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Talking to Your Teenager about Sex
When people think about having kids, they usually think about babies and toddlers, not about the always-bored, sarcastic, know-it-all, opinionated teenagers. But all of a sudden, your sweet little babies do grow into teenagers.
If you haven’t already talked to your teenager about sex, do it as soon as possible. And, if you have talked about it, continue talking about it.
Talking to your teenager about sex is not a one-time conversation—it is an on-going discussion.
You might not feel comfortable talking to your children about sex, but it is a lot more uncomfortable sending your children out into the world unprepared and uneducated.
While we are talking about feeling comfortable, I want to point out that if you can’t openly talk to your teenagers about sex, they aren’t going to talk to you about their sex lives.
Their sex lives? Do teenagers have sex lives? —Well, you aren’t going to know if you aren’t talking to your teens about it, so start talking.
Talk to Your Teenager about Sex
Percentage of Teens Having Sex
What Do They Already Know?
You might be surprised about what your teenager already knows about sex, but you might also be shocked at what your kid doesn’t know. When one of my cousins was in the eighth grade, he had a general idea of how animals mated. After being confused about some things he heard his classmates talking about, my aunt and uncle decided to sit down and talk to him about sex. They were very matter of fact, telling him exactly what sexual intercourse is. Needless to say, he was pretty unimpressed with the entire conversation, but at least his parents knew he was armed with the proper information.
When this same cousin started high school, one of his first assignments in his health class was an essay question asking him to describe the ways in which he could please his partner without actually having intercourse. The poor kid had no clue because having intercourse was the farthest thing from his mind. However, just because he wasn’t experimenting certainly doesn’t mean that other kids his age aren’t—in fact, that this topic was even assigned shows that some of his classmates are thinking about it, if not actually doing it.
If you look at websites like Yahoo! Answers or Fun Advice, you will see a lot of questions posed by teens, like: “Does fingering take your virginity?” or “What does ‘popping your cherry’ and ‘fingering’ mean?” or “What are aids? I mean people talk about how they are dangerous and everything but I'm scared to ask because they will make fun of me and my parents will think I have them if I ask!”
Before you think I made those questions up, I didn’t. If your teenagers are out there learning about what sex is or how to have safe sex from the internet or by talking to friends, then they won’t be fully equipped for actually having sex. You won’t know what your kids know or what they are doing if you aren’t talking to them.
What About Teaching Abstinence?
You can encourage your teenagers to practice abstinence, but you should also make sure they know what sex is and how to have safe sex. You can’t control everything your kids do, so make sure they are fully educated. Look at it this way: Say you have a swimming pool, and you tell your children they can’t go swimming in it. You can build a fence around the pool, lock it up, and forbid them from going anywhere near it; but, if your kids really want to get to that pool, they are going to find a way. Don’t you think you had better teach them how to swim?
It is natural for teenagers to experiment and learn about their sexuality because these are the years when they develop sexually. As parents, you can understand this, but still encourage your children not to have sex yet.
Sexual education will not persuade teenagers to have sex, but it will mean they have the tools to protect themselves.
Younger Teens Are Having Sex Too
Links to More Resources
The DOs & DON’Ts
Do talk to your teenagers on a regular basis.
Don’t assume teens will learn everything they need to know about sex education at school. Some states have chosen to teach more than abstinence as sex education, thus receiving federal funding penalties, but other states are only teaching abstinence. Regardless of what they teach at school, you need to talk with your kids. You don’t know if your teens are paying attention at school, or if they have questions they don’t feel comfortable asking in class. Conversation will help you know what your teen knows.
Do be honest. This isn’t the time for the birds and the bees, it is the time to educate your teens as much as possible.
Don’t get too personal. You want your teenager to feel comfortable talking to you about sex, so do not give detailed accounts of your own experiences. You might be able to bond with your child in this way someday, but not during the teen years. Trust me, from experience, this will only freak your kid out, and shut down the conversation.
Do willingly answer questions. And, encourage your teen to come to you with questions.
Don’t make the “sex” talks something formal and awkward. These talks can be special, but don’t make them dramatic. Your teen will feel embarrassed, and so will you.
Educate Yourself, Educate Your Kids
If you are feeling a bit rusty on the whole sex education thing, hit the books. You can find books with tips for talking to your teens about sex. Check local hospitals for classes that teach parents how to talk to their kids about sex. There are also sex education classes you can attend as a family.
The less taboo discussing sex is, the more everyone in your family will be open and honest about.