Why are we afraid to talk about sex education with our teens? This is a subject that many parents try to avoid like the plague. We teach our kids to brush their teeth, look both ways before crossing the street and beware of stranger danger. We tell kids to always wash their hands but talking about sex is a foreign concept.
Having “The Talk” …
This is another gray area for parents; we want to flip a coin to see who is going to talk to their age-appropriate child about sex. It turns out that neither parent really wants to tackle sensitive subjects, so we wait, hoping our kids will learn about it somewhere else or figure it out on their own.
Where to Start?
Parents used to make “the talk” about sex-related topics a formal affair with a one-time “couch” sit down to ensure they had their child’s undivided attention. It felt more like a scolding than open communication about an important subject. Having a series of discussions that begins early, happens often and continues over time will make more of a difference.
A fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that parents use some of the following tips to help guide the conversations:
- It is important during conversations that you not merely focus on the consequences of risky sexual behaviors.
- Talk about healthy, respectful relationships.
- Communicate your own expectations for your teen about relationships and sex.
- Provide information about ways to prevent HIV, STDs and pregnancy.
- Provide information about where your teen can speak with a healthcare provider and receive health services.
Does Having “The Talk” Make a Difference?
The national Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy survey reports that “yes” teens felt their parents had the greatest influence over their decisions about sex. Most teens also said they share their parents’ values about sex. Studies have shown that teens who report talking with their parents about sex are more likely to delay having sex and to use condoms when they do.
Parents Prepare to Answer the Tough Questions
This is the time to tackle the elephant in the room and not shy away from open and honest talks with your teen. It may not be easy, you may not have all the answers, but encourage your teen to ask questions. When your teen shares their personal information with you, be sure to keep in mind they may be asking for your input or want to know how you feel.
Talk with the Experts
Take your teen to regular preventive healthcare appointments and ask about available literature to help guide your discussions. Stay informed about where your teen is getting their information and what health messages are factual and accurate.
Take the elephant out of the room. It’s time to open the door that will lead to important lines of communication with your teen.