Sep 182013

I don’t think any sane, healthy adult wants to teach a 5 year old how to give blowjobs. Classrooms in my hometown, Chicago Public Schools, are adding sex education for kindergarten students. (Yes, adding sex ed to curriculum, not mandating, because parents and guardians can still opt out.) In my career, I’ve instructed and directly managed hundreds of comprehensive sex education courses for thousands of K-12 children. I’ve also helped their moms, dads, guardians, uncles, aunts, and other adults discuss it with them. The problem with sex ed in America is this: Americans are relatively uncomfortable with sex. “If we start talking to kids about it,” the logic often goes, “they’ll start doing it or, maybe, we’ll just introduce them to too much information too fast. Why the hell does a 5-year-old kid need to know about sex, anyway?!”

If you want the straight dope on sex ed for tots, here’s what’s going on. People who actually know what the hell they’re talking about — folks like Advocates for Youth, answer, and SIECUS — released The National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12  “to provide clear, consistent and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum, core content for sexuality education.” The guidelines are divided by age and grade. Thankful to use something that actually works, schools in Chicago, New York City, and elsewhere, are aligning their curricula with the new standards. The intended outcomes? Better sex education. Fewer teen pregnancies. More kids who don’t contract HIV. This is all good.

Image by Kenny Lam

Image by Kenny Lam

The idea is that this stuff is additive over time. If you expect a pre-teen boy to “get” why gooey stuff will shoot out of his penis, it’s helpful if he understands sperm and reproduction. If you expect a pre-teen girl to truly understand menstruation, you’ve gotta back up to early ages and make sure she understands body parts, the reproductive tract, and other concepts instead of (out of the blue!) informing her, at 12, one day her vagina will bleed and that’s called a period.

In case you want to get an idea of how to explain sex to little ones in your family, I’ve pasted the K-2 National Sexuality Education Standards (NSES ) breakdown below, along with my recommendations to strengthen them even more.


  • Use proper names for body parts, including male and female anatomy
  • Use proper names for all body parts
  • Provide examples of how friends, family, media, society and culture influence ways in which boys and girls should look (e.g. long/short hair, painted finger nails, big muscles, earrings)
  • No items
  • Explain there is a length of time that a person or animal/pet lives and changes occur during that length of time.
  • Describe differences and similarities in how boys and girls may be expected to act.
  • Provide examples of how friends, family, media, society and culture influence ways in which boys and girls think they should act.
  • Same as NSES recommendations
  • Explain that all living things reproduce
  • Explain reproduction
  • Explain not all living things are able to or want to reproduce
  • No items
  • Explain almost every internal and external body part is able to become ill
  • Identify different kinds of family structures
  • Demonstrate ways to show respect for different types of families
  • Describe the characteristics of a friend
  • Identify healthy ways for friends to express feelings to each other
  • Identify different kinds of relationships in their lives (e.g friends, family, student/teacher, next door neighbors, etc.)
  • Describe the characteristics of a relationship
  • Demonstrate ways to show respect for a relationship
  • Identify healthy and appropriate ways people express themselves in different relationships
  • Explain that all people, including children, have the right to tell others not to touch their body when they do not want to be touched
  • Identify parents and other trusted adults they can tell if they are feeling uncomfortable about being touched
  • Demonstrate how to respond if someone is touching them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable
  • Demonstrate how to clearly say no, how to leave an uncomfortable situation, and how to identify and talk with a trusted adult if someone is touching them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable
  • Explain what bullying and teasing are
  • Explain why bullying and teasing are wrong
  • Identify parents and other trusted adults they can tell if they are being bullied or teased
  • Demonstrate how to respond if someone is bullying or teasing them
  • Same as NSES recommendations


  8 Responses to “How to Talk to Your 5-Year-Old Kid About Sex”

  1. We’ve been working with our 5 and 6 year olds on ideas of bodily integrity, personal space, respect. All those are part of sex ed but aren’t necessarily seen that way. I think most parents understand those ideas in a non-sex ed way, but in 10 years or so it will be very important with regards to rape.

    One example I use is one of my sons does not always want hugs and kisses. Even from Mommy, Daddy, grandparents. Instead of pushing, I’ve taught him to offer a hand for a handshake. It’s a nice compromise but still teaches him that *he* decides how he wants others to touch him. I know a lot of parents insist that Grandma deserves a hug, but I think it’s more important to teach my kids to define their boundaries. It might hurt Grandma a little, but she’s an adult and should get over it, especially when she understands the lesson.

  2. Thank you so much for this. As a mom I was glad to see I had “gotten it right” with my kids and also I was deeply touched by the “personal safety” precautions. As a teenager I was repeatedly abused sexually by my mother’s alcoholic boyfriend, together with my sister. I felt really guilty about it and didn’t know who I could talk to. I cannot stress enough that it is soooo important to speak to your children openly and honestly about sex, in a way appropriate to their age and also give them the means to understand that THEY are not to blame if SOMEONE ELSE does something that makes them uncomfortable.

  3. Thanks, great post. I have to say as a single mum, this chart really will come in handy, I am all for teaching kids about sex education at a early age, 4 might be a bit young however. I will save this chart and keep it handy for when such a conversation has to arise! Thanks For sharing.

  4. Very cool! Thank you for sharing so openly! That is what I like about your posts. It really needs courage to speak about such things with kids.

  5. Applause, not everyone can do What You’re done, the children are the future and it is important taht they are educated in all aspects of life possible
    a greeting

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