Nashville Dads: When should you talk to your child about sex?

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – If you’re a parent, that day is coming. It’s a day some might dread.

It’s the day we talk to our kids about sex.

“As cool as you think you are, in your kid’s mind, you are parent, they are kid, you know nothing, they know everything,” says Dr. Mary Romano, assistant professor in adult health at Vanderbilt.

It may feel like the deck is stacked against you, in a sense, but Romano strongly urges moms and dads to get a head of the game–way ahead.

“I don’t think it’s ‘you turn a magical age and then we have the sex talk,’” Romano explained. “It should be an ongoing dialogue with your child.”

So, how early?

“It can be as early as 18 months old when your kid looks at you and points between your legs and says, ‘What is that?’” says Romano.

Don’t be shocked. This early, the focus should be on anatomy.  You’re not breaking down the birds and bees, but you’re opening the lines of communication.

Romano is a parent, too—a mom to two girls. She says you can’t be silent until age 12 or 15 and then spring it on your child.

When the time does come, don’t hesitate.

“Just do it, just go,” she says. “Your teenager is listening, they may be rolling their eyes, they may be like, ‘oh my god, stop,’ but they’re listening.”

You want to get to your child before they hear it from someplace else because eventually they will.

Nationally, in 2015, 24 percent of ninth graders admitted to having sex. Thirty-six percent of 10th graders did the same. Fifty percent of 11th graders and 58 percent of 12th graders said they were sexually active.

“They may go somewhere else, and that somewhere else may be the internet or their friends, which probably is not going to have accurate information,” Romano says.

To introduce the topic, look for teachable moments that may bring up the issue for you. It could be a song on the radio or a show on television.

It’s also wise to consult with other parents, talk to your child’s school or ask your doctor for guidance.

And if your child asks about your personal sexual experience, for that, there’s no perfect answer. Romano recommends sharing only what you’re comfortable with sharing, but be honest about the consequences that may, or may not, have accompanied your choices.