Though we have separated this resource into sections by age, this is far from a static breakdown. All children are different and it’s most important to educate them based on their own personal growth. Your children may ask questions, run into sexual or social problems or may become sexually active earlier or later that you expect, so we welcome you to skip ahead or go back to sections to find the relevant advice. We all learn and grown at our own rate and so these designations are meant to be guidelines, not rules.
Everyone's ideas about and experiences with sex are different. We all have our own fears, desires, histories and goals. Don't assume you know what your child is thinking, doing or feeling. While picking up hints about how they feel about sex, through behavior, comments or reactions, is part of being a parent, don't jump to conclusions and don't accuse. If your child wants to wear a bra earlier than her friends, it doesn't mean she is destined to be promiscuous. If your child is shy and has a hard time making friends, it doesn't mean he is not sexually active. Ask your daughter why she wants a bra or ask your son why he doesn't connect with other kids at his school, then talk about their answers instead of making uncomfortable accusations.
A big assumption many parents make is about sexual identity. This can be a tricky subject. Many young people have conflicting sexual feelings and they may feel attracted to people of both genders. While it may cause some confusion (or not) for your child, this is completely normal. Try not to assume their sexuality. Remember that your child might be gay, straight, somewhere in between, or they may not know yet. Steer away from including gender in your questions. "Do you have a crush on any boys?" gives your daughter an easy way out. She can say "No" and go back to her video game without feeling guilty about lying to you, even though she is making out with her lab partner Mary after class under the bleachers. "Do you have a crush?" is a more inclusive question. Talk about sexual identity in general terms, how figuring it out can sometimes be confusing and how there are many different ways to express sexual desire between many different types of people. This can allow your child to feel more comfortable if they want to ask you questions or talk about their sexual identity. If you want to ask them outright, try to avoid the "Are you gay?" types of questions that sound like accusations. Instead try asking them what they think about their own sexual identity. No matter what your beliefs about homosexuality are, remember that your child is navigating this path on their own and building their own identity. You can explain your values to them and these morals will influence them, but remember to be open to and respectful of any answers they want to give you.
Everyone Can Have Safer Sex
The stereotypes and rumors about non-heterosexual sex and STIs abound. Gay men never use condoms. Lesbians can't get STIs. Gay men have AIDS. Bisexuals are promiscuous. The list goes on and on. In reality every kind of sex has the potential to be safe or unsafe. Don't perpetuate these stereotypes to your children, but do give them advice that relates to their sexual identity. You are able to get HIV from anal sex, especially if the rectum becomes irritated, so remind your child to always use lubricant. Lesbians are at risk for STIs, so let your child know where they can find latex gloves, finger cots or dental dams to use as methods of safer sex. Find resources for you and your child that are specific to their sexual identity and discuss health issues relating to non-heterosexual sex.