How to talk about sex without alienating your Teen
Oftentimes, your teen may seem unapproachable or extremely uncomfortable when talking to you about personal issues such as sex and sexuality. Here is a list of advice you may want to consider that can help prevent estranging your teen in the process:
- Be clear about your values.
- Talk about facts vs. beliefs.
- Practice what you preach…
- … But don’t preach.
- Encourage a sense of pride.
- Keep the conversation going.
- Keep your sense of humor!
Be clear about your values.values
Before you speak with your child about sexuality, think about what your values are. What do you believe? What does your faith tradition say? It is important to give your children factual information – and to be very specific about how your beliefs either agree with or differ from science.
Talk about facts vs. beliefs.factVSbelief
Sometimes, factual information can challenge a personal belief or what a faith community believes. This can provide an opportunity to make sure that your child both has accurate information and hears what your values are relating to it. It also provides an opportunity to explain that there are different beliefs in the community, that people are allowed to disagree with each other, and that differing views should be respected – as long as those views are based on ethics, responsibility, justice, equality, and nonviolence.
Practice what you preach…practice
Young people often find it confusing when parents talk about a value regarding sexuality and then act in a way that does not support that value. Some common values about sexuality and relationships that most people support include honesty, equality, responsibility, and respect for differences. Acting on your values and being a good role model are powerful messages for your children. On the other hand, your beliefs will not seem very important or valuable to your children if they don’t see you respect and abide by them yourself.
… But don’t preach.preach
Have a conversation with your children – don’t talk at them. Find out what they think and how they feel about sexuality and relationships. Then you will be able to share information and respond to questions in ways that will resonate with the belief system they are developing for themselves.
Encourage a sense of pride.pride
All children deserve to be wanted and loved, and parents can reinforce this message. Let them know you are interested in what they think and how they feel about any topic, whether it is sexuality, school, religion, the future, or whatever. When your children share feelings with you, praise them for it. Correct misinformation gently, and reinforce your values whenever possible.
Keep the conversation going.conversation
Too often, parents think they need to wait until they collect enough information and energy to be prepared to have “THE TALK” with their children. However, sexuality is a part of every person’s life from the moment he or she is born. It is important, therefore, to start the conversation early, and to make it clear to your children that you are always willing to talk about sexuality – whenever questions come up for them, or when a “teachable moment” occurs.
Keep your sense of humor!humor
Sexuality, in most of its aspects, can be a joyful topic for discussion in the family. Remember to keep your sense of humor throughout conversations with your child – the conversation doesn’t have to be tense and uncomfortable unless you make it that way.
Things to Remember and Other Tips
Things to Remember and Other Tips
Here is an additional list of some important things to remember throughout your interactions with your teen regarding the topic of sex. This list includes some additional tips and advice not covered in the previous sections.
- Teens need accurate information and decision-making skills to help protect them from: the pressure to have sex, unintended pregnancy, and contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
- If talking with your teen about sex is difficult for you, admit it.
- Don’t make the conversation tense; keep your sense of humor.
- Use the media (example: TV, movies, magazines, and articles) as well as real-life situations (example: a friend’s pregnancy) to begin talking about sex.
- Share your values regarding sex, but accept that your teen may choose to have sex despite these values.
- Asking questions about sex does not automatically mean that your teen is thinking about having sex. Don’t make assumptions.
- Ask your teen what they want to know about sex. If you don’t know the answer, admit it. Find the answers together.
- Talk with your teen about reasons to wait to have sex. Remind your teen that they can choose to wait (abstain) even if they have had sex before.
- Reassure your teen that not everyone is having sex, and that it is okay to be a virgin. The decision to become sexually active is too important to be based on what other people think or do.
- Talk with your teen about ways to handle pressure from others to have sex.
- To feel comfortable talking openly with you, your teen needs to know that you will not punish him or her for being honest.
- Leave age-appropriate articles or books about teenage sexuality around your home. Teens will pick them up on their own to read them (See the Additional Resources Section).
- Your first talk with your teen regarding sex should not be your last! Talk with your teen about sex on an ongoing basis. Let your teen know that you are always open and willing to talk about any questions or concerns they may have about sex.