Most parents and caregivers nervously anticipate having the “sex talk” with their teenagers. It can easily become an awkward, uncomfortable discussion for both parties, but it’s a necessary one. If you’re approaching your teen on sex-related topics, consider the tips below.
Choose your timing wisely. Don’t start talking about this topic if either of you are hungry, irritated, busy, tired, etc. It can be a set-up for rejection or frustration.
Break the ice. It’s important to choose a good moment for this discussion, so try to spark the topic transition organically. You can use an everyday activity, like a long car ride, to optimize one-on-one time with your teen.
Be honest. If you’re not comfortable talking about sex, simply admit this to yourself and your teen. This might seem difficult, but showing honesty will level the playing field for your teen and might help them open up about their thoughts.
Probe for their understanding of what sex is. This is an important step. What does your teen know so far? It can help set the stage for these discussions.
Identify real facts and myths. Your teen might hold onto sex-related myths learned from friends, media content, etc. Present the real facts and don’t use scare tactics. Keep calm and neutral, and avoid lecturing your teen. They’ll take you more seriously and might appreciate a “no drama” approach.
Don’t use slang. Use correct terminology and anatomy when discussing sex-related topics – it’s simply more proper and appropriate.
Prepare to discuss sexuality on a spectrum. Today, young people are much more aware and accepting of sexual orientations beyond heterosexuality, including homosexuality, bisexuality and many others. It’s critical for parents to speak with an open mind, without judgment.
Present the risks that come with sex objectively. For most parents, this is the most important part of the discussion. Discuss sexually transmitted infections (HPV, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea) alongside unplanned pregnancy, contraceptives and emotional implications of sexual relationships.
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with sex. It’s a normal part of healthy adult relationships, but can still bring serious consequences.
Be clear about your personal family values. Feel free to explore and ponder sex-related questions on ethics and responsibility in the context of your own personal or religious beliefs.
Make sure your teen knows you’re there for them. If your teen knows you’re always open to these discussions, you’ll carry the potential to educate and empower them.
No parent wants their teenager jumping into sexual relationships, but most of us can’t control these decisions in the end. It’s hard to see our babies grow up. We may not agree with the choices our teens make, but we will always do what we can to protect them. Having these conversations is an important part of providing this protection.
If you have any questions on navigating sex-related topics with your children, talk with your pediatrician or advanced practice provider. Texas Children’s Pediatrics is always here to help.