10 Tips for Talking to Your Tween About Sex

dad and son 2It’s probably not news to you that if you’re a parent, you’re supposed to talk with your kids about sex.  If you’re like most parents, however, you get a  queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach and your palms begin to sweat every time you think about it. You have no idea where to start.  God knows your parents hardly ever talked with you about it.  The moment of opportunity passes and you put it off again, hoping and praying you’ll have the courage next time.

According to research, teens of parents who push through their discomfort and talk with their children about sex, abstinence, the benefits of saving sex for marriage, possible emotional and physical consequences of sexual activity as teens and outside of marriage, are more likely to practice abstinence and less likely to engage in sexual intercourse, contract a sexually transmitted infection, become pregnant and/or have an abortion.1,2  Additionally,  research has demonstrated over and over that teens whose parents spend social time with them have better relationships and higher self-esteem.3

So say a prayer for courage, do a little reading and develop a plan with your spouse.  Then get talking!  Here are 10 tips to help you on your way:

1.        God created us as sexual beings!  Sexuality, desire, morality and character are all in God’s plan for each human.  Children need to understand their changing bodies and how to be good stewards of our bodies.

2.        As Christian parents we need to understand chastity and modesty.  Chastity is controlling voluntary expression of sexual pleasure according to our state in life.  Modesty is the virtue that controls any acts which might cause lust or lead to sexual acts.

3.        Don’t let your discomfort keep you from talking to your child about sex.  You are the most important person in your child’s life and he needs to hear this from you!  By opening the lines of communication, your child will eventually trust that he can come to you with questions, not to his peers.  If you refrain from talking to your child about sex, he will mistakenly learn that sex is “shameful” and “bad.”

4.        This is difficult for everyone.  Most adults never had this experience with their parents.  You are not alone. Ask a friend about how they talk to their child.  Share stories, laugh.

5.        Be prepared.  This tip sheet is a great start!  Read some of Gregory Popcak’s “Beyond the Birds and the Bees” or Fr. Henry V. Sattler’s “Parents, Children and The Facts of Life.”  You don’t need to read the whole book.

6.        Share joy and pride in your child becoming a young woman or young man.  Fathers, take your son out to buy shaving supplies.  Moms, take your daughter out to buy her first real bra.

7.        Be honest, short and sweet.  Don’t give too much information at first.  When your children are entering puberty, you’ll need to initiate the conversation.  Start small.  For example, ask him if he knows what ______ is.  Or what his friends say it is.  Then you can give him a simple, straight forward explanation.

8.        Be matter of fact, despite feeling nervous.  Normalize your child’s feelings – this means you let your child know their feelings and body sensations are normal.  Assure them that they are not “bad” when they have these sensations or thoughts.  They need to know that sexuality is beautiful and part of God’s plan for each of us.

9.        Provide your child with tools to appropriately attend to his growing changes.  For example:  Dads, talk to your son about your feelings when your genitals became aroused; normalize; provide some ways for dealing with these feelings.  Moms,  share with your daughter how you felt when you began menstruating; normalize, be sure you have supplies on hand.

10.    Strive to encourage conversation, don’t lecture.  This discussion will be ongoing over time, not a one-time conversation.  You don’t have to, nor should you, try to get it all in during one conversation!  Once you begin opening the line of conversation in this way, you won’t be as uncomfortable and neither will your tween.


1.  The Heritage Foundation, http://familyfacts.org/briefs/42/parents-influence-on-adolescents-sexual-behavior

2.  http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-ATSRH.html

3.  Lam, C. B., McHale, S. M., & Crouter, A. C. (2012).  Parent-child shared time from middle childhood to late adolescence: Developmental course and adjustment correlates.

Child Dev. 2012 Nov;83(6):2089-103. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01826.x. Epub 2012 Aug 23.

image: shutterstock


Patti M. Zordich


Patti M. Zordich, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and Director & Founder of Triangle Psychological Services in Cary, NC. Dr. Zordich holds a Ph.D. in Developmental and Educational Psychology with an emphasis in clinical psychology, a Master's Degree in Education Dr. Zordich converted to the Catholic faith in 1996 and established Triangle Psychological Services in 2007 with the mission of providing expert psychological services consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Dr. Zordich has been in private practice since 1997 first in Pittsburgh and then in North Carolina. Child and teen behavior problems, marital counseling, PTSD, post-abortion healing and psychoeducational and psychological testing are a few of her specialities. She has been an adjunct professor in the University of Pittsburgh, and has presented to parishes, schools, agencies and conferences in both Pittsburgh and North Carolina on early adoption adjustment, internet safety, porn and addiction and building stronger families. She has published Gotcha! Welcoming Your Adopted Child Home: A Guide for Newly Adoptive Parents. You can read more from Dr. Zordich at Dr. Patti’s Blog at trypsych.com/drpattisblog.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Sharon

    Oh Dear Lord! Are we now talking to 10 year olds about sex!!

