Talking to your child about sex

Whether you've been girding your loins for weeks to have The Talk with your teenager or your five-year-old flummoxes you with a question about fannies in the supermarket, there are two things you need to remember. First: tell the truth. Second: make the truth age appropriate.

If you can, try to give straightforward answers to your child's questions and, if you feel flustered, try not to show it. Easier said than done if you’re on a packed bus at the time, although you can always try saying you’ll explain when you get home.

When it comes to talking about sex, try to follow your child's lead. Some children ask questions about bodies and sex from a very young age: “How will the baby get out of your tummy?” “How did the baby get into your tummy?” “Why haven’t I got a willy?” “What are those for?” (very loudly when you're trying to buy tampons discreetly) or “Can a daddy and another daddy make a baby?”

Your child will retain what he or she is developmentally able to understand and will hopefully keep asking questions as they grow older. By the time you’re ready to discuss puberty, periods and wet dreams, you’ll be used to giving frank, practical explanations.

Keep the lines of communication open

Whatever crops up in conversation, keep talking. If your child can and does talk to you about anything, including sex, you’ll have laid the foundations for being able to have conversations about sexual feelings, differences in sexuality, respecting your own body and other people’s bodies, sexuality, emotional issues around sex and safe sex. It also means that your child is more likely to be able to tell you things that are worrying, scary or embarrassing.

Find out more

Some of us find it difficult to know how to answer questions in a matter-of-fact way without getting embarrassed. Thankfully, there are lots of good books and other resources out there to help spare our blushes and foster the kind of openness that will benefit our children as they grow up.

There are resources available for children and parents. The ages given below are for guidance only – different children will find different things interesting and useful at different ages.

Resources for under-eights

Mummy laid an egg! by Babette Cole
It's the children who have their facts straight in this warm, funny picture book about how babies are made.
Suitable for children from five to seven years.

How are babies made? by Alistair Smith
Fold-out flaps show how a baby grows and cartoon-style illustrations show where a baby comes from, how long it takes to grow and what a newborn baby does.
Suitable for children from preschool age up to seven years.

Where Willy went by Nicholas Allan
Willy is one of 300 million sperm living in Mr Browne. This picture book is all about the race he embarks on to get to an egg.
Suitable for children from five to seven years.

Resources for eight to 12-year-olds

How did I begin? by Brita Granstom and Mick Manning
This illustrated book explains how babies are made and develop from conception to birth.
Suitable for children from seven to 11 years.

Hair in funny places by Babette Cole
An original and humorous explanation of puberty, featuring the antics of Mr and Mrs Hormone...
Suitable for children from seven and older.

What’s happening to me? (girls) by Susan Meredith
All about the physical and emotional changes that girls encounter during puberty.
Suitable for nine years and above.

What’s happening to me? (boys) by Alex Frith
All about the physical and emotional changes that boys encounter during puberty.
Suitable for nine years and above.

Resources for younger teenagers

Sex, puberty and all that stuff: a guide to growing up by Jacqui Bailey
A comprehensive, appealing book that's packed with lots of information, presented in a way that teenagers will find user-friendly.
Suitable for children from 12 to 16 years.

Dr Christian's guide to growing up by Dr Christian Jessen
If your teens watch Embarrassing Bodies on TV, they'll recognise Dr Christian. This book tackles physical and emotional issues around growing up in a friendly, no-nonsense way.
Suitable for children from 11 to 16 years.

Resources for older teenagers and young adults

The sex book by Jane Pavanel
Answers to young people’s questions on a wide range of topics, in an A to Z format. This frank book has been widely acclaimed by parents, librarians and young people alike.
Suitable for teenagers and young adults.

Sex: a book for teens: an uncensored guide to your body, sex and safety by Nikol Hasler
A frank, accessible book that covers a wide range of sometimes tricky information in a friendly and honest manner.
Suitable for teenagers and young adults.

...and a few useful resources for you

Great answers to difficult questions about sex: what children need to know by Linda Goldman
A helpful guide to talking to children about sex. Covers topics such as how babies are made, relationships and puberty.
Suitable for parents of children from early years up to secondary school age.

Let's talk about sex by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley
This book focuses on issues around sexual health from puberty, STDs, conception and pregnancy to internet safety.
Suitable for parents of children from around eight to the mid-teens.

Channel 4's Let's Talk Sex website
This microsite has lots of information about how to talk with children of different ages about sex and about broader issues around sex education in our society. Plus there's a great list of organisations for you and your child.
Suitable for parents of children from early years to young adulthood.

Read our logart I teach teens about sex

Tell your own story on the Storyboard.

Come and chat on Logarty talk.

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