It is the dreaded conversation for many parents-the sex talk. Did you know that your children know more about sex than you think they know? These conversations are NOT easy but a necessary part of parenting, and something we all need to become comfortable enough with in order to keep our precious babies safe and well informed.
Many adolescents learn about sex from their peers (Berger, 2010). I ask you to sit with that information for a moment and ponder to yourself. Do you really want your children getting information on sex, which may be incorrect or incomplete, from their peers?! Parents, who can be quite influential role models when it comes to sexual behavior, are often slow to begin to talk with their children about sex. . This again may lead to teenagers being ill informed and having incomplete or incorrect information.
The obvious answer here is that you, the parent, need to speak to your children about sex and I recommend doing so before your children become sexually active The average American teen becomes sexually active at age sixteen. And about two thirds of American high school seniors report that they have been sexually active.
I frequently tell parents, it is often easiest to have conversations about sex in the car as neither the parent or the child must maintain eye contact. Try to speak to your child when they are not using an electronic device. They may not answer your questions or engage in your conversation BUT the child is LISTENING! No verbal response is needed. Prepare as you must, say what you need to say, and call it a day!
Consider these questions as you prepare yourself for that important conversation:
- What information would you like your child to have?
- What information do they have? (Remember, they often know more than we think they do!)
- Consider how to be age appropriate in providing the information. For example, using the word “wee wee” when talking to a twelve year old wouldn’t be age appropriate.
- Do you have information about your own experience you want your child to know? If so, how do you want to present this information? What do you want your child to know about you and what do you not want to share?
- Don’t assume that your child will make the same decisions about sexuality as you did. You are, after all, different people with different life experiences and so on. Be respectful of your child’s individuality.
- Be open to your child’s questions and know that it is OK to tell your child when asked a difficult question that you’d like to think about your answer and get back to him/her tomorrow. And then do get back to your child!
- Remember how it felt to have your parents talk to you about sex. As uncomfortable as you may feel discussing sexual issues as a parent, your child may feel just as embarrassed if not more so.
- Don’t assume that your child’s other parent has provided your child with information. Married or not, discuss these issues with your child’s other parent and be sure you are “on the same page” about issues of sexuality and who will discuss what issues with the child. Or better yet, do it together!
I am not going to pretend that having conversations about sex with your teen are easy. But hopefully with a little preparation, your child will get the message that you would him/her to receive!