attitude of respect towards another person that seeks what’s in their best interest, rather than what I can get out of them right now. Transfer the value of respect to your children, and talk up the value of waiting for marriage. You can always have sex later, but you can never undo regretful mistakes. Parents, many of you know this from personal experience. Don’t let your past mistakes keep you from teaching your kids. Rather, let your experiences motivate you to not let your kids go down the same road.

24 Responses to “The Birds and the Bees: Talking to Your Kids About Sex”

  • Tom Tom says:

    So Simon–

    Why do you suppose you use the expression OM**, while not using the expression “Oh my Burt and Ernie”? Why do you suppose so much swearing incorporates the names of God or Jesus rather than, say, Hitler or even Satan?

  • Aldo says:

    Simon, no matter how often or how much you say that God is a fictional character, the fact remains that He is real. You do not believe in Him because you have never seen Him. If you had seen Him you probably would believe that He exists, wouldn’t you? If you witnessed His miracles, especially those He did for you, you would believe, wouldn’t you? Well, like other things which you have not seen, you have to accept either by their results or by faith. Take electricity for instance. You have never seen it, but you believe that there is such a thing because you can see the result of it. You have never seen Abraham Lincoln, yet you believe there was such a person.

    The wonders and results of there being a God Who exists is everywhere and all around us. To not believe that He exists is more incredulous than believing.

    I challenge you to read the Bible to try to prove that God does not exist.

  • Simon says:

    Thanks Tom. We do need to keep in mind we’re talking about a make believe character however. A bit like Burt & Ernie from Sesame Street.

  • Tom Tom says:

    Something you may not be aware of: Using the expression OM* is using God’s name flippantly and without due respect; a breaking of the third commandment. It’s always best to be cautious of such things.

  • Tom Tom says:

    The best way for you to learn about these things is to go to your father and ask him about it. Not knowing the facts can lead to some real problems in your life. If for any reason your dad doesn’t want to address it with you (and he certainly should want to) then go to your mom.

  • Simon says:

    OMG. Aaron, Jesus Christ has nothing to do with it. It is important you understand the Birds & Bees, maybe just do some reading yourself or ask an older, trusted friends to have a chat with you.

  • Chris says:

    aaron….we all are ignorant of some things but one thing we cant afford to be ignorant on is the fact that jesus christ has come to die for us on the cross, then rose again the third day to offer us eternal salvation for our sins which we all are guilty of. to know more and how to receive jesus into your heart for your own personal salvation log onto or click talk to a mentor above. praying that you would today!

  • Aaron says:

    I’m 13, and my mom nor my dad has told me this story yet. Is that a bad thing?

  • Kate says:

    Hi Molly Lucas,
    Thank you for your feedback. I was wondering if you wanted to explain how you arrived at your conclusions?


  • Molly Lucas says:

    I just finished reading this article, and I decided to look through the comments. Most of the replies were very helpful, but one of them got on my nerves. Asty asked a very serious question, but you gave her a totally [expletive removed] answer. God is not real. God is a myth, and cannot be used as a cover-up answer for a question you do not wish to reply to. What would you do in her shoes? Thirteen years old with little to no sexual innocence left, helping her best friend raise a baby. It is a serious situation, and she needs better advice.

  • Chris says:

    asty….thanks for your post….knowing about the facts of life will come to us sooner or later but the most important thing is what we do with the information according to God. the bible tells us that the sexual experience is for husband and wife. i would encourage you at this time not to think on sexual issues since obviously its not your time for marriage. yes, your fellow students are consumed with sexual issues so it wont be easy but as you give your heart and life to jesus, he will help you with those who surround you and dont follow his will for their lives. you can help them as you too want to do his will in your own life personally. you can find out how by logging onto or by clicking talk to a mentor above. i am praying now that you allow jesus to fill your heart and mind with good and pure things so that you can be pleasing to him in his sight. bye for now!

  • Asty says:

    Hey. This article was quite insightful, but I do have one question: My mum gave me the whole big talk when I was, like, four. I dont remember a single time in life when I didn’t know every detail about this stuff. Hell, when I was eleven, my best friend – same age as me – got herself pregnant and I knew exactly what to do. Is it normal for a girl to get the talk at such a young age, a.d help her friend through pregnancy at eleven? I’m thirteen now, is it normal for me to know these things?

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    Hi there Tridab,
    Thanks for checking out our website.

    First of all, I’m sorry that your parents haven’t been open with you about sex and pornography but I understand….neither were mine. But that meant that I learned a lot from kids at school…or didn’t! Which meant that sometimes they made fun of me because I didn’t know what they were talking about.

