“The birds and the bees,” “the talk,” “that time.” Whatever you call the dreaded conversation, you know that the day will inevitably come when you have to sit down with you teen and have a very uncomfortable discussion. Thanks to today’s media, the internet, and kids growing up too fast, the time for that talk might just arise a lot sooner than you think.
Sex and sexuality are not something that parents look forward to discussing with their teen, but if you don’t do it, they will find the information elsewhere and it will likely be incorrect. Knowing how to approach the subject, what to say, and how to make both of you feel more comfortable will make the conversation a better experience for both of you.
Where Do I Even Begin?
First, consider your own stand and views on the topic. Nowadays, teens don’t necessarily need a lot of information on the actual mechanics of sex as they do the emotional effects, the choices they must make, and avoiding pressure and abuse. Thanks to sex education and the internet, your child probably knows a lot more than you think he does about sex. You still need to talk to him in order to make sure that he correctly understands everything and knows what the options are.
Most parents talk to their teen about one or both of the following:
Abstinence: Simply put; don’t do it. Many parents feel that the best thing to teach their child is to completely abstain from all sexual activity until marriage. This is often based on religion or even just family values. Abstinence is really the only absolute way to avoid STDs, pregnancy, and emotional damage.
On the other hand, many parents think that the more you tell a teen not to do something, the more they will want to do it. Abstinence is 100% safe and has no repercussions or side-effects, but teens have minds of their own, so it’s usually best to educate them as well, rather than just saying no. In the event that they engage in sexual activity earlier than you’d like them to (and many do), you at least want to know that they are educated and can protect themselves.
Birth Control: More and more parents are putting their teenage daughters on birth control the second they step into high school. These parents believe they are protecting their daughters while others believe that they are encouraging sexual behaviors. In this particular debate, it’s rather easy to see both sides, but difficult to determine which one is right.
Whether you provide your teen with birth control or not, it is wise to educate them about it. Let them know what the options are, how they work, and how effective they are. Make it very clear that no contraception method is 100%, and that there is always a risk of infection or pregnancy.
While no parent wants to encourage their teen to start engaging in sexual activity, there is always the chance that they will. While teen sexuality always carries great risk, the risk will be even greater if they do not know how to take protective measures.
What to Say, What Not to Say
Give your teen a heads up rather than just dropping the S-word on them at random. Sit down with them in their room and let them know that on a certain day, the two of you will be spending some time together and talking. While you are talking to them, be serious but do not sound like you are preaching. Teens have some sort of device attached to their hearing that makes it shut off as soon as it sounds like you are about to tell them what to do. Try and remember how you felt at their age, even though you have learned a lot since then. Level with them, be honest, and allow them to ask questions.
Do not start sentences with, “I know how you feel,” or “I think you should…” Teens will only feel less inclined to listen. Instead, try sharing your own experiences that they may be able to relate to. Help your teen to see that you really were a teen once too and that you do remember what it was like. If your teen feels that he can talk to you openly, it will not only make this conversation easier, but he will know that he can come to you when he does decide to have sex.
Lighten it Up
You must be wondering if that is even a possibility. Lucky for you, the answer is yes. Do your best to make the experience fun; while the conversation may be somewhat uncomfortable, it does not have to be completely awkward. Make a day of it. Allow the conversation to take place over lunch and follow it up with shopping or another activity that you enjoy together. By spending the whole day together after having the talk, you not only lighten up the mood, but you give your teen the opportunity to immediately ask you any questions that come to mind.
Also consider a gift as part of your talk. A book on sex and sexuality will give your teen extra information and since the book came from you, they know they can ask you any questions they may have. It also allows them to learn more in-depth information without having to ask questions that they may feel embarrassed about. Along with reading material, consider other things that pertain to the occasion, such as an abstinence ring (if that is what you teach), or a journal to record their thoughts in.