Sexuality and Relationships: How and When to Talk to Your Child


A question that child psychologists in Littleton often receive is “when do I talk to kids about sexuality and relationships?” Many parents are rightly concerned that today’s world and pop culture are far too sexualized, and that children are being exposed to these messages from a very early age. Unfortunately, unless you and your family live in a very secluded area, you will not be able to avoid these messages. From TV, to smartphone ads, to billboards on the highway, children are exposed to messages about sex and relationships that they may not understand. This can cause confusion and discomfort, or may encourage a child to become precociously interested in these topics—even though they have never experienced them firsthand. Here are some suggestions for handling sex and relationships in a modern age.

Work from your value perspective. By building up your family values to be as strong as they can be, all future discussion will be easier. This includes local culture, religion, and your own family’s unique way of doing things. Many people use their spiritual beliefs to teach children about the world, this area is no different.

Attend to biology. Especially with young children, the interest is more about the “what?” and “why?” of the situation, not the emotions. Children understand from a young age that creature of all types, including humans, pets, and bugs outside, engage in mating rituals and have body parts for those rituals. Explaining the biological purpose of these things will help children to feel more confident and can give them a leg up in biology class.

Set clear boundaries. Infants and young children have no “shame” or sense of privacy about their bodies. This is a social structure that only humans enjoy, and that has to be shaped over time. This is also area with many different boundaries. For example, while it may be perfectly acceptable for everyone in your household to walk around in underclothes, explain to your child why this behavior might not be acceptable in other people’s houses. Help your child to learn why his or her “private parts” are supposed to be private, and set clear boundaries about touching or talking about those private parts with others. Approach this issue not from a place of shame or embarrassment, but as keeping something very special (your child’s body) safe and respected.

Start early. As much as you might not want to believe it, most children have learned at least something about what sex is by the time they are in middle school, and are already thinking about dating relationships. Even if you forbid talk of these things in your house, chances are, they have heard it from friends. Make sure your child has the most accurate and responsible information by discussing it yourself. By the time they are old enough to leave the house, they will have heard your feelings on the topic enough times that they have taken it to heart!

If your child is showing sexualized behaviors that do not resolve with conversation and monitoring, or if you would like to find out more about how to talk to your child about issues like sex and relationships, contact a skilled psychologist. In Highlands Ranch, children’s play therapy can help your child to express confusion or thoughts about these and other difficult topics, and can help build strong skills for success in the future. Contact Dr. Lazarus today at to set up an appointment!

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