7 Practices of Sex Positive Parenting

How to have a positive impact on your child's attitudes, understanding, and decisions about sex

1/9/20243 min read

a woman standing next to a little girl in a kitchen
a woman standing next to a little girl in a kitchen
1. Model a sex positive attitude

Have an attitude and language that is accepting of all forms of gender, gender expression and sexuality. Don’t just talk about it, show it! Modeling this attitude teaches your child what compassion, acceptance, and empathy for others and themselves looks like.

2. Have a nonjudgemental stance

Parents don’t need to be masters of all things gender and sex. When something is outside of what you’re familiar or comfortable with, respond with humble curiosity instead of judgement. This includes responses to media you and your child are engaged with and comments made by people around you. And things your child may say - gently address comments made by the child as a time to increase their own inclusive mindset. When something is unfamiliar, you may make a commitment to get more information together so that you both learn.

3. Be a trusted adult ready and able to talk about it

Per the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, “having age appropriate conversations about sexual development will help reduce the risk that they are exposed to unhealthy or unrealistic information online.*” Readiness involves knowledge of developmental norms that you want to explicitly educate the child on as well as being available when the child comes to you. Being able to talk about it entails being calm and trustworthy, it doesn’t mean expertise. Regulate your own discomfort so you can remain calm and responsive to the child’s comments and questions around sex, bodies, and gender.

4. Honor their age appropriate privacy and autonomy

Offer your pubescent child opportunities to talk to other safe adults such as an MD or the local Planned Parenthood. It may hurt some parents to hear the child doesn’t want to talk to them about something. Don’t take this personally. Instead use it as an opportunity to remain a sex positive force by connecting the child/teen to safe resources. And if the teen wants to be alone in the Dr’s office, respect that privacy. You can ask the teen after if the doctor was able to help without prying into what it was about.

5. Sex Ed.

Know what your child’s school’s sex education entails and support, expand on, or challenge its messages at home. Sex positive parenting doesn’t require overturning the school’s sex ed program. It does require you be able to respond to and educate appropriately at home. Any local planned parenthood is a safe informed resource for the questions your teen may have. Use such resources and be sure they know this resource is available to them and their peers.*

6. Know your way is not the only way

Avoid imposing a narrow minded model of sex and love. For example, say you and your spouse married young and had few if any prior sexual partners, something you place special value on. Or, you believe dating many people is important and discourage the child from lifelong commitments to the first romantic relationship. Whatever the experience may be, You (the parents) can share this with the child without presenting it as the only right way. Your experience may be beautiful - sex positive parenting allows for healthy sexual experiences other than your own idea of what that looks like. It lets the child to know it's ok to not do it the way their parents did (as long as its safe, understood, and consensual!) There are many family structures in the world - divorced parents, same sex parents, etc - and it may be confusing for a child to only have one message at home. Children may learn about or witness these in school and sex positive parenting is prepared to validate and support family structures different from their own. Sex positive parenting fosters open mindedness for the child about other people's choices and journeys.

7. Practice and model body positivity

Demonstrate acceptance of others, use nonjudgemental talk (ie, not saying judgmental comments about people’s appearance, body size or shape), and eliminate disparaging talk about your own body. Practice saying positive things about yourself and acceptance or even celebration of imperfection. These modeling practices reduce harmful judgement among your child’s peers and helps encourage a positive self image. Someone with a positive self body image is better able to have accepting, positive attitudes about bodies that are different from their own.