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How to talk to your kids about sex: An age-by-age guide

Talking to your kid about sex can be daunting. So we asked the experts how and when to cover everything from sex and puberty to gender identity and consent.

How to talk to your kids about sex: An age-by-age guide

Three years ago, while Lisa King* was pregnant with her first de fascinated with her growing belly. “He’d ask, ‘How did the baby get inside your tummy?’ and ‘How is the baby going to get out?’” When King left those inquiries with her nephew’s mother and grandmother, “Words like god and magic were thrown around,” recalls King. She told herself that, when it came to how to talk to kids about sex, she would be open and honest. Now a mom to a 10-month-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old, King wants to keep that promise. There’s just one problem: “I need some basic guidance, an outline perhaps, of what to talk about and when,” she says.

King’s uncertainty is hardly unique, says Nadine Thornhill, a Toronto-based sex educator and mom to an 11-year-old. “This is what I do for a living and I still struggle to have these conversations with my own child.” She notes that, while it’s normal to feel awkward and nervous, it’s important to focus on being honest. “There’s more risk with not telling them enough than telling them too much,” she says, adding that it’s OK to admit that you don’t have all the answers. Just before you tackle any of your child’s sex-related inquiries, Cory Silverberg, sex educator and author of Sex Is A Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings And You, suggests you first ask a clarifying question such as “Where did you hear that word?” in order to give an appropriate response.

While pop culture likes to portray teaching kids about sex as just one big “talk,” experts agree that sex is something kids should always be learning about.

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