Let’s Talk About Having “The Talk”

Let’s Talk About Having “The Talk” 1024 575 Sarah Saxbe, MS, MSW, LISW-S

Known famously as “the talk” due to its taboo nature, the conversation with children about healthy sexual practices is often considered daunting for many parents, but this conversation doesn’t have to be difficult. Practicing open communication and being honest with children can lead to positive conversations about reproductive health that educates kids so they make healthy choices in the future.

Here is some guidance that experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital recently shared in a peer-to-peer Twitter chat. You can help patient families feel more confident about having “the talk” with their children.

Q: When should parents have “the talk” about sex and development with their kids?

Experts and parents agree that “the talk” shouldn’t be one, big, scary talk. Instead, try breaking it down by starting when they are young. Talk about the basic body parts and appropriate touching when kids are toddlers as a starting point. By having smaller conversations over time, it will make it easier to teach kids and prevent a difficult conversation down the road. Additionally, practicing these types of conversations helps to make you an “ask-able parent” – which means your kids will be more likely to come to you with questions rather than relying on their friends (or worse, the Internet!) for sexual development and health information.

Q: When should parents talk about birth control with their kids? Should providers talk about birth control? If so, when?

It is important for parents to educate themselves on all of the options for birth control before speaking to their child. Having an understanding of each option will allow them to better inform their child and discuss what may be best for them.

Not all parents are discussing birth control with their kids so, as a provider, you may be an adolescent’s only resource for accurate information. Speaking to adolescents and educating them will ensure that they are receiving correct information and that they are equipped to make their own decisions.

Q: Does making birth control accessible encourage kids to have sex?

This is a question many parents are concerned with, but the consequences of not making birth control accessible can do more harm than good. Data shows that access and education reduces the number of “risky” sexual encounters. Half of all teens report having sex by age 18. This means not making birth control accessible could put millions of teens at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

Q: What resources are available for parents to talk with their child?

There are a variety of helpful resources for parents and kids to help educate and make the conversation easier:

Nationwide Children’s BC4Teens



The bottom line is that talking to children about sex and reproductive health doesn’t have to be awkward. Starting the conversation early can promote healthier behaviors and safer choices. Primary care providers can do help by educating parents and their kids whenever they have the opportunity.

Nationwide Children’s hosts regular peer-to-peer chats through @NCHforDocs. Search #PedsMedChat for more details about this conversation and past conversations.

About the author

Sarah Saxbe, MS, MSW, LISW-S, coordinates community outreach and marketing for Nationwide Children's Hospital Teen and Pregnant Program, BC4Teens birth control clinic, and the Ohio Better Birth Outcomes collaborative.