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Hey Choice Readers, your friendly, neighborhood sex educator here, and today I want to talk to parents and caregivers. 

If you have pre-teens, teenagers or just curious children, this one is for you. We’ll be delving into what feels like uncharted territory for many parents—having a sex conversation with your young person.  At the Ohio Center for Sex Education, we want to help you problem-solve instances when you’re stuck thinking: “Where do I even start?” 

First, know that you are not alone. 

Many parents struggle with this tricky life event—it can feel like a lot of pressure to get conversations on sex “right.” If you’re hoping for a jumping off point, our answer for you is: Teachable Moments. 

A teachable moment is an event or experience that gives you an in. When you spot a teachable moment, that’s a natural opportunity to open a dialogue with  someone about something. 

The great thing about teachable moments is they can be found anywhere – at family gatherings, while listening to school gossip, in books, and of course what and watch and listen to online and on TV. The media is an avenue full of moments we can use as a foundation to start an insightful conversation. It can be especially helpful if your child hasn’t asked you themselves about sex.

It can feel blind-siding or uncomfortable to bring up tough talks out of nowhere, but teachable moments offer a bridge for conversations after your child already has the topic on their mind.  

So, what would an age-appropriate teachable moment look like? Even something as simple as toy advertisements can spark dialogue about gender stereotypes. You could use a conversation starter such as: “Colors and toys can be for anyone. Not just for boys or girls. What do you think about girls playing with cars?” By asking an open-ended question, you allow your child to create their own thoughts. After listening to their ideas, proceed to break any myths or negative stereotypes they may have picked up. After, you can discuss your family values and end by leaving the door open for them to try a new toy that is may be outside of their norm. 

For older children, you can look at ways music, shows and movies display unrealistic sex scenes, relationships, or body representations.. 

Let’s go through an example of using pop culture as a teachable moment for a teen. 

  • Teachable moment: Lil Nas X, an American artist, is consistently breaking barriers of gender and sexuality norms within the music and videos he produces. So, let’s say something about him pops up on their social media that you notice or he’s performing when you’re watching the Grammy’s as a family. This is a perfect opportunity to say: 
    •  “Oh I’ve heard of Lil Nas X recently…. I know he’s sometimes controversial. What do you think about his [music, clothes, etc.]? 

Using teachable moments allows the conversation to, at a minimum, START.  It’s important to allow your young person to move the conversation forward at their pace and provide them a space to work on communication. This space can be anywhere: in the car, grocery store, at a relatives’ house, etc. When your young person feel safe they will begin to have more open and honest discussions with you as a parent—these conversations will become more organic and natural over time. 

This will be an ongoing process, so don’t give up and remember to give yourself grace as you navigate! 

For more information on parenting and sex education, check out our on- demand virtual webinar for or email [email protected] for an opportunity to host a training. 

I encourage you to find two teachable moments this week. Simply spot them out to yourself, become aware. Once you can pick them-- find two more and address one with your young person. 

You’ve got this!


Tags: Youth, parenting, taking about sex