  • Mom x 4

    Well if you are not talking about sexuality to your 10 year old the 8 year old up the street is. We all got here the same way and you kids deserve to know the truth a little bit at a time until they have the whole beautiful story on sexual relationships within the context of marriage. The alternative is the television story about how life is dedicated to a life long sport, the sport of sexual activity with anyone or any thing at any age, and keeping your sexuality “fluid” or changeable, for those who are not familiar with the expression of sexual fluidity.

  • Janet

    It’s good to start as young as possible, because your kid will pick up on that if you can talk about sex, you can talk about anything. I started my child very young, reading books designed for pre-schoolers to her. Those books obviously didn’t give the whole story, but helped us be comfortable talking. In the end, our school district teaches sex-ed in 4th grade, but I made sure she learned from me first. We ended up with that great conversation every parent hopes to have, complete with talking about Catholic values. It was a very bonding conversation that she told me she wished could have gone on longer.

    When the school had “the talk” in 4th grade, she was already telling her classmates that sexual activity was for marriage. Her classmates, almost all of them from single-parent homes, told her she was wrong…it’s something you do after a date. So yes, you need to talk before other children confuse your child. The earlier the better, because it opens the path to talking about everything. My daughter is now 20 and she is still comfortable coming to me about anything she needs to.

  • ykcpeggy

    Patti, I need to know how to talk to my 8 year old adopted daughter. The books and words I used with my biological children are about a child conceived out of love within marriage. Her story is totally different. Thanks!

  • PattywithayKakeS

    HI Peggy, I’ve been thinking about the same thing, too, and have come up with some ideas on what to say (our three sons were adopted and my oldest will be 10 soon). Let me know what you think, and I’d like to hear others suggestions, as well. This is what I am thinking thus far of what I would say, some of which I have already said-especially the beginning: “Each of us is a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, and each of us is necessary (God has a special plan for each of us). God says in the Bible ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you (Jeremiah 1:5).’ The earthly circumstances regarding your conception do not matter- you are created by a loving God, he gave you an immortal human soul, and the Holy Spirit has guided us to each other so that we can become a family- you are truly our daughter and we are truly your parents (the Holy Spirit worked through people to bring us together forever). Now, God allows man to co-create along with Him. He has given humans that ability. Ideally, God and our Catholic Faith teach us that ability (our sexuality) is best expressed within Marriage. However, because of man’s fallen nature (ie sometimes our passions get the better of us and a man and woman (your birthfather and birthmother) and many folks have not been taught about chastity (purity and the gift of our sexuality), he will create outside the bonds of Marriage, because he loves us so much and wants us to multiply! This is how you were created. All babies are planned and wanted by Him! It’s the adults who don’t always do as He would like for us. And He wants only the best for us, as he knows what truly makes us the happiest. So, your birthmother knew you needed to be nurtured. Mothers feel that for their babies, but she was unable to care for you, so she still acted lovingly by placing you in a good Christian home, where you can be cherished and cared for. She gave you the sacrificial gift of life! She wants you to be a blessing to all- to run, to play, to smile, to celebrate birthdays and Christmases. You have been given the chance for friendship, laughter, love and perhaps marriage and your own children some day. You have been given the opportunity to know, love and serve God before joining him in Heaven. And He has given me the privilege of being your mother!

  • Dr. Patti M. Zordich

    I agree that we need to start talking to our kids as soon as they begin asking questions. This usually begins around 4-6 years old. Only answer their question with the most general and minimal way. If they ask another question, answer that one without too much. They will stop asking when they are not ready to hear anymore.

    Talking about sex with our kids is an ongoing conversation. That is the whole purpose of my article above. Start young and keep it going occasionally either when the child(ren) bring it up or when you feel they need to know something.

  • Dr. Patti M. Zordich

    Hi Peggy, I have worked with adopted children for over 10 years. I like a lot of what Patty said, but of course, you would break it down and share little bits when appropriate. Every child is created out of love because they are created by God. Every child is created uniquely and adored by God, And, of course, every child is created in the image of God.

    Whenever we have to explain some sinful behavior that has occurred, although difficult, it is an opportunity, as Patty said, to explain that all of us sin and use our God-given gifts in self-centered ways. With your daughter’s biological parents, they probably were in some circumstances, either illness, addiction, abuse, etc. that interfered in their being able to use God’s grace and to know what was the right thing to do.

  • ykcpeggy

    Thank you for your help!

  • PattywithayKakeS

    Dear Dr. Zordich, Thank you so much for your post! It was so helpful in talking about sexual relations outside of marriage (how we use our God-given gifts in self-centered ways) and sinful behavior compassionately (circumstances that interfered with their being able to use God’s grace and to know what was the right thing to do). God Bless you in your wonderful and much needed vocation!