The thought of having ‘the talk’ with our kids can seem daunting, causing us not to want to have the talk at all. It doesn’t have to be so. Remember that kids now have easier access to illicit materials than it was in our time and having the talk as soon as possible can protect them from negative knowledge.

There’s a lot of questions and concerns around this topic for parents. Can I say too much too soon? When’s the best time to talk about this stuff? Won’t someone else do it? As a dad, you need to be ready for this on many levels. Here are three rules for how to have the talk with your kids.

3 rules for how to have the talk with your kids

1. Stop calling it “the talk”

It’s a unique time with all of the temptation. But, it’s not new. We’re not fighting a war that’s never been fought, however, the weapons of our battle have become different.

Helping your kids arrive at a healthy view of sexuality in relation to intimacy and reproduction is not just one talk. It’s a multi-year(s) process—a series of conversations that takes place over several years. You don’t get just one bite at this apple. If you’re looking for a quick one-time chat that gets you off the hook, best of luck with that approach. Knowing how to have the talk with your kids is tough. Don’t forget, it’s not just one but a series of talks.

2. Start earlier than you think

You should start the conversation by age nine or ten. This seems very early but trust me, with information readily available on a smartphone, the earlier the better. I started by asking my kids if they knew what “sexy” meant. You’re gaging whether they’re starting to hear or feel anything. Maybe they’re starting to talk about who’s pretty or not. Now, if you asked your kid, “Hey, have you ever heard the word “sexy” and your kid shrugs it off and says, “Nah.” Then simply drop it for a few months.

The goal is to try and be ahead of the conversation. Starting earlier than you think will help you be the one they come to. You want to guard against their first exposure not being you. Ideally, I want to start from a place where there are no preconceived notions. If we wait until 13-14 years old, their notions are now things I have to work through. So, masturbation, sex, pornography—it’ll be better if these things are discussed with you rather than friends or culture. Knowing how to have the talk with your kids isn’t easy, but you have to start earlier than you think.

3. Don’t go too fast too soon

If you think it’s just one talk, there’s a ton of pressure that shouldn’t be there. If you meet a girl and try to make her your wife in one talk—that’s a pretty high-pressure date. Can you get all of that done in one sitting? No. So, relax, when it comes to talking about sex with your child. You can’t talk about everything from how babies are made to how to guard against temptation in two hours. Everything is in stages. Be intentional with every stage of the talk.

Doing it this way, you don’t create more pressure on yourself than you have to.

Go on and start that first conversation surely but slowly and the rest will pan out accordingly.

Marissa Glenworth is a mother a retired school teacher and a mother of seven children. In her spare time she likes gardening, writing and visiting antique shops.

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