How to Cope With Sex Education

Three Parts:Understanding the Point of Sex EdGetting InformationCoping with Embarrassment and Information Overload

Talking about sex can be embarrassing, especially for kids, teens, and young adults. But a healthy understanding of sexuality is a very important part of growing up. Fortunately, there are several strategies that can help make this sometimes awkward part of your education a bit easier.

Part 1
Understanding the Point of Sex Ed

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    Realize that you are not the only one who feels this way. Embarrassment and awkwardness are common responses to learning about sex! Sometimes, people act embarrassed to hide how curious they are, because they don't want their friends to think they are excited to learn about sex.[1] But whatever your response is to sex education, it's ok!
    • In most cultures, sexuality is considered rather private, so sexual information is not discussed in the same way as other topics. But do not let that keep you from asking important questions.
    • Health educators understand how to make sensitive issues easier to discuss.[2] In a sex education course, topics are developmentally appropriate for the age of the class, and the more difficult topics come later in the year.[3]
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    Know what all is covered in sex ed. Sexual education is not just about sexual intercourse-- it also involves learning about how male and female bodies work and how to take care of your body.
    • Most sex ed curriculums in the United States are set by the individual state's board of education [4]. These courses tend to cover topics such as puberty, anatomy, health, self-esteem, and social issues like peer pressure and dating violence.
    • A thorough sex ed curriculum will answer questions like how to handle your menstrual cycle (for girls), what to do if you think you might be gay, how to prevent sexually-transmitted infections and diseases, what to do if you receive sexually explicit text messages, how to handle being the only virgin or the only non-virgin in your group of friends, and what to do if your boy- or girlfriend is manipulative or controlling, plus many other topics.[5]
    • You might feel like some of these topics don't apply to you-- for instance, if you have already gone through puberty and handled those changes well, and plan to stay a virgin for now. In that case, sex ed might feel like a waste of your time, but it is possible that there are other topics you might not even realize you still need to learn about.
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    Welcome sex education and learn about sexuality. No matter what your views are on controversial issues such as the biology of reproduction, heterosexual and homosexual issues, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy, you are a sexual being. It's important to learn about this part of yourself to grow as an individual with a healthy self-image.
    • Even if you identify as asexual (not having any interest in sex)[6], throughout your life other people are likely to make sexual advances toward you, and you must learn how to respond to living in a world where sexuality matters.
    • Health courses at the high-school level are often known as "easy A's" if you keep up with quizzes, projects, and homework. Typically, they are less demanding than core subjects like mathematics, science, history, world languages, or literature.
    • You may even have fun!

Part 2
Getting Information

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    Wait until you're ready. For the most part, you can wait to learn about the details of sexuality until you're feeling curious and ready to start learning.
    • It's OK to say, "I don't think I'm ready for that information yet," when it comes to talking about sexual education. There's a lot to absorb and process, and it shows maturity to wait until you're ready to handle it.
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    Talk to your parents about sex. Although this may feel awkward, these are people who love and accept you and can really help you. Sit down with them and talk with them about sex, your body, or your relationship issues-- whatever is on your mind.[7]
    • Don't just have "The Talk." Keep talking about it. Learning about sexuality should be an ongoing conversation.
    • Use opportunities to ask questions when they arise naturally. You don't have to force discussions. It may be easier to talk about issues if you discuss something you saw together in a talk show, movie, or on the news rather than ask, "So Dad, what is a homosexual?"
    • Realize that your parents have been expecting this all your life, and planning how they might respond to your questions. Still, your questions might catch them off guard and they might need a little time to come up with a response that they feel is accurate without being too much information that might overwhelm you. So cut them a little slack if they seem embarrassed, too!
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    Ask a trusted same-sex adult. Maybe Mom isn't the right person to ask about condoms. It may be better in many cases to talk with a relative you trust, such as an older brother, aunt, an older cousin, or a family friend. Just be sure the person you talk to is a mature adult with your best interests in mind.[8]
    • Keep it casual. Talking about sex doesn't have to be a big deal. Simply say, "I've been meaning to ask you about something, do you have a few minutes this weekend that we could get together?" If you let them know why you're asking (for instance, because you overheard your friends talking about something, or you saw something on the internet) they will have more context to give a thorough response.
    • Just like your parents, sometimes other adults can feel anxious about these types of conversations with kids or teens because they don't want to give the wrong information or more information than you need. If they seem embarrassed or caught off guard by your questions, just give them time to think about their response and don't worry about it.[9]
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    Go online. As long as you are cautious about where you look, the web is an extraordinary place for you to research topics you want to learn more about.
    • Be careful about doing internet searches for keyword terms that involve anatomy or sexuality. You might accidentally get results that are sexually explicit or pornographic instead of informative. Instead, go to a trusted website like Wikipedia, WebMD, or the American Sexual Health Association, and then search their website for the terms you are interested in learning about. For example, Wikipedia shows pictures of the human body (both female and male) and will explain confusing terms.
    • Be sure to let your parents know what you are researching. Always remember to be open with your parents and let them know why you are doing it, so no one gets in trouble or is overly embarrassed.
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    Listen up in class. Sexual education is available (although sometimes not mandatory) in many schools. It's helpful to have a trained professional available for questions, surrounded by people your own age, and no parents in sight.
    • If you do not have a sex ed class, ask your school nurse or counselor.[10] For young adults, sometimes the school nurse can help you with particular questions in privacy.
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    Ask your doctor. These are trained professionals and they are required to maintain your privacy. There is no need to be embarrassed around them, as they chose a career dealing with the human body. Nothing you could ever ask or show them will shock or surprise them.
    • You can prepare questions for your annual well-check or make a special appointment if your questions are urgent. Feel free to write down or type out your questions, and if you're too embarrassed to ask them yourself, hand them to the nurse before the doctor comes in and ask if he will give them to the doctor for you. This way, the doctor can read over your questions and prepare a good response before coming in to see you.
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    Be aware that you never finish sexual education. Surprised? Sexual education is a lifelong process of gaining new information about relationships, intimacy, and human bodies. As you get older, you will learn more about how to be a confident, healthy individual, and as you grow, your need for information will also change.[11]
    • For instance, as a young teen, you may have questions about dealing with puberty. You may have issues with sexual identity as a college student. As an adult, you may have trouble conceiving a baby. And on and on. There's not one point where you will magically know everything. So you might as well start learning now.

Part 3
Coping with Embarrassment and Information Overload

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    Fake it till you make it. Sometimes embarrassment is unavoidable, so the only thing you can do is to pretend you're not embarrassed at all. With time and practice, this form of acting will help you actually overcome your embarrassment.
    • You can also try to deal with embarrassment by using humor to lighten the atmosphere. This is a common strategy among young people learning about sex; just mention the word "penis" in a room of teens and everyone will start to giggle! It turns out that laughter is a normal human instinct to try to deflect attention from feelings of embarrassment. So don't be afraid to smile to relieve some tension.[12]
    • Embarrassment tends to feel like everyone is looking at you and judging you.[13] But when young people learn about sex education, they all likely feel embarrassed and awkward. No one is busy judging you; they are all busy feeling just as awkward as you do!
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    Know how to respond if you disagree. Especially in a school sex ed course, there might be times when you disagree with something that your teacher says. It is OK to disagree and have your own opinion.
    • If you feel that the teacher is saying things that are discriminatory or dangerous, let your parents know so that they can determine if they should talk with school officials.
    • Otherwise, feel free to raise your hand and politely but firmly let the teacher know that there are other valid opinions on the subject. Realize you are unlikely to change the teacher's opinion, but at least you will let other students know that there are other opinions out there.
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    Find someone to talk to. If you are overwhelmed by information you've learned about sexuality or the human body, you might feel anxious, confused, or scared. Sometimes these responses happen because a person has heard just enough about an issue to worry them but hasn't learned enough to understand the issue completely. If you are feeling confused, worried, or disturbed by something you have heard, talk to someone you trust who can help to reassure you.
    • Consider talking to your parent or a trusted adult and letting them know what you heard or experienced and why it is bothering you.[14]
    • If you experience prolonged anxiety about these issues or about yourself as a sexual being, consider talking to a professional therapist or counselor. You can start by talking to your parents or to your doctor, school nurse, or school counselor about your concerns. Ask for a referral or recommendation.[15]


  • Remember: We all are in the same boat as human beings. We all have reproductive parts, we're all a little embarrassed about talking about sex, but it's all part of becoming an adult.
  • Pornography is not sexual education. These are fantasies, not helpful information.
  • Never engage in behavior you aren't willing to talk about. If you don't feel comfortable discussing it, you aren't really ready to do it.
  • Avoid getting information about sex from people your own age. Yes, it's often more comfortable to talk to someone your own age. But people your age usually know the same information you know. You need to ask someone with more knowledge.
  • Young adults often lie about their sexual experience, development, and escapades to make themselves seem more mature or experienced.

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Categories: Puberty and Reproductive Health | Reproductive Health