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  • Don’t panic! – When young kids ask questions about sexual health, bodies, or relationships, it is common to feel uncomfortable or to attempt to avoid the subject. How we react to questions from a child can influence whether they continue to come to us in the future. When they bring questions to you, they signal that they trust you. Avoid panicking so that you can respond intentionally. 
  • Initiate the discussion – Finding the right time and place is essential—without phones, siblings, or other distractions. Talking while walking the dog, cooking, or riding in the car can feel less threatening. Think about what you want to share with your child beforehand. You can practice the words you want to use before you bring up a particular subject or situation.
  • Find and use teachable moments – Look out for TV shows, movies, podcasts, songs, or news articles that can springboard conversations about consent, healthy relationships, decision-making, and sex. Use the music of the moment by asking your child an open-ended question like: “What do you already know about…?”; “What have you heard about…?”; “What do you think about…?”; “What do your friends think about…?”
  • Get curious (not investigative) – Now that you’ve established with your child that you appreciate their questions/thoughts, you can send curiosity back by asking questions like “What have you heard about…?” or “What do you think it means when…” This can give you a few moments to gather your thoughts and learn more about the context of their question or statement. Avoid accusatory or investigative questions that can cause a child to feel like they are being punished, attacked, or shamed. Steering away from questions that begin with “Why…” is one way to minimize this.
  • Plan ahead – Discussing risky or unsafe situations before they happen allows the opportunity to talk about motivations for risk reduction or avoidance and think through ways to stay safe. Talk with your child in advance about issues they may encounter, such as bullying, peer pressure, and internet safety. Make sure your child knows who to go to at home and at school if they ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe. You can help you child practice the words they might use if they need to seek your help or help from another trusted adult.
  • Answer their questions – Keep some considerations in mind, such as their age, unique personality, and the setting you’re in at the time. The information you give a six-year-old will be different from what you give a twelve-year-old. Some kids love the detail and long talks, while others lose interest quickly. Your response can be anything from simple to scientific to anecdotal. You can choose your own adventure in the way you wish to connect and support your child’s curiosity.
  • Keep it simple – As adults, we sometimes overcomplicate answers to our child’s questions. Provide as much information as is needed to answer the question, but remember to keep it simple.
  • Recognize what you don’t know – It is okay not to have all the answers. If your child asks a question that you don’t know the answer to, you can say, “I hear your question, and I don’t know if I have the answers right now. Let me try to find the best answer for you.” and Amaze Junior are fantastic online resources for questions about sexual health. 
  • Be the louder and more influential voice – Talk with your child about what media & social media portray and what you think about it. Encourage your children to think critically about the streaming, music, and social media they see and how to set their own limits. Reinforce who they can talk to if they need help understanding something or to talk something through.
  • It’s okay to try again – No one always gets things right the first time. If you think you missed the mark or didn’t get across what you wanted to when talking about a sensitive topic, it’s okay to let your child know and try again. Imperfect conversations are better than no conversations.
  • Leave the door open for future discussion – This isn’t just one talk! The goal is to have lots of small conversations over time, and every conversation is an opportunity. Let your child know you are a trusted support to them, no matter their questions or concerns.

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