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How to Talk to Youth about Sex: Top Ten Tips for Parents and Caregivers
Talking with teens does not have to be a chore
When you’re a parent or caregiver to a teen, at times it may seem like everything you do or say is embarrassing to your son or daughter. So, imagine how he/she feels when you are attempting to talk about sex! There are many reasons why talking with teens about sex could be extremely uncomfortable for some parents and caregivers. Some reasons for having uneasy feelings include strong morals, values and beliefs systems, assumptions, cultural backgrounds, societal norms, and how one is raised. It is important to remember though that your teens may also feel extremely uncomfortable and embarrassed talking with you about sex. Some parents believe that talking with their teens about sex will contribute to their teens becoming sexually active at an early age. However, research shows that teens who have parents or caregivers who speak openly about sex are more prepared to make informed decisions. They are also more likely to postpone sex and use birth control/ STI protection when they do become sexually active.
Here are ten tips to help parents/caregivers talk with their teens about sex…
1) Be honest and open. If talking about sex is difficult or uncomfortable for you, admit it by telling your teen and try to work through it by talking openly and looking up facts.
2) Talk to your teen early and often about sex. Be specific and keep the conversation going. Be an “askable parent.”
3) Don’t make assumptions. Asking questions about sex does not mean they are having sex (or even thinking about having sex).
4) Be approachable. Youth need to know they will not be punished for being curious, honest, and open. Listen to them, answer their questions as best you can, and avoid interrupting.
5) Be very clear about your values. It is fine to share your values with youth but remember to also respect your teen’s decision to possibly not share some of your values. They may even come up with their own values and beliefs. You are able to communicate more effectively with your teens if you are clear and certain about sex, love, and relationships in your own mind.
6) Talk about facts versus myths. However, don’t overwhelm them or try to say everything all at once.
7) Provide educational resources. Find solid, informative resources from reputable sources and make these available to your teens. It is also a way to look up information if you don’t know an answer to their question.
8) Make sure it isn’t a “one way” conversation. Try your best not to preach while your teen only listens. It is easy for teens to ‘pipe down’ during ‘the embarrassing talk’ and have you lead the conversation.
9) Try not to focus solely on what you have ‘planned in your head’ to say. Allow for a free flowing conversation. Also, genuinely listen to your teens when they say something or ask questions.
10) Most importantly, don’t be too serious and keep your sense of humour!
Here is a list of suggested topics you may want to talk about…
-male and female reproductive systems
-sexual intercourse and other ways to have sex
-pregnancy and birth control
-sexually transmitted infections (STI)
-ways to handle peer pressure
-ways to show affection without having sex
-how to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships
-how to avoid and recognize rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse
-how alcohol and drugs sometimes affect decision making
-abstinence (postponing/not having sex)