Sexuality Resource Center for Parents: Tools, Tips, and Tricks for Teaching Children about Human Sexuality

"When was the first time you had sex?"

(For Parents of Children with Typical Development)

What will you do if your child asks this question?

First of all, don’t forget the five steps to follow when answering questions about sex and sexuality, especially Step #3: Decide what messages you want to give. These messages may be different for different families. Some parents will attach a minimum age to their answer, some parents may insist that sex comes only after marriage, and other parents may simply say that there are no hard or fast rules, just as long as both people freely give their consent with all of the facts at hand. Remember, your answer will depend upon the messages you want to give, and your messages will depend, at least in part, upon your values and beliefs. And just because you may have had sex when you were sixteen, doesn’t mean you can’t change your beliefs at a later time.

You get to decide what you want to reveal about your past, but whatever you decide to reveal should be true. If your child figures out that you’re lying, they may reject what you've said in the past and ignore what you say in the future. You can also choose to keep your past private, though your child may think twice before asking other questions. Whatever you choose to do, you will be providing a model for how your child should behave under similar circumstances.

Your answer may also depend upon how pleasurable your first sexual encounter was. If the sex wasn’t that great or if the circumstances weren’t ideal, talk about those things.

But what if the sex was great? What if no harm came of it? What if you were only sixteen and not even married? Then you really have to dig deep to decide what messages you want to give. After all, you could decide that your sixteen-year-old does have the physical and emotional capacity to handle sex. But if your teen doesn’t have that capacity, you could include the following in your answer: “I thought I was ready for sex, but now I realize how incredibly lucky I was. If there had been a pregnancy or if I had gotten a sexually transmitted infection, I’m not sure I would have been able to deal with the consequences. I realize that now, but I didn’t think about those things back then.”

Other Considerations

Are you and your child talking about the same thing? Most people mean “ vaginal sex” when they say “sex,” but many people define sex in broader terms. For some, “sex” means vaginal sex, oral sex, and anal sex, while for others, it could also mean mutual masturbation, manual sex, frottage, or using sex toys. Use Step #2 for answering questions about sex and sexuality to find out what your child really means by “sex.” This may help you avoid a whole lot of confusion! To find out our definition for sex, click here.

Just because your child wants to know when you first had sex doesn’t mean that he or she is thinking about having sex. Use Step #2 for answering questions about sex and sexuality to find out what your child is thinking or really asking.

View this question as a good time to start a conversation about intimacy and what it means to be intimate. There are lots of ways to show someone that you really care for them, and most of them do not pose the risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Holding hands, kissing, and making out are just some of the things two people can do to feel closer. Your child should understand that they get to decide what sexual activities they’re ready to handle, and nobody should be forced to do things they don’t want to do.

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