Why are Parents Afraid to Talk to their Kids About Puberty and Sex?

Does thinking about talking to your kids about puberty or sex make you a little nervous? Ok, maybe a lot nervous. Believe it or not, you are not alone. Most of today’s parents almost feel incapable of having these conversations with their own children. We used to be able to rely on schools to take care of this for us. Today, not so much. But really, ask yourself, where do you want this information coming from? So why are we so uncomfortable with these conversations when they are so vital to our children’s health and education? Let’s look at the 6 most common fears parents have about talking to their kids.

  1. Our parents didn’t talk to us about it either. Let’s face it, we aren’t the first generation of parents who are uncomfortable with these talks. Most of us have no experience with our own parents talking to us about this so we have no framework for how to base what we are going to teach our own children about or even how to do it. 
  2. Overall discomfort with the subject matter. Even the term ‘sex education’ can elicit anxiety responses for parents talking to kids. For those of us that had some type of sex education growing up, we may remember a lot of giggling and discomfort. 
  3. We think that eventually, our children will come to us to ask questions and that will be the perfect time to start this talk. Guess what? With unlimited access to the internet, the first place children go to most often is…the internet, which we all know is about the worst place for them to go for this information. Otherwise, many times they will talk to their friends before going to parents. The reality is, when you wait for your children to talk to you, this means they have already heard about it from someone or somewhere else. So again, where do you want this information coming from?
  4. Fear that you won’t have the answers or words to explain what you want to say. Because most of us didn’t learn about this ourselves, we don’t come equipped as parents to have these conversations with our own children. We are basically set up for disaster as we find ourselves trying to figure it out as we talk. 
  5. Most parents fear that talking about it will encourage their child’s curiosity or make them think we are giving them permission. I hear this all the time from parents who don’t want to have these conversations “yet” because they don’t want to take away their child’s innocence. Research shows that 80% of children don’t talk to their parents about sex because they are afraid their parents will think they are having it if they ask. The reality…young people whose parents discuss all aspects of puberty and sexuality tend to delay becoming sexually active, have fewer sexual partners, have higher self esteem, and are are more likely to use protection, than those whose parents avoid these conversations. Talking about puberty and sex can be done even with the youngest kids, in a way that retains a child’s innocence while giving them the basic information they need about a loving relationship. 
  6. Fear of what tweens/teens already know. Obviously, talking about these subjects elicits the worry about possibly opening a ‘pandora’s box’ of questions, which can be really scary to a parent who doesn’t know how to have these conversations. 

Now let’s look at the problems that some up when we avoid these essential conversations. When we don’t talk to our kids about what to expect with puberty or sex, these become TABOO topics. We are inadvertently giving our kids the message that these topics are forbidden or shameful. Kids are curious creatures. They will look for this information if they aren’t given it. They will head straight to the internet or their friends (who probably know about as much as they do), which means the information they are getting is probably false or medically inaccurate. We are putting our children at risk by avoiding these conversations and the essential information they need to hear from us. We are also missing out on valuable opportunities to teach our kids some really helpful information. Regardless of whether you believe in teaching kids about safe sex or abstinence, when you don’t talk about it, you are both losing out. 

If you are looking for way to enjoy these conversations with your children in a positive and safe environment, join me, Registered Nurse Jodi Kaye, where kids and parents learn together how to begin and continue to have the talks about puberty and sexual health. You are an essential part of these conversations. I’m here to help.