    I’m not sure where you live, but maybe you could go to a trusted teacher or pastor to ask specific questions. Asking your friends at school doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to get an honest answer. Instead just tell your friends that you don’t want to talk about it right now. To be honest, at 13, there are lots of other things to be involved in instead. :-)

    We do have online mentors that will respond to you privately in an email. If you are interested in doing that instead, just click on the ‘Talk to a Mentor’ button or go to

  • tridab says:

    Thanks for this page a lot I am a kid muself and my parents never get in the subject but dodge around it and I hear a lot of bad stuff about it in school it just feels wrong in the beggining but once I read this page I though that all creatures do it it’s natural at school most people are mean and dont’t realize what the world really means at my age 13 I try to understand the people around me and why they do this stuff and kids always say something like “OMG” he said I dont’t care about what porn/sex is and I do not feel comfertable with it I understand it but I do not understand how toact when other kids talk about it I am very imbarassed about it please comment help

    Thank you

  • Kathryn Kathryn says:

    Hi there AOJ from Nigeria. Glad you found the article helpful. We cannot publish contact e mails on this site but I will give you a couple of links to useful sites if that would be helpful. Of course, this article is mainly aimed at parents but of course teachers like you can benefit too. However, as the article says, young teenagers have already been exposed to a lot of stuff that is not healthy for them. It would be interesting to check out if sex education is taught at a younger age in junior schools in your country. It is here (UK and starting at age 5) but a lot of parents are objecting because it is far too detailed. liberal and often contrary to Biblical teaching in the post modern society in which we live. Also, it is often not just helpful explanations which are given but also practical suggestions of how to “discover your sexuality”. This is why it is essential that parents start explaining things to their children naturally in a loving, home environment with the kind of values that are important to them as parents and as a family. Some useful links, There are more links but these will give you a good lead. We would be interested to hear back from you with your comments and suggestions. One last thought, if you are teaching in school, maybe it would be a good idea to check out things with the person at the top and/ or parents too to avoid getting yourself into hot water as has happened to some people here.


    Hey,thanks a million for this captivating write up.Its really a balanced diet for all parents.Sincerely,i have learnt alot from this.I am a secondary school teacher in Imo State of Nigeria.I have taught for 3 years now.Majorly i teach young people mostly teens.I always told them the need to abstain from pre marital sex and when i do this,some of them will start looking at me with suprises.I feel some difficulties in handling this anyway.Please inbox me some strategies to handle this professionally.Email…[it is our policy not to publish personal contact information]

  • Kathryn Kathryn says:

    Hi Mshl.I noticed that you commented “WOW! to this page. I am wondering what that means exactly. (Forgive me if I am dense) Was it to one of the comnets, for example from Dorcas or was it the whole article about the responsibilities of parents to make sure their children understand at an appropriate age what they need to know about sex and relationships? It’s a big subject so I’d just like to know more about what you thought. Is that OK?
    Dorcas, you got some good advice there from Claire. I do hope you follow it up because it is, at the least, inappropriate behaviour and could possible lead to him getting into trouble at school or in some other similar situation.
    Blessings to you both.

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Hi Dorcas, It sounds like you have a serious situation on your hands. A seven year old boy should not be touching anyone’s vagina. You mentioned that this has happened before. Have you considered taking both children to see a psychiatrist? The girl has been violated and will need help working through her emotions to be able to feel safe. She’s going to need to be protected to make sure this does not happen again. If the boy is apologetic but still has not stopped this behaviour he may need professional help. It’s important to address this and not just sweep it under the rug. Both children need to know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touches. Is there any chance the boy has been touched inappropriately in the past and this is causing him to act out now? Your family doctor should be able to refer you to a child psychiatrist.

  • dorcas says:

    Hi the article is good. In a situation where a brother seven explore the kid sister three’s vagina with his fingers as he claims. How do i handle them. The girl has trouma keeps saying the brother pricked her with stick, the boy is apologetic but it’s not a one time thing.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    I am so sorry I haven’t responded sooner Jasmine. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. That must be a terrible thing to have to make sense of. Do you have people in your life that you are talking to about your grief?

    As far as having guys fighting for your attention I would recommend being honest and letting them know that you are not interested. They need clear communication and no mixed signals that would give them reason to continue to pursue you. And then ignore their advances. Avoid situations where they are able to be alone with you. Focus your attention on the priorities you have in your life. They will get the message (eventually!!)

  • Jasmine says:

    Hi. I am Jasmine. Over the last year I have been through a lot of stuff, and I am only 15. I lost my god daughter due to lack of air. I have many guys fighting over me and I just don’t have time for it. What do I do about this?

  • Weirdo:p says:

    [I am sorry but by law we are not able to post comments by those under 13 — site administrator]

  • Lisa T. says:

    I found this article to be very informative. I have started talking to my 11 year old daughter about her body changing, now I need to tell her about the birds and the bees and wasn’t sure on how I should bring this matter up. I especially like the idea on going out and making it a celebration instead of sitting at the kitchen table. Thank you Dr. Dave Currie.

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