Moms in Babeland

Talking to Kids About Sex: Advice for Parents

How do you get a bunch of rowdy fourth graders to sit still for a lesson about sex? I asked Canadian sex educator Meg Hickling—she’s been visiting schools for the past twenty-five years dishing out her brand of “body science” with astonishing success. Meg stands before preschoolers, middle-schoolers and high-schoolers, as well as parents, doctors and teachers, but her message and manner are always the same: straightforward sex information delivered honestly, candidly, and with respect for individual curiosity and opinion. Parents and kids alike love her, their word-of-mouth referrals have landed her in classrooms all over Canada, and in the US and Japan as well. She shares the secrets of her success:

It’s all in the approach

“The first thing I say to fourth graders is This is not about how to have sex. This is about your body and how it works. I know you all think having sex is gross and you’re never going to do it. Well, you never have to have sex in your life, but you’re always going to have sexual health to think about. You’re always going to have those parts. We’re here to talk about body science.’”

A little humor works magic

“I tell kids to think like scientists and that scientists never say “ewwww”, they say “in-ter-esting.” It works like a charm, the kids enjoy repeating it, and the teachers use that for the rest of the school year.”

On telling preschoolers about condoms

“Kids find them on the playground and in the street and want to blow them up or use them as marble bags, so I explain what they’re for, in a way that helps them to grow up feeling good about using condoms and expecting to use them. One of my favorite responses came when I was talking to tenth graders, (I’d been talking to them since they were preschoolers). Eventually one of them said during my presentation about contraception: ‘What do you do if you want to have a baby?’ I was staggered, I’d truly not met a group before who’d grown up expecting to use condoms, and I said, ‘Have sex without a condom,’ and they went ‘Oh gross, you put it in there bare naked?!’”

The subject that pushes parents’ buttons most: masturbation

“I call it the “M-word.” Nobody wants to bring it up, but they all want to talk about it. They say, ‘We realize that it’s normal and healthy, but we don’t know what to say when he’s sitting in front of the TV, uh, hanging on to it.’ I explain that masturbation in the strictest medical sense is anything we do that gives us pleasure and releases tension—twirling our hair, scratching our chin—anything we do when we’re nervous or upset. That relaxes everybody. They ask, ‘Do you say to a three-year-old “That’s masturbation, you can do it in the bedroom?’ and I say ‘It’s up to you, you can call it what you like, but the message needs to be that it’s private.’

The joys of sexuality

“Children should grow up knowing that sexual activity is a healthy part of a healthy committed relationship, so I’m always saying to parents, ‘For goodness sake, celebrate the fact that you’re still attracted to each other!’ I joke with them and say, ‘The biggest secret in the whole world is that Saturday morning cartoons were invented so parents can have sex.’ We don’t celebrate healthy sexuality nearly enough in our society, we’re so hung up on the horror we grew up with about our parents being sexual. If we had people talking to us when we were preschoolers, telling us ‘This is what normal, healthy loving people enjoy,’ then we wouldn’t have been grossed out when we found at that our parents were having sex.

Meg’s books,  Speaking of Sex and More Speaking of Sex are full of wonderful advice, frank talk, and more humorous anecdotes.


Related posts:

  1. Talking with your Kids About Sex with Judith Steinhart
  2. Talking to Your Parents About Sex
  3. Toddlers and Preschoolers: Too Young for the Sex Talk?
  4. A Dad’s Advice to His Son on Masturbation
  5. Why Kids Should Know Their Parents Have Good Sex

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