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Using Age Appropriate Language

Talking with your Kids About Sex in Age Appropriate Ways

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Updated March 30, 2008

We all take in information differently at different times in our life, and too much good information is still too much information. Make sure to present your child with information that is appropriate for their age, and in a way that they can understand, and that you don't give them more information than they're ready to hear.

Because sex seems to be everywhere in the media, many parents are confronted with explicit sexual questions from adolescents who are not ready for a detailed discussion of how sex works. The way you might explain what sex is to your three year old who wants to know where babies come from is going to be very different than explaining to your teenage daughter the importance of safer sex and using condoms.

Sometimes as parents we think they need to protect our children because they “aren’t ready” for the “real world”. While you might have a good sense of your child’s developmental state, remember that all children need the same basic information about sexual health. What changes is how much detail you might give, and the way you give that information. If you want to protect your children the best way to do that is through comprehensive sex education, not encouraging ignorance.

If you’re trying to find sex information that’s age appropriate, the SIECUS website is a great place to start.

One final note on age appropriateness: there are some guidelines people go by, but remember that children mature, intellectually and emotionally, at different rates, and what might be labeled as only good for children over 12 years of age could be just fine for your 10 year old or too advanced for your 14 year old.

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