Find a list of your saved stories here

News / 

Saying 'don't' is not enough when talking to children about sex

Saying 'don't' is not enough when talking to children about sex

Save Story

Save stories to read later

Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY — Saying 'don't' is not enough when talking to children about sex.

Imagine attending a dance class focused entirely on what steps not to do. It would only create questions and confusion. It is definitely important to teach children to avoid mistakes, but it is equally importantly to teach them what healthy sexuality is so they will know how to create a healthy marriage later in life.

Scientific studies have clearly demonstrated that children who understand their bodies and are lovingly guided to understand the physical and emotional facts about human sexuality make better, healthier relationship choices.

Scientific studies have clearly demonstrated that children who understand their bodies and are lovingly guided to understand the physical and emotional facts about human sexuality make better, healthier relationship choices.

Dr. Mark Kim Malan, a licensed sex therapist, believes because of the strong position on morality in Utah some children may not be learning about sexuality in a healthy way. He believes a lack of information could lead to sexual exploration in unhealthy ways. He believes this may possibly contribute to the pornography problems in Utah.

Utah ranks No. 1 in subscriptions to pornography says Benjamin Edleman, a Harvard professor who tracked subscriptions and published his findings in the article "Red Light States, who buys online adult entertainment" published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

"Where you have a culture that is known for family values, morality and apple pie, you will also have curiosity and interest in the forbidden," said Theresa Martinez, a professor of sociology at the University of Utah.

It is possible many people have turned to unhealthy sources like pornography because they haven't received enough information about healthy sexual relationships from their parents.

One LDS woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said it was very confusing to be told sex was bad for 21 years, then one day later (after marriage) be expected to be comfortable with her sexuality. She believes many LDS women have a hard time adjusting to marriage and sex, and this may contribute to the large number of men and women ensnared with pornography.

Malan said there is more parents can do to teach their children about sexuality. They could better prepare them for a healthy marriage, while still teaching them to keep the law of chastity. He recommends the following tips for parents:

Be a healthy role model

Before parents can teach their children how to be sexually healthy parents must make sure they have a positive attitude about sex. Children learn more from what parents do than what they say. Parents who hold hands, cuddle, kiss and who tell each other "I love you" model healthy love and sexuality for their kids. If parents feel uncomfortable showing affection or think they may have a sexually unhealthy marriage, they may need professional help from certified therapist. The love parents express in their answers is as important as the facts they share. Always relating sex to love helps children form positive sexual values.

Use a child's questions as learning opportunities

The best teaching moments happen when kids are curious. Simple factual answers delivered with a positive and caring attitude are all that's needed. Children need emotionally safe and caring parents who are approachable about sex.

Kids won't ask questions if they know their parents are uncomfortable or overly moralistic about the answers. The love parents express in their answers is as important as the facts they share. Always relating sex to love helps children form positive sexual values. Help them to understand that sex is a beautiful expression of love for a husband or wife.

Answer questions accurately

When they ask about why girls bodies and different than boys, explain that it is mostly so children can be born. It takes both a mom and a dad to create life and love and nurture it.

The inevitable "Why?" that follows is an opportunity to explain the beauty of love between two people and their natural joyful connection that creates the desire to have a family. Then follow with, "How do you feel about that?" This opens the door for an emotional and supportive connection.

Children are fascinated by the miraculous story about how human seeds in our bodies grow life, just like other plants and animals. Children will see the reproductive process as magical and loving, if parents exude that same attitude as well.

Parents should prepare themselves for questions beforehand by reading books about sexual health written for children like "Belly Buttons are Navels," "It's Perfectly Normal," "It's So Amazing," or NOVA's "Miracle of Life." Parents should read them first so they can decide if they want to read a book with them or simply verbalize information in a way that fits their personal values. Helpful Books Here are a few suggestions of books that explain sex on a child's level:

"Belly Buttons are Navels" "It's Perfectly Normal" "It's So Amazing" NOVA's "Miracle of Life"

Nurture self worth

Sexual health begins with a healthy body image. Children need to be able to name all the parts of their body correctly and see them as beautiful and nothing to be ashamed of. Children need to know they are "good" and their bodies are "good." There should be no "naughty" parts. Little children have no natural body shame. Being undressed is not sexual to them. Don't "scrub" the fun out of bath time or rob them of their innocence by over-attention to their genital touching that unnecessarily and negatively sexualizes their bodies.

Never shame

Humans have pleasurable genital feelings from birth. Children must feel safe to explore and accept their bodies and sexual feelings in order to function as healthy adults. Small children will naturally discover that their genitals give them pleasure regardless of any parental supervision. Telling them not to touch their genitals backfires (they will anyway) and is psychologically unhealthy. This only instills guilt and shame, which can later lead to dysfunction.

Instead, acknowledge the joy of feeling these good feelings in a positive way by teaching them about privacy, personal sexual boundaries and the value of sharing this special pleasure with the person they love and marry when they grow up.

When children make inevitable mistakes, help them understand mistakes are teachers and guide them to better decision making by acknowledging the natural consequences of their behavior and exploring healthier alternatives.

Innocence not ignorance

Knowledge prepares children to make healthy choices. Childhood ignorance about our bodies and lack of understanding about sexual feelings can lead to adult sexual dysfunction. No one can be healthy who is uninformed or feels guilty or shameful about his or her body. Studies confirm that children who receive unconditional love and acceptance from parents form healthy psychological and sexual self-worth.

Waiting until a child is a teenager to talk about sex is too late

By the teenage years many incorrect ideas about sexuality have already been developed. Parents in this position need to be open about sexuality and create a safe place where teenagers can talk about their feelings, questions, and insecurities. Teenagers won't be embarrassed to talk about sex if mom and dad aren't either. This instills confidence that his parents are a wise and caring resource.

If parents have not handled talking about sexuality with their children in a positive way before now, the most effective thing they can do is have a heart-to-heart talk and apologize for their lack of sexual knowledge or underdeveloped attitudes and give their child permission to become sexually healthy anyway. Parents can also become a better role model by exemplifying healthier sexual attitudes in their own marriage. Even the adult children will notice the difference.

A note from Malan: If any of these suggestions make you feel like a "fish out of water" or uncomfortable, it may be a good idea to learn more about sexuality and parenting. Your parents may not have given you a healthy sexual education because they didn't have it to give. Parents can break the unhealthy cycle. They can re-parent and learn to be honest and helpful to their children. Their future relationships are in your hands.

Kimberly Sayer Giles is the founder and president of LDS Life Coaching and She is a sought after life coach who has a popular radio show LIFEadvice on Utah's AM 1430 Saturday mornings at 8am MST

Most recent News stories


Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast