Sex Education and Kids

Britney Spears has earned fame for her back-to-back pop hits, but her talent is sometimes upstaged by debate about her body parts — are they bona fide? — and by her sexy clothing, suggestive performances and reporting about her relationships.

Meanwhile, the parents of Britney fans face the challenge of teaching their kids about intimacy, safe intercourse, respect and responsibility in an age of seductive images. How to compete with the contemporary "sex sells" culture? Better not be boring, says sociologist and author Pepper Schwartz. "Everything is boring if you lecture — even sex," she says, "so listen rather than lecture. Have a conversation. Don't fill in the blanks. Find out what they want to know, and don't feel the need to give them more or less."

In her book Sex for Dummies (For Dummies, 2nd ed., 2000), sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer gives this example about telling kids what they want to know: After a girl in his class expressed that she was different from him, 5-year-old Jimmy asked his mother what the girl had meant. After speaking awkwardly for 10 minutes about the differences between boys and girls, Jimmy's mom asked if he wanted to know anything else. "Yes," he said. "Kim said she was Chinese. What does that mean?" Although Mom told Jimmy more than he wanted to know, experts agree that he'll be OK because he has a parent (and maybe two) willing to have a frank discussion about sex. That's the key to shaping a healthy sexual attitude, they say.