Talking to your teen about sex is about as fun as talking to them about eating their vegetables. They’ll complain and moan that they have to do it, but you know they’re getting what they need and that it’ll be better for them in the end. Plus, by teaching them to eat their vegetables you know that they’re learning good habits that will help them in the future, as well.
Unfortunately, a lot of parents don’t know what to talk about with their kids when it comes to sex. They don’t want to give them too much in case they’re not ready for it. But then they don’t want to give them too little, either, in case they end up hearing it from somewhere else (like a locker room or on a website or some other less-than-legitimate resource).
So as a Marriage and Family Therapist, here are six tips to help you as a parent talk to your child about sex:
1) Don’t just point out the negatives
Many parents try to talk their teen out of sex by only pointing out the negatives. They erroneously believe that if their child knows all the bad things, they won’t want to have sex. But this can actually be harmful to your teen. Harboring negative beliefs about sex can create difficulties when they become married, and it can also create feelings of shame and guilt for feeling sexual urges at all.
2) Talk about the positives
Sex isn’t a negative thing. When shared with someone you love and are committed to, it is a great way to express love and affection. Teach your child that when they are in a committed and loving relationship (such as marriage) that it is a great way to show affection to each other.
Not only is sex a great way to show affection, it is also a great way to have some fun and excitement with your spouse. Sex doesn’t have to be affectionate and romantic all the time. It’s OK for sex to be for fun between them and their spouse.
3) Try to hide your trepidation
No parent really wants to talk to their teen about sex. So it’s natural that you’ll be a little nervous. But if you’re feeling nervous, your teen will feel even more so. Try to be calm and comfortable (or at least hide your trepidation) when talking to your teen. They’ll feel more comfortable which will result in a smoother conversation over all.
4) Don’t just have “The Talk.”
A study by Princeton researchers published in the April 2012 “Journal of Adolescent Health” suggests that comprehensive parental communication with teenagers may create better sexual and reproductive health outcomes (such as lower incidence of teenage pregnancy, less sexual risk taking, etc.) So don’t just have “The Talk” with your teen. Instead, be more thorough by having many talks with them. Make it casual and help them be comfortable talking about whatever questions they have. This also takes pressure off of you to get all the information they need into one talk.
5) Be candid
In our sexualized world, your teen has probably heard a lot of things about sex. And no matter how much you try to shield them from it, they’ll hear it (or overhear it) anyway. So if you’re not willing to talk to them, they’ll find out about it somehow. And believe me, you don’t want them going to Google to get their questions answered. So be candid. As noted in number 4 above, comprehensive conversations with teens resulted in better sexual health outcomes. So be willing to talk to them about what specific slang words mean. Teach them what the technical term for it is, too. The more thorough the better.
6) Don’t just talk about it biologically
Yes, sex is for reproduction. But we all know that it’s not just for reproduction — and so does your teen. Make sure to talk to them about the romantic and fun side of sex, as well. This will give them a more accurate representation of what sex is for than just telling them about what parts do what and where babies come from.
Talking to your teen about sex doesn’t have to be so difficult. Using these six tips can help you (and your teen) to feel more comfortable and make sure he’s getting the right information from the right sources.