Forget about the birds and the bees. Forget about the stork. If you’re going to talk to your children about sex and sexuality, you need to talk to them for real, however tough the conversation may seem.

“When do you start talking to your kids about sex?”

It’s a question that can quickly raise tempers and kick-start arguments.

So here’s a simpler question: “When do you start teaching your children about healthy relationships?” Or how about: “When do you start teaching your child about body autonomy, boundaries and self confidence?”

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It’s all the same conversation. The big “birds and bees talk” is not one isolated chat parents may or may not have one day when their kid is 16. It’s a conversation that starts the moment they are born.

A conversation that starts the moment that your child is born

How you touch your child when they’re a baby, how you “allow” them to explore and enjoy their bodies as toddlers and teens, how you respect their body autonomy and build their body confidence, how you respect their feelings, which conversations you entertain with regards to relationships, gender, pleasure and affection … these are all part of the learning curve of sex and sexuality.

For many adults, dealing with their kid’s burgeoning sexuality is the first time they’ve been forced to face their own feelings, judgements and opinions about the topic.

When I speak to these parents about sex education for their kids, I am often met with blubbing anger, moralising arguments, and defensiveness around how hard it is to have “these sorts of conversations”.

Instead of choosing to empower and educate their children, some parents prefer to pretend none of it is happening. Some rail against how bad the world is and try to shield their children through fear. Others shame their kids into believing their bodies and sex are dirty, complicated and sinful.

We don’t have time for this anymore. We don’t have the luxury of nursing our taboos. We don’t have time to be fearful of our shadows.

If you’re not giving clear, honest information that empowers your child, you can rest assured they’re getting their information elsewhere. If you cannot provide information that will help your kid make sense of themselves as sexual humans, direct them to people and resources who can.