Let’s talk about sex

Here is a generally-accepted truth about sex:

In order to have a good relationship with a partner, you have to have open communication about sex.  A relationship that includes a physical aspect cannot function nearly as well without explicit conversation about what works for each of you, sexually speaking.  Communication on this level enhances sexual pleasure, supports a long-term relationship, and brings the partners closer emotionally as well as physically.

This is a point that is well discussed in many circles.  What is not well discussed is how adults come to a place of openness in talking about sex.  Children and teenagers learn how to function as adults in two ways: (1) watching and learning how their parents do it and (2) explicit instruction on how to do it.

So let’s break that down.  Yes, your children learn from how you and your partner(s) talk about (or don’t talk about) sex.  Of course you don’t talk about sex in front of your children or teenagers, but nevertheless the essential level of openness and communication between you and your partner persists in the air.  Your children know you well enough to know this, and it will have a huge impact on how they start out their sexually active lives.

Even better, and even more influential, to your children’s ability to talk clearly about sex with their partner is someone teaching them how to talk about sex throughout their lives in age-appropriate ways.  Yes, this means actually engaging in conversation about sex with your child or teenager in a way that promotes respect of their bodies, respect of other people’s bodies, and an honoring of what passes between two people when they engage in sexual activity.  Demystifying sex and sexuality, while honoring it as a special and unique bond, will allow your child to develop into an adult with high-function skills in conversing about sex more than anything else.

Of course, the other way people learn how to talk about sex is from their peers (who generally treat it as one big joke and who have incorrect information they pawn off as fact) or from their sexual partners.  It is not necessarily a bad thing for teenagers or adults to learn how to talk about sex from their partners – so long as they’ve chosen good partners, that is.

So teach your kids how to talk about sex.  It is laying the groundwork for them to have high-functioning, fulfilling romantic relationships.

Here’s a great song, oh-so-reminiscent of the 80’s, to set the mood and cheer you on during your next conversation about sex with your kids.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. The other day, Karen, I ran across a stat that said only 19 percent of teens feel they have an adult in their lives they can trust discussing sex with. The person who quoted the stat did not source it, but I was wondering if you think that might be about right?

  2. By the way, there’s a Washington Post article on TV viewing and pregnancy rates in teens here.

Comments are closed.