Sex

Published on February 1st, 2017 | by Meg Barnette

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Three Tips for How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex and Sexual Health by Meg Barnette

Let’s face it—it can be difficult to know how to talk to your kids about sex. And though it may seem easier to let your kids’ teachers have those conversations, many schools around the country still offer no or limited sex education. That means that the only way to make sure that your kids learns about positive relationships and healthy decision-making is by having honest and open conversations with them.

When I became a staff member at Planned Parenthood of New York City in 2011, I knew the job would push me to grow in important ways in regards to my commitment to social justice and reproductive health.  What I didn’t expect was the impact it would have on me as a parent. Two weeks into my tenure, I took my then nine year old daughter to a rally where a dynamic and diverse crowd of several thousand people of all ages stood in solidarity with Planned Parenthood. My daughter looked up at me and said, “Mom—your new job seems pretty cool.”

Since that day I have had many conversations with my kids about sexual and reproductive health. We’ve talked about race and healthcare disparitiesslut-shaming and school dress codesgender identitysexual orientationaccess to abortion; sexually transmitted infections; and so much more. As a result, my kids are comfortable talking about a range of sexual health topics. My daughter and her friends want free tampons in their middle school bathroom, and she doesn’t have any problems talking to her brother about why that’s so important. My kids (and their friends) joke about the jar of condoms in our guest bathroom, but they all know it is there and know that it will be refilled without questions. My high school aged son knows where Planned Parenthood’s health centers are and knows that they offer the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, regardless of age, gender, or ability to pay. He hasn’t mentioned it (and probably never would!) but he is equipped with knowledge and resources for himself and his peers so that they can make informed decisions.


Though it may seem scary, it’s easier than you think to talk to your kids about sexual health. Below is a list of three easy ways you can start the conversation:

  • Consider how daily interactions can provide you with teachable moments. Watching TV together or following the same TV shows can provide natural moments to spark conversations: once you’re talking about characters’ relationships or storylines, it may be easier to ask questions about your teen’s values, behaviors, and beliefs.
  • Use online resources. Planned Parenthood is committed to helping families have honest and open communication about sex and sexual health. Planned Parenthood.orgoffersresources, guidance, and videos in English and Spanish on a variety of topics—including setting boundaries, helping teens delay sex, parenting LGBTQ kids, and more. And teens of all ages can check out Awkward or Not? to get ready to talk to their parents—they can even send a text to their parents at the end of the quiz to get the conversation started. We also need to teach young people how to respect others’ boundaries, and this series of videos can help your kids learn what consent looks like.
  • Attend a training. The Education department at PPNYC trains parents and other caring adults about how to talk to kids about sexuality through workshops as part of the Adult Role Models And every day, our health centers are open to parents and teens that are looking for accurate information.

Don’t wait to talk about sex and sexual health. Honest and ongoing communication is the only way to ensure that your kids are prepared with the information they need to make the best decisions and become healthy adults. Today, my daughter is not only comfortable talking about sexual health, she also attends rallies with me and is a defender of reproductive rights. By talking to your kids about sexual health, you prepare them not only to make healthy decisions, but to stand up for access to sexual and reproductive health services.

MUTHA stands with Planned Parenthood — and we’re hosting a fundraiser this week, join MUTHA UP for Reproductive Rights on Friday, 2/3, at Sidewalk Cafe in the LES of NYC. Details here

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About the Author

Meg Barnette

Meg Barnette is the Chief of Staff at Planned Parenthood of New York City. She is the proud mother of two. Follow her at @BarnetteM and @PPNYCAction.



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