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Pastiche Family Portal HomeOh No, the Sex Talk

by Mark Brandenburg MA, CPC

Talking to your kids about sex isn’t the easiest thing in the world. But if we’d like our kids to share our values and beliefs about sex, we need to do our job. Here are some ways to move ahead with this difficult issue.

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I was ten years old, and I was scared. My older brother had just informed me that my dad would be giving me the “sex talk.” Apparently, he had just gotten his talk earlier in the evening, and my dad was “making the rounds.”

I sat and tried to digest this. Our family had never talked about sex. It wasn’t on our radar, along with a number of other topics. In fact, my father didn’t talk to us much about anything those days, let alone about sex. And now he was going to talk to me one-on-one about sex?

I thought of my options, including feigning illness. It all seemed surreal to me.

Later that night, just when I thought I was home free, I heard his footsteps on the stairs. My body tensed. My thoughts were at warp speed, but I felt sluggish and dull. As he approached the door of my room, I struck a submissive pose.

He sat down across from me, and he seemed almost as tense as I felt. I thought I might explode at any second. “I thought I’d just talk to you about some things,” he said. He paused, and then he said, “Did you know, for instance, that you don’t really have a bone in your penis when it gets hard? It’s really just blood.”

What I had just heard was too much to digest. I thought I was moving my head up and down for “yes,” but I was so uncomfortable, I wasn’t sure. I hoped he wouldn’t ask me a question, because I didn’t think I’d be able to talk. Had I been given the choice between prolonging this talk for an hour, or being ripped apart by wild dogs, I may have chosen the latter.

At least I would have been aware of my fate.

My father noticed my struggling, and he became even more uncomfortable. After some hesitation, he said, “If you have any other questions about anything like this, just ask me.” I nodded, and he left the room.

I sat there on my bed, motionless. I didn’t quite know what to do. Who should I tell? At the very least, my brothers needed to hear about it. Or perhaps I could just treat this episode like a bad dream, knowing it would soon go away.

My father was a man of science. He was a renowned cardiologist, at one of the most prestigious hospitals in the world. But when it came to talking with his son about sex and the human body, he could muster only two sentences.

But, then again, I did learn it wasn’t a bone.

If you’d like to do your job as a father, you’ll need to step up and “have the talk” with your kids about sex. Better yet, you’ll have many talks over the years. Too many parents put off talking about sexuality until the teen years begin, and then feel as though they need to have “the talk.” But sexuality is a big part of your kids’ lives every day, so start the conversation early on in their life.

Here are some ideas to consider when talking to your kids about sexuality:

  • Make sure you’re calm and matter-of- fact when you relay the information. Any discomfort you show will immediately have your child feeling uncomfortable too. The calmer you are, the more they’ll remember. When you’re sure of yourself when you talk about sex, it allows them to feel more secure about it, too.
  • Educate yourself about sex Adults don’t like to admit they don’t know much about sex, but this is often the case. And if you’re not confident with your knowledge about any topic, you’re less likely to share that knowledge with others. Sexuality is no different. So get yourself a good book on the topic, and educate yourself.
  • Distinguish between facts and what your beliefs are There will be times when facts might clash with what your beliefs are, or what your faith believes. Be clear with your kids on this. Define exactly how these differ, and tell them that different people will believe different things about sexuality and faith. Let them know this disagreement is fine, especially if the beliefs are based on nonviolence, justice, and equality.
  • Walk the talk with your kids Live the values you’ve talked to your kids about. It’s confusing for kids to hear one thing, and to see something else in your behavior. Sexuality is all around us today, so be clear with your values, and stick to them. The best way for your kids to be interested in a loving, long-term relationship is to show them.
  • Encourage them to talk to you about difficult topics Establish an environment of openness and non-judgment when you talk about any difficult subject. Let your kids know they’re doing a wonderful thing by asking questions, and wanting more information. If your kids haven’t felt comfortable talking with you about difficult things before, they won’t start by asking you about sexuality!
  • Keep it light, and keep your sense of humor The lighter you can keep this topic, the easier it will be for everyone. Sexuality is a gift, and it can be a source of great joy. Let your kids know that while there are some very serious issues around sexuality, there’s also room for joy and humor.

Sex is the force that drives our existence on earth. It is filled with mystery, joy and danger. And once you’ve experienced the wonder of sex with someone you love, you will be changed forever. But while sex holds the promise of great beauty, it also holds very adult-like consequences, which are difficult for our kids to comprehend.

Fathers can help their kids avoid these consequences by being there to inform and educate their kids, and to begin early in their life. They can help by staying emotionally attached to their kids, even when their kids “pull away” during the teenage years. And they can help by preparing to help their kids navigate through the teen years, which will offer countless challenges, including sexuality.

And if you do your job well, your children may one day be able to enjoy this gift as well.

About the Author: Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, coaches fathers by phone to balance their life and improve family relationships—now! He is an Instructor for the Academy for Coaching Parents ( and author of “Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers” Ecourse


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