Imagine bringing your child home, swaddled up tightly with a little hat on their head, giving them a kiss on their forehead, and vowing to never speak in front of them. What if you said the wrong thing? Better to never say anything than to say the wrong thing. When your child is out of the room you speak freely, but the minute they’re within earshot, you clam up.

Do you think that would benefit your child? Of course not!

Most pediatricians say that you should talk to your child early and often. Even though they can’t respond, just hearing your voice and listening to the cadence of your words is teaching them how to form sentences and learn the language.

The truth is, just like hearing your voice lays the groundwork for them to speak, talking to them from a young age about sex in an age-appropriate way lays the groundwork for them to have a healthy relationship with sex.

Think of sexuality as a broad topic that encompasses more than just intercourse. It includes things like emotional connection and knowing appropriate terms for body parts. Different conversations are appropriate at different ages. For example, talking about sex with your toddler does NOT mean discussing the details of intimate sexual relationships. Instead, you can help them learn the names of their body parts and teach them about the importance of privacy. There is always something to talk to your child about regarding healthy sexuality, no matter their age.

Talking about sexuality beginning when your child is young creates more trust and understanding between you and your child, not to mention better communication. So the next time you think saying nothing is the best way to handle an awkward question, just think of the good it will do for your child and embrace the awkward. Resist the impulse to put off talking about healthy sexuality until it’s time for the “big talk.” Start early and lay a foundation that you can build on as your child matures.

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