Talking with kids about sexuality

These are general guidelines listing specific things children need to know about sexuality and sexual health at different ages.

Children and their parents are the experts on what each individual child may need to know.

Birth – 2 years

  • we give babies a sense of themselves from birth by the way we hold, touch, and talk to them
  • it’s normal for babies to explore their bodies—they learn quickly that touching their sex organs feels good
  • help them name the parts of their body (“this is your nose… your knee… your penis… your vulva… your foot”, etc.)

3 – 5 years

  • begin talking about the differences between boys’ and girls’ sex organs
  • simple explanations of where babies come from (use scientific terms: the sperm meets the ovum (egg) and the baby grows in the uterus (womb) and is born through the vagina)
  • differences between Good and Bad Touch
  • do not pick up condoms (i.e. when found on the playground)

6 – 8 years

  • information about menses (menstruation) and nocturnal emissions (wet dreams)
  • body changes at puberty
  • masturbation is very common at this age—we must reassure kids that it is normal and okay but only in a private place
  • information about sexual identity, sexual orientation, and non-stereotyped gender roles

9 – 12 years

  • puberty (male and female body changes, menstruation, wet dreams, emotional and social changes) happens at different times for different bodies and that is perfectly normal
  • emotional and social changes that happen through puberty such as mood swings, crushes, romantic feelings, and friendship issues
  • reassure them that they are normal (regarding their sexual feelings and thoughts and their looks, etc.)
  • what is a healthy relationship (friendship/romantic)
  • need to know that not all teens are sexually active
  • begin to sexual decision making and setting limits
  • sexually transmitted infection and birth control information
  • the media’s influence on our perception of social roles of males and females and body image, etc.

13 – 18 years

  • relationship skills
  • communication skills
  • refusal skills (how to say no to sexual activity or how to set their own sexual limits)
  • awareness of their own values
  • diversity in sexuality—sexual orientations and sexual practices
  • personal definition of abstinence
  • rights and responsibility for their sexuality and choices
  • correct use of the birth control methods and their effectiveness
  • sexually transmitted infection information (prevention, symptoms, treatment, etc.)

Some other things to consider

  • remember we are all sexual beings
  • sexuality includes far more than sexual intercourse
  • be aware of your own values and beliefs about sexuality
  • reassure children that their development is normal
  • if you don’t know they answer to your child’s question, find out and get back to them with the answer
  • be honest
  • pay attention to not only what you’re saying but how you’re saying it
  • keep your sense of humour

Further information

For further information,

  • see our recommended resources
  • call us to speak with an educator
  • check out our youth website called Beyond the Talk and use it to speak with your youth about sexuality. We also have a text line for youth 250-812-9374 so they are able to ask sexual health questions confidentially.