Parenting and Child Sexuality

Sexuality is one of the topics which parents worry about the most and talk about the least. This page contains ideas for how to best discuss sexuality and raise children with healthy sexual views

Developmental Milestones of Sexuality and Parenting

  • Young Children (2 or 3)
    • It is not out of ordinary for young children to be interested in children to be interested in children and to touch themselves. That is normal and natural
      • Best parental response when 2 or 3 – move on and distract. Don’t need to worry or punish
      • Key – Don’t want to shame them
    • Refer to body parts with the correct names! (after all, they are body parts). Don’t want to lead to a secretive mindset about sexuality
  • Older Children
    • Need to keep talking about sexuality often, not just “the talk”
    • Puberty may begin as early as 7 or 8 in girls, and 9 or 10 in boys – be aware and start talking about it sooner than you’d planed
    • First menarche usually 12, first spermarche 14
    • Parents should talk about masturbation, but not in a shaming way (both for boys and girls)
      • Some Ideas for talking about masturbation
        • Share that sexuality is shared with someone else
        • Share that sexuality is intended to be expressed only in marriage
    • If your child struggles with it, don’t overreact. Think about it in context of something else (what if weakness was losing temper, how you would you react to a weakness like that? work through it like any other weakness)
    • Avoid fear or shaming object lessons (smashed china, wedding dress) when teaching about object lessons. They usually don’t capture the entire correct essence

Some Relevant concerns for of Sexuality and Parenting

Developing A Culture of Openness

Parents often wonder how to create the best communication about sexual issues. In response to that here are three changes parents can make with how they discuss sexuality:

  • Change the How
    • Parents should strive to be approachable, open, and non-reactive to sexual questions
    • One key to this is to maintain a strong relationship with children
    • It should be a family topic, mom, dad and kids. It should not be a secretive discussion all age discretion for young children may be advisable
  • Change the When
    • Rather than just having “the talk” parents should talk about sexuality often and from an early age
    • Parents should be proactive and not just wait until children come to ask questions
  • Change the Why
    • Parents should discuss all three dimensions of parenting, not just the physical (see Properly Discussing All Dimensions of Healthy Sexuality below)

What to Do When Children Don’t Want to Talk About Sex

  • Discuss sexuality while you are doing another activity (throwing a ball, playing a game)
  • Avoid eye contact, this helps the conversation be more comfortable especially for boys
  • Other Ideas for parents
    • Allow children to put questions about sexuality in a jar and talk about them each week
    • Have a family home evening on sexuality. Allow children to teach as they get older
    • Find a special time (perhaps twice a year) when you go out with your child and make sexuality part of the conversation.
    • Share some of your struggles you might have had with controlling your sexual behaviors or emotions as a youth

Other Resources

Properly Discussing All Dimensions of Healthy Sexuality

Parents often focus on the physical aspect of sexuality and particularly being abstinent (which is very important) but don’t discuss the whole picture. Here are some suggestions for parents as they seek to discuss all dimensions of sexuality:

  • Remember that the concept of healthy sexuality (or sexual wholeness) goes beyond abstinence only (ex. Individuals who have been abstinent can still struggle with sexuality and marriage)
  • Discuss all of Dimensions of Sexual Wholeness and why each one is important:
    • Physical – satisfaction, pleasure, health
    • Emotional – love, attachment, unity
    • Spiritual – meaning, purpose, progression

Supplemental Materials for Parenting and Sexuality

Good Reads

Some Myths about Sexuality and Parenting

  • Myth: talking about sex leads to sex for children. Truth: there is no research to support just talking about sexuality with you children leads to sex
  • Myth: boys are more sexual than girls. Truth: We sometimes have assumptions that boys are more sexual than girls. This stereotype is not true
  • Myth: having “the talk” is all parents need to do when it comes to sexuality and parenting. Truth: parents shouldn’t just have “the talk” but many talks. Family discussions, family home evening and individualized interaction. More short conversations are better than one long one
  • Myth: if children have questions about sexuality they will ask me. Truth: while children may ask questions, they may not want to because of fear. Parents should ask children if they have questions to create a dialogue
  • Myth: sexuality should be a taboo topic. Truth: Sexuality should be sacred not secret

LDS Resources



Note for Author: For information not provided in links, see 2017 personal notes on lecture about parenting and sexuality from SFL 240 class