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Summer School: How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex

There are opportunities every day to open up discussions about sex, according to author Cindy Pierce. The key is being truthful, using accurate terms, and having conviction.

If you're a parent, the thought of talking to your kids about sex might strike fear into your heart. But you should be having these conversations by the time your kids are in first grade, according to Cindy Pierce

Pierce is the author of Sexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn-Driven World, a comic storyteller, a speaker for high school and college students and an inn-keeper. Oh – and a mom of three kids.

Cindy Pierce's Three Tips:
- Be proactive with sex education
- Have conversations early and often
- Be truthful

The first myth Pierce breaks down is the concept of the "perfect moment" to talk to your kids about sex. "There's never really a perfect moment,” says Pierce. “There's no right time – get out there."

There are opportunities every day to open up discussion, Pierce says. "You're in public, you're downtown [and] you see two dogs humping. Grab it and talk about sex,” she says. “How nice to talk about something other than anyone you know, and other than yourself. That's a good practice – start with animals.”

And the use of accurate terms is essential: "Penis – we gotta use penis. Vagina. There's so many slang terms. And vulva," says Pierce. "These are words. Testicles - there we have it. Boom, out there.”

Cindy Pierce is the author of Sexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn-Driven World and a mom of three kids.

Pierce says practicing these terms is necessary, especially if you yourself don't have the conviction to use them. "Before your kids are in first grade, ]practice] those four words alone. Vulva, penis, vagina, testicles.  Vulva, penis, vagina, testicles.”

Why? It's critical that parents desensitize kids to all of the concepts around sexuality and body parts, Pierce says.

Pierce says her own children are unfazed by anatomical terminology. "There was a person who had been robbing houses and was driving a red, beat-up Volvo. But we had been so open that our kid used the word red, beat-up vulva,” says Pierce. “So cars, and vulvas, and Volvos.  It's confusing, these words."

Many parents claim they're delaying talking to their kids about sex because they want to protect their children’s innocence. “That's a very naive approach in the digital age. The idea of protecting their innocence usually backfires,” says Pierce. “And we, as parents are the primary sexuality educators and it’s our responsibility to take it on.”

"We want to beat Google. We want to beat porn, right?" says author Cindy Pierce. "So we want to talk to [kids] while they're young about healthy sexuality."

"We want to beat Google. We want to beat porn, right?" says Pierce. "So we want to talk to [kids] while they're young about healthy sexuality."

Pierce recommends these resources for parents:


  • For Goodness Sex; Changing the Way We Talk to Teens About Sexuality, Values, and Health, by Al Vernacchio
  • Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person about Sex by Deborah Roffman
  • The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, by Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD with Teresa H. Barker
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown 


PBS NewsHour: The Case for Starting Sex Education in Kindergarten

Al Vernacchio: What is Your Sexual Footprint?

Al Vernacchio: Sexuality Education

Caroline Heldman: The Sexy Lie

Gary Wilson: The Great Porn Experiment

Music credits: "Lost and Found" by Podington Bear; "Ronny" by Alex Fitch. Used under an Attribution-Non Commercial Creative Commons license from

Angela Evancie serves as Vermont Public's Senior VP of Content, and was the Director of Engagement Journalism and the Executive Producer of Brave Little State, the station's people-powered journalism project.
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