Q: I’m the mom of two boys, ages four and eight, and I want to be open and honest with them about sex—when the time comes. I feel like my eight year old is close to ready, but I’m nervous about starting a conversation he may not be ready for. Should I wait for him to ask me? I’d also love any recommendations about this conversation in general. I want to make sure that we can always talk openly and respectfully. I definitely want to educate them beyond the norm. –Rebel Momma

A: The time is now, Momma! The old-timey notion that you should wait ‘til a young person hits puberty to talk about sex is gone. That strategy was barely ever relevant, because kids are curious about the world around them. Any adult who assumes sexuality is an exception to that rule is engaging in wishful thinking, and probably forgetting their own youth. If you wait, there’s always a risk that their go-to expert will be the friend whose parents never bothered to install Internet filters.

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Start simple; children want information in digestible pieces, building blocks that they will use to develop their own understanding. You won’t have just one talk—you’ll have many talks. The easiest way to start is by talking about issues you notice right while they’re happening. Make sure they know the correct names for parts of their bodies, and that they should have privacy when they want it. If you hear them making strongly gendered comments and assumptions, ask them why they feel that way and correct any notions that might play into inappropriate sexualization down the line. Whenever you have a talk about bodies, privacy, boundaries, consent, gender identity, relationships, sex, or pleasure, end it with the phrase, "We can talk more about this or anything else whenever you want. If I don’t know the answer to something you’re curious about, I’ll try to find out."

I wrote The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone with my old friend Shar Rednour, a sex-positive mom par excellence. There’s a great section in there on talking to kids, as well as recommendations on books for parents and for kids. Show them you care and want them to have the right information. In turn, they’ll know they can bring you their questions instead of running over to a friend’s house to look online. When they get a little older, tell them about a truly useful website, Scarleteen.com.

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Carol Queen is a staff sexologist at Good Vibrations
Illustration by Marcellus Hall

This article originally appeared in the Aug/Sept 2015 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today

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