Many parents drag their feet into THE dreaded "sex talk" with their children. Maybe it's time we take the pressure off of that single talk. If we want the sex and relationships our children ultimately have to be physically, psychologically, and emotionally healthy then we'd better start talking to them about it early and often.
Some parents don't talk to their kids about sex because they fear that it will spark their interest in it but just the opposite is true. Young people who have good communication with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity and be responsible and safe. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Get educated. Find good books that provide solid information. Talk to your friends about how they have talked to their kids. What information did they draw on?
- Get comfortable. It's normal to feel nervous or unsure when you start talking to your kids about sex and sexuality. It's okay to be honest with them about this too. There is nothing wrong with saying "It's not always easy for me to talk about this with you because my family never did when I was growing up. But this is so important so I am going to do the best I can, okay?"
- Talk often. Get rid of THE sex talk and look for opportunities to have many shorter conversations instead. Sex comes up all the time in the media, use this as a conversation starter.
- Choose the right times. Try to find times where this is some privacy and you aren't rushed to finish the conversation. Choose times that aren't emotionally charged already.
- Don't preach. Young people tend to shut off during long, drawn-out lectures. Say your piece and then let it go.
- Make it a dialogue. Ask your child questions and listen to their answers. Try not to cut them off with statements like "What you think doesn't matter. I am your parent and I know way more than you do." This merely teaches your teen to keep their opinions to themselves.
- Multiple messages are okay. It is just fine to tell your children why it is important to delay sexual activity AND make sure they have accurate information about sexually transmitted infections, birth control, consent, and safer sex.
- Discuss dating and relationships. Find ways to talk about the importance of building strong relationships that include respect and honesty. You might say something like "On TV dates always end up in bed. Dating should be a time to get to know someone."
- Don't use disparaging remarks about gay, lesbian, or transgender people. Be open to talking to your children about the spectrum of feelings and attractions they may experience during adolescence.
- Share your values. We need to teach our kids that relationships include respect and responsibility. We need to teach our kids that we don't want them to rush into sexual behavior even though they are increasingly interested in sex. We need to teach the communication and relationships skills that are the foundation of healthy relationships. This will help them prepare for both the joys and challenges that love brings when they find it.