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Tips for an honest discussion about sex

Talking to your kids about sex might bring to mind a feeling of dread. There are so many questions they could ask that you don’t feel comfortable answering. But in this ever-connected world where questions can be answered in just a few clicks—your kids can find anything they’re looking for—it’s increasingly important to educate them on your own before they learn about the birds and the bees from someone else.

“Having an open, honest and ongoing discussion about sex is the best way to educate your kids long-term,” explained Dr. Gary Lawrence, a Geisinger pediatrician. “Your conversations may keep them from taking part in risky behavior.”

Don’t wait
The bottom line is if you don’t teach your kids about sex, someone else will. Whether it’s older kids at school or in after-school activities, or your own child’s curiosity and a few searches on the internet, your kids will find answers—and it might be sooner than you think.

Age appropriate discussions should start early, before your kids’ bodies begin to change.

Avoid too many “don’ts”
It’s easier to explain what you don’t want your kids to do—such as don’t get pregnant and don’t get an STD—than what you do want them to do. However, your conversation shouldn’t scare them away from sex. It should educate them on the weight of the topic but also touch on what a positive sexual relationship looks like.

“Part of your conversation should not only explain the basics of sex and define what sex encompasses, it should also include your values about sex and intimate relationships,” said Dr. Lawrence. 

Explain their rights
Sexual education should include a discussion on consent. Teach your child that they have the right to say “no” and shouldn’t be pressured into sex. They also have the right to say “no” to any unwanted touch.

Use TV and pop culture
If talking openly about sex makes your palms sweaty, you can use current events, TV and pop culture to help you out.

“Something is bound to come up in a TV show or movie you’re watching, or an event that makes its way through the news and social media,” said Dr. Lawrence. “These are great hooks into having a discussion about what happened—whether it’s a positive event or a negative event—and how it relates to your own child’s understanding of sex and sexual maturity.” 

Listen more than you talk
Having “the talk” can be tough for both you and your children—and you can admit that. But you should stress that you’re available to answer questions whenever your kids have them.

Questions might trickle in over time, and if your kids can’t approach you about a question they have, they’ll look for an answer elsewhere.

Be a good listener, but make sure you get clarification before answering questions. Your kids may not know as much as you think about a particular topic.

Become a mythbuster
“Importantly, your job as a parent is to set the record straight. Dispel myths that your kids might hear from classmates and friends or on social media,” said Dr. Lawrence.

Dr. Gary Lawrence, MD, is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center. He sees patients at Geisinger’s Kistler Clinic in Wilkes-Barre. To schedule an appointment for your child with Dr. Lawrence or another Geisinger pediatrician, please call 800-275-6401 or visit


Parent and child