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"The talk" is so over

Experts say parents need to discuss sex with their kids "early and often" - you can't cover the birds and the bees in a 30-minute spill-all at the kitchen table. And you can't expect your kids to comfortably talk about sex with you as teenagers if you didn't open up on the subject when they were much younger. "One of the biggest mistakes is to send the [message]that it's about one talk," says Lyba Spring, a sexual health educator with Toronto Public Health. Instead, it should be a continuing conversation. Keep it simple and honest.

Where to have it

Parents blushing pink at the thought of talking about sex with their kids may suddenly be grateful for those long drives to soccer and ballet. In the car, after all, no one has to make eye contact.

How to start it

The next time you're watching Glee with your preteen, you may want to say something like: "So Quinn's pregnant, huh?" Sex is everywhere, points out Laura Wershler, executive director of Sexual Health Access Alberta. "It's pretty hard not to watch television, listen to music, read the paper, go to the grocery store without finding an opportunity that relates in some way to sexuality." Those half-dressed magazine models can be great conversation starters on values and stereotypes. As for Aunt Suzie's bursting belly, well, that's just too easy.

How to have it without exactly having it

Leave an age-appropriate book on sex lying around, Ms. Wershler says, and you can pretty much guarantee that your child will pick it up. Some parents take their tweens to the bookstore and get them to choose a title that can serve as their personal resource book.

The questions you can't answer

"You don't have to know everything," Ms. Wershler says. If a topic stumps you, parents can propose finding their answer with their child. She also suggests that parents find out what their children know first to better guide their own answer. And expand on what's being taught at school with conversations at home – even if it means prepping in advance.

Gross, Mom! and other responses

"Just because they're glazed over and look like they aren't listening, doesn't mean they're not," says Jennifer Gibson, a sex educator for schools in Victoria. Surveys shows that kids want their parents to talk to them about sex, she says, and the more information children get the more responsible their choices later on. Even if a parent has been putting it off, it's not too late. "Relax," Ms. Gibson says. "This is a guideline. You've got them for a good 18 years in your home, you have opportunities to keep going with this conversation."

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