How much sexual education should I give my ten year old daughter?

Q: My daughter is ten and in the fifth grade. I know sexual education should be an ongoing conversation and not just one talk, but how much should you tell your child? She knows about her body and the upcoming changes, but as far as sex and how babies are made, we haven't gotten there yet and she hasn't asked for more information. Should I leave well enough alone or talk to her about it before a peer does?

A: You are right, sex education should be an ongoing talk with your child from day one. It starts by calling genitals by their proper names. This teaches children that these body parts are not shameful, helps children communicate their needs with other caregivers (such as “I have a rash on my penis”), and makes it less likely for your child to become the victim of a sexual predator.

Most kids ask questions long before they are your daughter’s age. In the beginning you should just answer the question they are asking. In other words “where do babies come from” can be answered with “dads have something called a sperm, mommies have an egg. They come together in the uterus where the baby grows.” Of course all this becomes more complicated with same sex couples. As they get older and your child's questions get more complex and detailed, your answers should as well. If a child has not asked about how the sperm and egg get together by the time they are eight, a parent needs to initiate the conversation.

It is important for children to be able to talk to their parents about sex. You should be the first place your child wants to go with a question and you will be if you keep the conversations about sex comfortable from the beginning. If not, peers who are likely to provide misinformation and may have very different values will become your child’s source of sex education.

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