Does Having Sex Chats With Your Kids Fill You with Dread? You’re Not Alone

Products featured are independently and objectively selected by our editors. From time to time, things you buy through our links may earn us an affiliate commission.

I’m the mum of the kids who calls their body parts by their correct names. The mum whose children know about periods and that babies are made with a seed from the man and an egg from the woman.

I’ve always felt mildly smug about being this kind of mum. So mature! So evolved! Gold star for me!

However, when I was driving my 7-year old daughter to school one morning, she casually asked…

“…but like… how do the seed and egg actually meet each other… Mum? Mum? MUM!”

I’m not proud to admit this but I panicked! I freaked and faked a sudden onset of hiccups.

Everybody knows the only cure for such an ailment is to hold your breath. Which is exactly what I did.

With my hands gripping the steering wheel and cheeks resembling a generously filled water balloon, silence infused the car.

When sharing the story with friends and family, I was both reassured and saddened by the realisation I was not alone. The majority agreed that while they understood the desperate need for sex education, they would rather lightly prick their eyeballs with toothpicks than actually deliver it.

So why do we find talking to our kids about sex so incredibly awkward?

Dr Joy Townsend is CEO and Founder of ‘Learning Consent’, a sexual consent education for young people, parents, educators and organisations. Dr Townsend is also a key player in the ‘Teach Us Consent’ movement.

The Latch asked Dr Townsend why this is such a common feeling among parents. She said, “Australians aren’t great at having conversations that might require us to be vulnerable.” She explained that the nature of these conversations can be confronting for some people “and so we tend to avoid the subject.”

Associate Professor Alina Morawska is the Deputy Director of Research at the Parenting and Family Support Centre at The University of Queensland. She told The Latch parents “feel that they lack the knowledge and confidence to engage in these kinds of conversations on a regular basis.”

The result? Silence.

Ironically, the visceral discomfort we feel when faced with talking to kids and teens about bodies, sex and sexuality, is created and sustained by our silence.


From 2023, age-appropriate Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) will be mandated in schools across Australia and simply ‘not talking’ will no longer be an option.

Experts agree, RSE requires a holistic approach to be successful and parents will be strongly encouraged to educate themselves in order to play their part.

Kerrin Bradfield is an accredited sexuality educator and National Chairperson of the Society of Australian Sexologists, the peak body for the regulation and accreditation of psychosexual therapists and sexuality educators.

Bradfield told The Latch “the first step for confused caregivers is to understand the nuance of sexuality and how it differs to sex.  She said “our sexuality encompasses who we are, our feelings about ourselves, body image, self-esteem, emotions and communication as well as desires and fantasies.” Bradfield added that babies and children are modelled “what affection and relationships look like.”

This understanding of sexuality can help caregivers see how RSE is a learning process that commences at the start of one’s life. It is a continuous conversation that evolves as each layer of information is added in age-appropriate increments over time. And it all starts with love and reverence for yourself and the loved ones who surround you. Starting the conversation from this kind and respectful place will also help caregivers to shift from a negative approach to sex education to a more positive one.

Whilst it’s normal and natural to feel awkward when talking to kids and teens about sex, research shows that the price we are paying to avoid feeling ‘uncomfortable’ is far too costly.

Dr Townsend said, “there is significant evidence that comprehensive sex education, including teaching kids about consent, is the most effective way to reduce sexual violence.”

Bradfield reinforced this. She said that when parents and educators remain silent, it “leaves other voices such as social media and pornography to do the talking.” She added, “sometimes it is yelling messages at young people that reinforce gender inequality, objectification, racism and ableism.”

As with any cultural shift, the new and unknown can create anxiety and concern. Some parents worry that sex education will encourage young people to experiment. When in reality, the opposite is true.  Research shows that “young people who receive comprehensive sexuality education are more likely to delay their first sexual experience and engage in safer sex practices than those who are less informed.”

The reality is, if caregivers don’t create a safe space for open communication, kids and teens are left vulnerable. Dr Townsend said that delivering RSE is “in line with young people’s human rights. It supports young people to develop the knowledge, skills, ethical values and attitudes they need to make conscious, healthy and respectful choices about relationships, sex and reproduction.”

So, we know why we feel this overwhelming unease when faced with the task of talking about sex with young people, we also know the devastating result of avoiding it.

Clearly, we need to get over ourselves. But how?

Dr Townsend said “acknowledging our own discomfort is a good first step.” She added, “this is a subject we need to intentionally lean into for the sake of our own children, and society at large.”

Bradfield said “it can actually be really helpful to say to your child, ‘I realised no one ever told me about this stuff and its left me feeling weird about it, but I want to do better.’”

Approaching conversations from a mindset of curiosity and a lack of judgement was strongly encouraged by both Dr Townsend and Bradfield.

Morowska said, “one of the most common reasons that parents (and teachers) are not comfortable in talking about sex is because they lack the knowledge, skills and confidence to do so effectively.”  She added that caregivers need to “gain knowledge about what is developmentally appropriate.”

With this in mind, The Latch presents you with ‘developmentally appropriate’ sex education knowledge, advice and resources from childhood to adolescence.

Caregivers can exhale. The experts are here to hold our hands (with our consent, of course).

May we play our part in this Relationship and Sex Education revolution one (probably still a bit awkward) sex chat at a time.

The Early Years…

For small children, RSE looks like using the correct names for body parts, encouraging kids to see themselves as the boss of their own bodies and understanding that some parts of our bodies are private. It also encompasses love and belonging.

Books such as From my head to my toes I say what goes by Charlotte Barkla is a beautiful way to introduce the concept of consent from a young age. Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud is a brilliant book that conceptualises empathy, respect and kindness through the bucket metaphor. Kids respond beautifully to this.

The Middle Years…

The next layer of sex and sexuality education focuses on topics of conception, birth, diversity in families and puberty. Respect, empathy and boundaries (for ourselves and others) are ongoing throughout each stage.

When explaining the mechanics of sex, Bradfield said “that’s one of the explanations parents find most tricky.” She suggests caregivers “try to separate out sexual activity and biological processes.” Follow your children’s lead and if they ask questions, explain the different ways conception can occur. Using books like The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made by Fiona Katauskas is highly recommended.

The Tween/Teen Years…

This stage of sex and sexuality requires communicating about topics such as masturbation, sexual feelings and orientation and pornography. These topics can be confronting and difficult to navigate, however, research proves that positivity, openness and humour is key.

Dr Townsend and her team ‘At Learning Consent’ reiterates that approaching RSE from a positive point of view helps them to achieve their end goal. She said the aim is to help students “feel capable of making ethical sexual decisions” as well as being equipped to participate in healthy, enjoyable and meaningful sexual relationships when the time is right for them.”

Dr Townsend and her team hold webinars for young people, caregivers and teachers. Their knowledge is invaluable and these (incredibly affordable at just $25 a ticket) are highly recommended (see link below).

New Zealand has a knack for creating relevant, honest and hilarious content for social issues. Check out their ‘Keep It Real Online’ campaign.

Read more stories from The Latch and subscribe to our email newsletter.