How to Talk About Touchy Topics

   By SavvyAuntie  May 12, 2010

As a young girl, car rides to and from our summer home at the Jersey Shore left an indelible mark. To this day, whenever I return, the salty sea air and the blinking fireflies that usher me over the bridge, remind me of “the talks” my twin sister and I used to have with our parents, my Dad in particular, on those seasonal journeys.

Don’t underestimate how rich and full of promise time on the road with your nieces and nephews can be. It is one of the ripest opportunities for open discussion, especially when it comes to delicate subjects.

Road Trips

Growing up, it was during age appropriate, frank conversations with my parents on long car trips helped shape my framework of what constitutes a healthy sexual relationship.

But while the conversations might have been uncomfortable, I am indebted to my parents for initiating those discussions at a very early age.

God bless my father, he is a simple man with a very simple sense of logic. Over the years he drilled into our heads what at times seemed like laughable criteria on which we should never compromise when it comes to physical relationships. His pearls of wisdom on those long trips down to the shore though echoed in my ears and helped me think on my feet when I found myself, as I got older, in shall I say, compromising situations.

Sex expert and regular contributor to O magazine, Dr. Laura Berman would be proud.

"What you need to do as a parent  is arm them [children] with knowledge that will guide them well into adulthood," says Berman. “You want to start these conversations early with your kids -- before they find themselves in the circumstances where they’re having to make those healthy sexual decisions.”

Use Real Language

With my twin-sister and I held captive, my father capitalized on the opportunities to impart his acumen on the topic, without mincing words or using euphemisms, which is critical and serves a two-fold purpose, according to Cicely Richard at "It can start the sex-talk process, and this information can be a protection against predators who search for children who don’t know their bodies," says Richard.

Let’s be honest, talking about sex can be awkward. But research shows when kids are occupied and the need for direct eye contact is eliminated, their defenses are lowered which allows conversation to flow more effortlessly. Cue the long road trips!

While it might be tempting to avoid the subject as long as possible and even get it down to just one "big talk," it is advisable to maintain an open dialogue.

One Big Talk?

According to Dr. Mark Schuster, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and chief of general pediatrics and vice chair for health policy at Children’s Hospital, Boston, "If parents are waiting for the right time to talk to their kids about sex, they’ve probably already missed their window of opportunity."

Over the years, as funny as some of the things my Dad told us were, I’ve found I sound just like him when I pass on the same sure-fire advice to my nieces and nephews.

For aunties, there is more to consider

However, the topic of sex can be tricky for an auntie because it is important to maintain respect for the value systems of the parents of our little darlings, which sometimes can be in direct contrast to our own.  So how does an auntie handle this?

The best advice comes right from our own
Savvy Expert, Natalie Robinson Garfield. Appearing recently on ABC News, with our founder Melanie Notkin, Natalie emphasized "communication, communication, communication" with parents, so when touchy subjects come up, we respect their authority while being the best supporting cast member to the family we can.

So remember these three important tips when talking to your kids about sex:

  • Don’t wait to have one big talk
  • Start introducing the subject early
  • Use real language. Avoid euphemisms.

And I would add one more thing. Aunties can be a parent’s best ally. Sometimes kids seek out their aunties for advice about things they feel uncomfortable talking to their parents about. Remember that you are there to support parents in raising healthy, sexually responsible kids.

As our founder Melanie says, "It takes a family village."

Originally written by Stephanie Baffone, LPCMH, NCC, an Expert on Love & Loss, for

Make a Comment

tonia_jeff by tonia_jeff | lindenhurst, IL
Sep 03, 2010

my kids and i have no problem talking about thing they even have there friends talk to me when the have questions we try very hard to make sure no topic is taboo and when our 13 year old just got her first period she wasnt even embarrassed to tell her older brothers and father and they werent even fazed by the announcement

SunniMck by SunniMck | New Smyrna Beach, FL
May 24, 2010

I have two daughters, one in Elementary and one in middle school. My oldest just started to blossom and its a scary experience for her since she is a little smaller than the other girls she hangs out with. They all blossomed last year and she has heard them "Talk" about girl stuff but really never listened till now. We have Mommy - Daughter talks usually in the car after I pick her up from school or when she is in the bath. I always talk to only one daughter at a time about their bodies and answer any questions they may have. I have taught them its ok to ask me anything and I will not be mad or shocked. So far the three of us have a very open relationship and talking to them everyday will only strengthing and keep the line of communication open for years to come.

LuckyMommaJ by LuckyMommaJ | SEQUIM, WA
May 21, 2010

It is important for kids to know they can come to you any time about any thing. My parents were NOT that way. I asked about sex stuff and was told to avoid "heavy petting." Of course no further explanation was given, and I of course learned what it was after doing the moral is TALK to your kids. HONESTLY and OPENLY!

supermommy828 by supermommy828 | plainfield, IL
May 19, 2010

my son is 3 1/2 and mu husband and i are grateful he isnt at "that" age yet, but thanks to the tips and suggestions pointed out in this article we will be on the right track when it is that time

tarheel4ever by tarheel4ever | Salisbury, NC
May 19, 2010

My daughter is now 22 and I found when she was younger, it was easier to discuss touchy subjects by talking about other subjects first and showing her that I was actually listening, rather than just saying, yeah, um hum...etc. Once she realized my attention was focused on her, various subjects could be brought up and she talked more openly. In other words, build up to the touchy subjects by really discussing others first, don't just jump into a heavy discussion when you haven't shown interest in their normal, daily life first. Good luck!