What age to talk to your kids about sex

Deciding when to talk to your kids about the birds and the bees isn't easy.

Broaching the subject of sex with your children can be difficult or awkward topic no matter what age they are, agrees Lysn psychologist Tahnee Schulz.

While every child matures at different times and Tahnee advises approaching on a case-by-case situation, the more they're prepared - the better. 

Is there a perfect age to talk about sex? 

"Every child matures differently and thus will process information differently at various levels," Tahnee says. "The key is providing age-appropriate information about bodies, sex and all those tricky topics. It can be helpful to use age-appropriate sex education materials, such as books, to help explain to your child what changes they will undergo."

Tahnee adds that since girls can start their periods as young as eight years old, it's important to prepare your child so they know what to expect. 

"Many experts believe the topics of touching, genitals and sex can be discussed with your child from as young as two years old," she tells. "Whilst you wouldn’t discuss in detail sex, you might talk to your child about what is appropriate when it comes to touching or being touched."

Tahnee explains that by doing this, even at a young age, is a great lesson in boundaries and a way to introduce these concepts to your child so they can create an understanding of consent.

"Talk to them about appropriate touching, the concept of consent when it comes to their own and other people’s bodies, and when it is appropriate to be naked," she tells.

By the time your child reaches the age of six to eight, it’s likely they would have already explored their own body and have also asked many questions, Tahnee says. "At this age, it is appropriate to start having honest conversations about the actual mechanics of sex," she adds. "There is nothing wrong with discussing this at an earlier age, or delaying the conversation, if you deem that your child is ready for it. If they are too ‘young’ they might not comprehend fully or be overwhelmed or confused by the concept." 

Put them first

So, while you may feel uncomfortable tackling the topic, remember your child may need to chat about sex before you're ready. 

"Often as parents we are not fully aware of what our child could be exposed to," Tahnee says. "These kinds of topics should not be considered as just a one-off talk, rather an open conversation that can be revisited regularly as they continue to mature."

How to approach the chat

Kepp things light and digestible, Tahnee suggests. The more you are comfortable talking about the topic, the more it will help their maturity develop.

"The intent is to empower the child so they have a healthy understanding of their bodies. It is not to make them feel shameful, scared or overwhelmed," she adds.

One way to openly discuss sex is to use a children's book about the topic that helps you explain things further, Tahnee advises. 

"Children learn things very well through story telling because it creates context and connects complex pieces information together in a simple way," she says. "At around the age of 10, it is important to discuss safe sex with your child. Highlight the different types of birth control, how they work, and STIs. Whilst the idea of them having sex might scare you, it is imperative that they know of the risks when they do decide it’s time."

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