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Talking About Sex

No parent looks forward to telling the kids about the birds and the bees. Debra Haffner, author of From Diapers To Dating is going to make it easier for you. She shared her ideas on the subject with CBS This Morning.

Children today are growing up in a world filled with sexual themes: in music, on television, on bus ads. The question is, will you be giving them their values or will they learn them somewhere else?

From Diapers To Dating: A Parents Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children
Debra W. Haffner is the president of SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a nonprofit organization whose focus is sexuality education.

She emphasizes that sexuality is like other important areas of childhood education. "You want to lay a foundation in your home. You want to show you're comfortable talking about sexual issues, that you're an 'askable' parent, that you're the person they want to come to about values," says Haffner.

Having the big talk about sex when your kids reach puberty is not what she recommends. The key, in her view, is to start early. "Start from infancy. Give them the correct names for the parts of their bodies. That sets the foundation for the more important talks for when they do start dating," she says.

She advises parents to look for occasions to bring up the subject comfortably.

For example, Haffner says: "You're in a grocery store and see a pregnant woman. You say, 'see that woman, what do you think is happening inside her? In a uterus, a baby is beginning to develop.' That's a teachable moment."

She also says that it is important to teach three- to five-year-olds the difference between public and private places, and to learn to respect appropriate boundaries.

"Kids need to be reminded of this constantly. Some kids touch themselves the way other kids suck their thumbs," she says. "You can say to your child ' I know it feels good to touch yourself but this is something we do in a private place'."

At 11 and 12 years old, she says, kids are starting to learn to kiss and hold hands. If your concern is what to say about oral sex, for example, here are three steps she recommends:

  • Ask, 'what do you know about oral sex?' Some kids think it is phone sex. Some kids think it is kissing.
  • Give an age-appropriate simple answer, and include your values on the subject.
  • State clearly, 'I don't think you children in middle school are ready to engage in this behavior.'

The good news for parents, she sas, if that "the research tells us if you give your children your values, you tell them they're not ready to have intercourse until they're out of high school, in college, until they're married, your child is less likely to get involved in sex. Make sure you have the discussion. Make sure they know what to expect. And start early."

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