As children enter their teen years and develop a strong interest in the opposite sex, they become intent on learning all they can about the facts of life. The question for parents is, who will teach them?
Although we often find it difficult to discuss the subject of sex with our children, it is important that parents remain open and approachable. Television, magazines, advertisements, and popular music are filled with sexual imagery and messages. If we do not talk with our children about sex, they will turn to their peers and the media to get their information. What they will get, more often than not, is misinformation.
Talking with your adolescent about sex does not have to be uncomfortable or embarrassing. Remember that although it may not seem like it, numerous surveys tell us teens admit that parents influence them more about dating and sex than do their friends. What follows is a list of suggestions that will help open the lines of communication and hopefully make this issue a little easier to deal with.
- Educate yourself – Learn as much as you can about sex education topics so that you will be able to answer your children’s questions with confidence. Your children need you to be the authority on this subject; the trusted person who has the right answers.
- Be available – Let your adolescent know through words and actions that you are there to answer any questions they may have. Ask them about their day and show interest in their lives. If they feel they cannot talk with you about the ‘little things’ they will not talk with you about the ‘big things’ either.
- Approach discussions about sex as you would any other important subject – Project a sense of calmness and sincerity. Children are very perceptive and will pick up any discomfort you may be feeling. If they think you are uncomfortable with the topic, they will be less likely to come to you with their questions in the future. You want your children to get the correct information they need from you and not some erroneous nonsense they pick up from their peers or the media.
- Don’t assume that they will learn everything in school – Many schools only cover the physical side of sex and not address the emotional, mental, and behavioral aspects of human sexuality. Think back when you were an adolescent and tell your children those things you wished someone had told you.
- Express values – In addition to the facts, you should include your own thoughts and feelings. Let them know what you think about pre-marital sex, responsibility, abstinence, birth control, etc. But be prepared to give them the reasoning behind your attitudes! Adolescents frequently challenge parent’s beliefs and they will be looking for sincerity and honesty in your answers.
- Above all – Let your children know that in the right context, and in the right time, sex can be a wonderful, beautiful and natural part of life.