You can't harm your children by talking openly and honestly about sex and sexuality.
Some parents worry that sharing information about sexuality will encourage their children to become sexually active. Studies have shown that communicating with your children about sexuality actually delays sexual activity.
If your child asks a question about sex, it does not necessarily mean they are sexually active, or want to be sexually active. Value your children's questions - it means they feel comfortable talking with you. If you don't know the answer, be honest and work with your child to find the information you need.
There is a lot more to sexuality than the negative risks associated with sex. What positive messages do you want to send? Many parents want their children to be able to appreciate their own bodies, be respectful of people of all genders, express love and intimacy in appropriate ways, recognize their own values and so on.
Your children will never stop learning. As they develop, new issues will come up. Remain open to their questions!
Here are a few more quick tips:
• Reassure your children that they are normal.
• Build their self-esteem.
• Respect teenagers' privacy as much as you value your own.
• Take advantage of teachable moments - a friend's pregnancy, situations on TV or in movies, and other day-to-day events can help start a conversation.
• Be clear about your values and let your kids know that others may have different values about sexuality. Teach them that respect for differences is important.
• Don't use scare tactics as a way to stop young people from having sex - it just doesn't work.
• Give accurate, honest, short and simple answers.
• Admit when you don't know an answer, and work with your child to find more information.
• Ask your children questions too - about what they think and what they know.
• Let your body language, facial expressions and tone of voice support what you are saying.
• Get to know the world your kids live in. What pressures do they face? What do they consider normal?
(These tips adapted from How To Talk With Your Child About Sexuality: A Guide for Parents, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 2002)