Research has proven repeatedly that when parents talk honestly and openly about sex and relationships with their children, they are more likely to wait before engaging in sex for the first time and more likely to use protection. In other words, adolescents are actually listening to their parents.
- Don’t judge. Listen to your child with an open mind.
- Listen, don’t talk. You learn more by listening than by talking. You will have a better idea of what your child needs to learn if you understand where they are coming from.
- Don’t freak out. You may experience a moment of panic, but try to keep it in check. Be calm, cool and collected. (Your wine will be there for you later.)
- Be sex-positive. Shaming your child about their interest and curiosity about sexuality will distance them from you. Sex is a wonderful, fun experience; approach your conversations from that perspective.
- Share experiences. We have all experienced some awkward romantic and pubertal moments. Share these with your child so they know you “get it” and will comfortable talking to you.
- Don’t put your teen on the defensive. Ask your children questions that will help them open up to you. “What were you thinking?!” is never a great approach.
- Use positive statements on a daily basis. “Hey, I see you worked really hard on that paper last night. That’s terrific.” Focus on the effort, not the result. You are building their self-worth based on things they can control.
- Ask open-ended, exploratory questions. “What do you already know about this?” “How do you feel about this?”
- Give skills, not demands. “Let’s talk about what to do in this situation.” vs. “Don’t ever drink and drive!”
- Use humor. It’s okay to laugh about sex. It can be funny sometimes!
- Make time for one-on-one fun. This allows some good old fashioned bonding which builds trust in your relationship.
- Consider your own history and emotions around this topic. We all have our own narratives around sex. However, this does not mean your child’s experiences will be the same as yours. Recognize how your emotions may impact your conversations.
- Educate yourself. However, it’s okay not to know all the answers. No one knows it all. That’s why we have online resources. Tell your child you are unsure of an answer, then together explore reputable sites for information.
- Use teachable moments to ask open-ended questions. Media, music, news…they all provide an opportunity for discussion.
- Keep the conversations short. Two to three minutes of conversation is plenty – unless your child takes the lead for further discussion. You will have ongoing talks throughout your child’s life, not just one “cram session.”
- What values do you want to impart? Use those to guide your conversations and
- Check in with your child. “Did I answer your question?” “Is there anything else you are curious about?”
- Join the Conversation. You are not alone! February 2 is National Sex Education Day. Are You In?!
“Be the adult you needed when you were a child.” Ayesha Siddiq