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The Birds and the Bees: Talking to Young Teens About Sex


“Birds do it,
Bees do it,
Even educated fleas do it.
Let’s do it,
Let’s fall in love.”
-Cole Porter

So. How did you learn about sex? My husband tells about coming home from school one day to find a book about “reproduction” (not sex) on his bed. Nothing was ever said about it. I, on the other hand, am part of a whole generation of girls who learned about menstruation and the mechanics of making and having babies from a movie shown after school “for girls only.” Little was said at my house beyond some hemming and hawing about whether I should go to the film. Friends of mine learned what little they knew from friends, some of whom had more enlightened parents, but most of whom had equally ignorant friends. Is it any wonder that most of us were more than a little confused?

Now that we have adolescents of our own, most of the parents I know are trying to do things a little better. We want our children to know the facts. We want our children to be comfortable with themselves as emerging sexual beings. We want our children to make clear decisions about when and with whom to have sex. Above all, we want our children to be safe.

As uncomfortable as talking about it may be, to duck out of the talk about “the birds and the bees” is just plain irresponsible. Whatever your personal values about sex may be — from sex as recreation to sex as sacred — it is simply true that sex too early and without adequate information can be emotionally damaging and physically dangerous. Young psyches can’t handle the emotional stimulation of sex. Young girls’ bodies are not meant to be pregnant. Young boys and girls are not ready to be fathers and mothers. And, sadly, young peoples’ impulsivity and ignorance often mean that they do not adequately protect themselves from disease, pregnancy, and exploitive sex.

The Birds and the Bees: Talking to Young Teens About Sex

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

Marie Hartwell-WalkerDr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central's Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart.

Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2020). The Birds and the Bees: Talking to Young Teens About Sex. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.