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Having “the talk” with your children can be a daunting task. You may be wondering, “What do I say? How do I say it? What if I tell them too much?” Don’t worry. You are not alone. Below are five helpful tips to help you give “the talk” to your children.

Tip # 1: Have the Talk

When it comes to having the talk with your children, it is important to remember that perfection is the enemy of good. Oftentimes, we get so caught up in executing something perfectly that we fail to do it at all. Just being there for your children as they begin asking questions about human sexuality is half the battle. Remember, if your children do not learn about sex from you, they will learn it from someone else. Mostly likely, these other sources (television, the internet, their friends) will not explain human sexuality in a way that promotes human dignity through the lens of Jesus Christ. Despite any hesitation or embarrassment, simply having the talk will help establish your child’s understanding of human sexuality.

Tip # 2: The Talk is a Continuous Dialogue, Not a Single Event

Contrary to popular belief, the “talk” is more a series of talks rather than one conversation. As your children get older, their needs are going to change. Because of this, it is important to begin having the talk with your children early, with some experts suggesting that parents start as early as three years old. At that age, you won’t be teaching your children much about the “birds and the bees”, but you can begin teaching them the correct names for their private parts. By avoiding the use of nicknames, we not only establish normalcy with our children about their bodies, but we also lay the foundation for future talks. It is also a good time to teach your children about boundaries when it comes to their bodies. Educating your children on their different body parts and who can touch them where, creates a sense of trust and safety with your child and ultimately protects them. It also cultivates a sense of reverence and respect for the body.

Tip # 3: It’s Okay to Not Have All of the Answers

Many parents are hesitant to have the talk with their children because they are worried that they will be asked questions they don’t know the answer to. Similarly, many parents are not sure how to answer their children’s question with accurate and age-appropriate information. To this we say: It is okay to not have all the answers, it is okay to feel uncomfortable, and it is okay to ask others for help. “The talk” is a process. It is important to view our children’s curiosity about sexuality as being a special part of the parent-child relationship. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis emphasizes the joys and pleasure of relationships and how God is embodied within our own bodies. Dr. Benjamin Kornfield, a pediatrician in Evanston, Illinois, states that it is better for parents to get ahead on the topic of human sexuality than to wait for their children to start asking questions. Sexuality is everywhere within our culture, and it is important that parents set the precedent for how their children understand and develop their own sexuality, with Christ at the center. Sometimes your children will ask you questions you do not know the answer to, and that’s okay. Reinforce your child’s curiosity and willingness to ask you questions by saying something like, “Wow, that’s a really good question. I want to make sure I give you the best information, so let me think about it and we will continue this when I get home from work. How does that sound?” By responding in this way, or something similar, with your children, you: 1) keep the dialogue open, 2) validate their questions, and 3) strengthen your relationship.

Tip # 4: The Talk Doesn’t Need to be Explicitly About Sexuality

Many aspects of “the talk” are not sexual in nature but help our children develop healthy boundaries. When we respect our bodies, we respect the bodies of others as well. This applies to everything from simple respect to sexual consent. If your child is used to growing up in a house where you ask permission before you kiss or hug someone, then your child has already developed the idea of consent. When we teach our kids about sexuality, we teach them lifelong lessons that they can use to make difficult decisions later in their lives. The sanctity of the human body applies to sexuality as well as physical abuse, drug addiction and use, and relationship expectations. As our children get older, they rely less on our supervision and more on the lessons we teach them. Therefore, parents should aspire to continuously provide different layers of education to their children in the hopes of raising them to be productive and responsible Catholics who add love and value to those around them. When you teach your children about sex, you’re ultimately guiding them on how to think, perceive, and interact with the world around them.

Tip # 5: It May be Uncomfortable, and That’s Okay

Too many parents avoid having the talk with their children because it’s uncomfortable, but no growth happens in life without a little discomfort. There will be times when “the talk” feels uncomfortable, and that’s only natural. Embrace it. Life is oftentimes uncomfortable, and it is only then that we can learn and grow. The best place for your child to be uncomfortable is with you. As you continue to have open dialogue with your children, the discomfort of these talks will subside and the bond between you and your child will grow. If you are feeling hesitant about having these types of talks with your children, pray about it. Take time to give your reservations up to God and ask Him to speak through you to provide your child with the information and support he or she needs.

Challenge: Think about you and your child’s version of “the talk”. What would you say are your strengths in giving the talk? In what areas could you use a little growth? How can you weave elements of “the talk” in everyday dialogue with your child?