Talking to your teen about sex is generally considered one of the hardest aspects of parenting because the topic makes people uncomfortable. While talking with your teen about sex may not be easy, it is an essential part of life and can affect whether or not your teen has a healthy outlook or not. Sex and sexuality deals with several factors, such as how male and female bodies work, love, relationships, reproduction, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexual behavior.
Here are 10 things to help you when you talk to your teen about sex:
1. Start talking early
Early childhood is the best time to start talking about sex and sexuality. There are many age appropriate topics to discuss and it sets the stage for future conversations. By the time your teen is old enough for a detailed talk, the foundation of open and honest communication is already established.
2. Don’t stop at one talk
Even though it is uncomfortable to talk with your teen about sex, it’s important that you keep the lines of communication open. Teens should feel comfortable coming to their parents with questions about sex and that the parents will give an honest answer.
3. Use life as a catalyst for communication
Rather than sit down for a formal talk, use the events around you to start conversations with your teen. For example, if your child’s friend begins dating someone, talk about your child’s understanding about teen dating, teen sex and his own views on the matter. This also gives you a chance to help coach your child in developing his values and viewpoints as he analyzes his friend’s actions.
4. Keep it age appropriate
As your teen matures, so will her understanding, and different aspects of sex and sexuality may require more attention. The questions a 14-year-old has about sex and sexuality will likely be different than what a 17-year-old wants to k now. Expand the conversation from just sex to related topics like love, relationships and health.
5. Be honest
Share your values and viewpoints about sex and sexuality with your teen. You might want to share the basics of your own upbringing or religious viewpoints as well and why they are important to you. While your teen should develop their own attitudes and values, it’s helpful for them to see where you are coming from.
6. Correct misinformation
Your teen may have learned some untrue or exaggerated aspects of sex from the media, from friends or from misunderstandings. Take the time to gently correct any myths and misinformation your teen may have about sex and sexuality. If you don’t know the answer to something, commit to finding out and sharing the information with your teen.
7. Acknowledge that it’s uncomfortable to discuss sex
Relieve the tension about the conversations by admitting that it’s hard to talk about sex and that it’s normal to feel awkward or embarrassed. When you tell your teen that their feelings and yours are normal, it gets easier to open up. Your teen will understand how important the topic is when you are able to push past the discomfort and share your knowledge and advice about sex and sexuality.
8. Learn to listen
As the conversation continues, take some time to listen to your teen’s ideas and opinions. When you listen, you are conveying respect for them and that helps to build trust. While you may be tempted to jump in and offer your opinion, allowing your teen some time to formulate questions or process information is valuable. Let your teen know that you understand his point of view and validate their feelings, worries and questions.
9. Get help from outside sources
There are plenty of books about sex and sexuality written by experts specifically for teens. Turn to these sources for additional information. Research what books best reflect your values and ideas and share them with your teen. Having a well-written book on hand can give your teen more time to reflect on the information on her own time. If you both read the book, you can discuss certain aspects of the contents.
10. Accept your teen for who they are
Your teen may not end up with the same values and viewpoints about sex that you do but there’s no reason to be alarmed. Studies show that when parents can talk honestly about sex with their teens, the teens are more likely to engage in responsible sexual behavior. Providing accurate information and honest insight is the best thing a parent can do as their teen transitions from child to adult.