How do I talk with my teen about sex?
Sex is a very personal and private matter. Many parents find it difficult to talk with their children about sex. Teens may be too embarrassed, not trust their parent's advice, or prefer not to talk with their parents about it. But sex is an important topic to talk about.
The following tips may help make talking with your teen easier:
- Be prepared. Read about the subject so your own questions are answered before talking with your teen. Practice what you plan to say with your spouse or partner, a friend, or another parent. This may make it easier to talk with your teen when the time comes. Speak calmly and clearly.
- Be honest. Let your teen know that talking about sex isn't easy for you but that you think it's important that information about sex comes from you. And even though you would prefer that your values be accepted, ultimately decisions about sex are up to your teen. If your teen disagrees with you or gets angry, take heart, you have been heard. These talks will help your teen develop a solid value system, even if it's different from your own.
- Listen. Give your teen a chance to talk and ask questions. It's important that you give your full attention.
- Try to strike a balance. While teens need privacy, they also need information and guidance from parents. If your teen doesn't want to talk with you about sex and tells you that it's none of your business, be firm and say that it is your business. Your teen should know that you're asking out of love and concern, especially because there are potentially harmful situations. If your teen is quiet when you try to talk about sex, say what you have to say anyway. Your message may get through.
- Ask for help. If you just can't talk to your teen about sex, ask your pediatrician; a trusted aunt or uncle; or a minister, priest, or rabbi for help. Also, many parents find it useful to give their teens a book on human sexuality and say, "Take a look at this, and let's talk."
Parents often fear that if they talk about sex, their children may want to try it. Teens are curious about sex, whether you talk to them about it or not. Studies show that teens whose parents talk openly about sex are actually more responsible in their sexual behavior.
When it comes to something as important as sex and sexuality, nothing can replace your influence. You are the best person to teach your teen about relationships, love, commitment, and respect in what you say and by your own example.