So how should you go about explaining sex to your daughter?
During puberty, the hormones the body produces can cause your daughter to encounter new feelings – and to start being curious about her sexuality.
While it might be difﬁcult to know how to talk to your daughter about sex and relationships, questions will arise at different times, so you need to be prepared to provide moral and emotional guidance as she journeys into adulthood.
A good time to start having conversations with your daughter is when you ﬁrst start to talk about puberty. Discuss the things that boys and girls both experience, like getting taller and growing hair under the arms and in the pubic area. Then explain that some things are different for boys & girls:
Explain that boys and girls go through puberty so that their bodies can get ready to have babies, if that’s something they choose to do when they’re grown up.
Weave it into everyday chat
Look for natural moments to bring up the topic again – for example, when the subject of sex comes up on a TV programme, or when talking about things other kids have told her. This will create an open dialogue and help her understand that she can approach you whenever questions arise.
Be frank & honest
While knowing how to talk to your daughter about sex is not easy, be as straightforward as possible, and try not to squirm or dodge the subject.
Use anatomically correct words for the human body, such as vagina – rather than euphemisms like ‘front bottom’ – and avoid abstract concepts, such as the birds and the bees.
Don’t force conversations
Let your daughter know you’re there for her. If she has speciﬁc questions around sex and sexuality, reassure her that her feelings are perfectly normal, but if she doesn’t, don’t worry – some girls are more private than others.
Just make sure that she knows you’re available when and if she does want to discuss anything.
Coping with first crushes
Hormones the body produces during puberty may cause your daughter to experience new feelings, so it’s natural for her to start having crushes. Take time to discuss this with her, using these words as a foundation for your talks:
Facing up to facts and feelings
Caring about how the other person feels
Treating people with care
The need for it to be given
Other people matter, they have worth
What she does has consequences
Your daughter may also begin to explore intimate parts of her body, especially the genital area. This can happen from quite an early age and it’s important that she understands it’s not a case of it being right or wrong. However, it’s worth reminding her that it’s personal and should be done in private.
Informed is empowered
You may worry that explaining sex to your daughter will make her more likely to want to experiment sooner. However, extensive research has shown that children who understand the facts, and feel they can talk openly with their parents, are more likely to wait to have sex – and make sensible decisions when they do.
Questioning sex & gender
As she grows up, your daughter may start questioning her gender identity and what she can and can’t do.
If she feels that she doesn’t ﬁt with society’s traditional deﬁnition of what it means to be a girl, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with her. This is just a natural part of growing up – children explore and question. You can help by simply observing, accepting and being on hand to offer – or ﬁnd – further support if she needs it.
Remind her that her biological sex doesn’t deﬁne what she can and can’t do. Help her realise that she can achieve anything. For example, remind her that girls can play football, be strong and be brave! Be careful not to inadvertently stereotype her, or others, yourself.
Make sure you understand the nuances around the terms 'sex' and 'gender' before considering how to talk to your daughter about sex.
This is based on the genitals we’re born with and the chromosomes we have. At birth, most people are either male or female. In rare cases, a child can be born with sex characteristics (i.e. genitals and chromosomes), that do not ﬁt the typical deﬁnitions for male or female bodies. These people are known as intersex.
This is about how we feel and how we think about ourselves when it comes to gender. Most societies recognise two genders – male and female (relating to a person’s biological sex) – but some people might describe themselves differently, and that’s OK.
These are socially constructed and relate to the characteristics and behaviours that are typically thought to go alongside a person’s biological sex. They often serve to stereotype girls and boys and can make them feel like they need to act or behave in certain ways.
You can use this framework for discussing gender and identity, and explaining sex to your daughter.