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Ask The Expert: What Age Should I Have “The Talk” with My Son?

Dear Your Teen:

What age is appropriate to have the “Birds and the Bees” talk with a boy? And when would you discuss condoms?

EXPERT | Sari Cooper, LCSW

A Quick Guide: What Age Should Parents Have “The Talk”

There is no single conversation you have with your children. In fact, you build on the foundation in developmentally appropriate steps. Once you have explained how babies are created (usually between ages 5-8), then you would want to discuss self-pleasuring or masturbation (ages 8-12). It’s important to have many conversations before a boy (or girl) begins to self-pleasure so that it doesn’t feel awkward to you or your child. You can explain that masturbation is a natural part of growing up. It’s the first type of sexual experience, and one that leads to understanding what your body likes.

The next stage is for boys to understand what nocturnal emissions are and that he will most likely have one during puberty. In order to prepare him, you might tell your son in a nonchalant tone that when he experiences a nocturnal emission, he can tell you the following morning and you’ll change his bedding (to ensure he isn’t embarrassed) or he can change his linens by himself if he’d like to keep it private. Preparing for this occurrence is an important step in preventing shameful feelings about sexuality and ensuring confidence or what I call Sex Esteem™.

Teaching About Condoms

Now for the condom question. You can explain that condoms are one way to prevent pregnancy. They are 97% effective if used correctly. In addition, condoms prevent many STDs, even diseases that can be passed through oral sex. I would have an initial discussion about condom use with both boys and girls between ages 10-12 (before they are in puberty and/or having intercourse). Show your boys and girls how to properly use condoms by using a cucumber. Explain that many people don’t use condoms properly. Practice on you own first to get rid of your own jitters before showing your kids. This is part of your own Sex Esteem™ education.

This is a longer answer than the question you asked but I believe you must have many “Birds and Bees” conversation. It’s a long road raising sexually healthy kids.

Sari Cooper, LCSW

Sari Cooper is a licensed individual and couples therapist, a certified sex therapist, speaker and writer in New York City. Cooper runs Sexuality Workshops to help parents talk to their children about sex. Learn more at saricooper.com.