At what age should I begin teaching my child about the "facts of life?" He's still small – in fact, I would have assumed that he's not old enough for "the talk" yet. The problem is that he's already been hearing a lot about the subject. It's obvious that he has picked up certain words from television and other kids in the neighborhood. All things considered, I'd rather that he heard it from me first. Any suggestions?
Unfortunately, we are living in a sex-saturated culture. Kids are bombarded with sexual messages on television, in music, on the Internet, on billboards, and even at clothing stores in the mall. There's no doubt about it: where sexuality is concerned, our society is forcing kids to grow up way too fast. Young children simply aren't equipped emotionally to handle all this sexually charged language and imagery.
One of our major responsibilities as parents is to protect our children physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. You can do this by monitoring their use of media and the Internet. For example, grade-school age kids should not be watching television shows that feature adult themes, even if they are billed as "family programming." This is an area where mom and dad have to take the time to educate themselves and sharpen their skills of discernment.
The reality of the situation, of course, is that kids in this society are likely to be exposed to sexual words and images no matter what we do to shield them. Parents need to be prepared for this possibility. Since your son is already asking questions, you shouldn't be afraid to give him straightforward answers. Do your best to use kid-friendly, age-appropriate explanations. Be honest, open, and direct, and don't overload him with information he hasn't requested.
If you run into difficulties or find that you have additional questions, feel free to call our Counseling department.
When Should I Talk to My Daughter About Sex?: Joe White discusses various ways parents can help their child develop healthy attitudes about sex.
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