Let’s talk about sex!

Let’s talk about sex!


When is the right time to talk to your child about sex?

The simple answer is that there is no specific age to start talking about it. Discussions around this topic should be happening naturally as children grow, develop, and ask questions. It is best to think of it as an ongoing conversation rather than a one-time talk.

This image is from a Grade 4 CAPS booklet, so I guess if you haven’t spoken to your child about sex, and they are in Grade 4, now is a good time!

Appropriate Information

Back cover of Grade 4 – Book 1Children will have access to all kinds of information from different sources: school, friends, media. As a parent you want to make sure that the information they receive about the topic is developmentally appropriate and as factually correct as possible. If you don’t educate them, you risk them falling into/being exposed to unhealthy and potentially harmful information about the topic.

Talking about sex does not only refer to talking about the act of having sex. These discussions involve an array of topics relating to anatomy, body safety, consent, pregnancy, masturbation, pornography, and sexual orientation.

Discussions by Age

The following is a rough guide about what you can talk to your children about at various developmental stages:

Under 5 years

This is when we start to talk with children about their body parts and introduce ideas around body safety. It is important to use the correct terminology for reproductive organs – just like you would for any other part of the body, e.g., ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’. This is important as it gives children the language to communicate if there has been an inappropriate act or if they have been injured. Talking in this way also decreases shame that can be associated with these topics.

Age 5 to 8 years

At this stage you should be planning for conversations about puberty. All children develop differently. You may need to have this conversation as early as 7 or 8 years depending on your child’s development, otherwise around 9 or 10 years. Noticing signs of puberty will help you know when the best time is to talk with your child.

Around this stage you should also be having more conversations around body safety and privacy. If your child is engaging in masturbation avoid shaming them. Talk to them about the behaviour as normal while clarifying that it should be done in private – not with other people.

Age 9 to 12 years

At this point you should have covered puberty. Talk about changes to the body and emotions. Share your own experiences and encourage them to ask questions.

This is the time you should also educate your child about sex, including what it is and how it is performed. They should know that it can lead to pregnancy, so it is important to provide information about safe sex practices. Even if your child is not sexually active, they could have friends who are and will be sharing information with them.


This is the time for in-depth conversations about the above topics including conversations about the way they feel about their body and sexuality.

The most important thing to keep in mind is creating a relationship with your child where they feel comfortable discussing any topic with you. If you know what your children are up to you are in a better position to provide guidance and influence decision making.