Talking to teens and children about sex
Conversations Can Prevent Unsafe Behaviors
It’s important that we as parents talk to our children about sex, else they will learn all about it from TV or their peers and what they learn may not be what we’d like them to learn
“Since the introduction of explicit sex education 20 years ago, teenage pregnancy has risen steadily, together with the rate of sexually transmitted infections and infertility. Where parents are involved and take an active and important part in their children’s sex education, unplanned teenage pregnancy rates decline by as much as 35%..” (CARE)
“Research shows that children and young people want to receive their initial sex and relationship education from their parents with schools and other adults building on this later. But many parents find it difficult to talk to their children about sex and relationships. In particular, fathers rarely take responsibility for giving sex and relationship education to their sons.” (Sex and Relationship Education Guidance ref: DFEE 0116/2000)
“At the age of 14, by approaching Brook (the sexual health charity), GP/health and youth clinics and even some schools a child can: obtain condoms and oral contraceptives, The Morning After Pill and arrange to have an abortion – all this without parental knowledge and consent.” (Parents Network – Young Person’s sexual health – ‘No one ever told me!)
- Children spend on average three hours a day watching television and only ten minutes each day in conversation with their parents.
- Young people are more likely to be coerced by peer pressure into early sexual activity, alcohol, drug and solvent abuse, and risky behaviours if they have low self-esteem.
- If you don’t educate your child concerning sex they will get all their information from their peers and the media.
Try To Reassure Your Teen About Their Body
Regularly reassure your children about their bodies especially during puberty when they may feel self-conscious, embarrassed and even ashamed. Try to instill confidence and build self-esteem.
If you don’t know how to talk to your child about sex, engage the help of a friend or your partner. Decide what you want to say and practise on them! Once you have heard yourself say the words you will feel much more confident to do so again!
Make Yourself Available
Now and again try to arrange a special time alone with each of your children. Perhaps breakfast at a fast food restaurant – or a film followed by Pizza – use the film as a springboard to talk about sexual values. Alternatively, go bowling and use the time in the car coming home to catch up on what is going on in your child’s life. It’s OK to ask direct questions as long as you listen to the answer (if you’re fortunate enough to get one) and offer your opinion though it’s important not to ‘lecture’, ‘preach’ or argue.
Be sensitive to the times when your child is ready for a ‘heart to heart’ and make yourself available – chances are it will be late at night, or at some other totally inconvenient time. Listen more than you talk! If you talk too much they may not disturb you again! If you really are too busy apologise and arrange to talk later.
Encourage your children to develop their own opinions regarding all manner of issues, current affairs, documentaries, pop idols, footballers, and politicians. Discuss these things together and make sex part of those discussions.
Practice What You Preach
Young people are not easily fooled. They hate hypocrisy. They will know what your values are by the way that you live. You are unlikely to carry their judgement if you insist that they maintain standards that are higher than your own. (Conversely, it is possible that they will choose to adopt standards that are higher than yours so be ready for some criticism!)
It is sometimes possible to influence a young person by discussing your personal values (on sex with another adult within their earshot. This is pretty sneaky – after all, you are not talking to them and they are not listening – but communication is happening!
Break It Down
Don’t try and cover the whole subject all at once. Break the topic up into ‘bite size’ chunks and keep it short!. For instance on one occasion you may want to talk about the ‘mechanics’ of sex leading to conception of a baby, and on another occasion talk about the emotional implications of ‘making love’ to someone. Introduce contraception as a means of birth control. Later talk about the dangers of unprotected sex. On a subsequent occasion, invite them to think about the physical and emotional consequences of having many sexual partners.
Sex is a regular feature (explicit or implicit) of soap operas! Make the most of the opportunities they afford.
When talking to pre-teens it is always helpful to talk theoretically, about someone other than themselves. If you leave discussions about sex until such a time as you feel they are mature enough you will probably have left it too late!