Being a parent is awesome, yet can be very challenging. We are faced with many awkward or uncomfortable discussions we NEED to have with our kids. But, we weren’t given an instruction manual either, so we have to do the best we can.
One of the most important talks you need to have with your child is the one about sex. Parents often wonder when, why, how, and how often to talk to their kids about sex. What is the best approach to make everyone more comfortable? Trust me, it is extremely uncomfortable for the children learning and listening to their parents talk about sex as it is for the parent doing the talking.
When to start “the talk”
Parents should discuss different aspects of sex as the child matures. You can start with a toddler for example. It is fine to be open and honest with them about what their body parts are really called. It isn’t helping them any to call their penis a “wee wee”, and the vagina who knows what! They are born with sexual organs and there is no reason to hide that from them. As they grow older you can have the talk about where babies come from. Hello? Kids are not oblivious to the fact that their friend’s parents are having another baby, or maybe even you are! Use that opportunity to discuss why a woman’s stomach gets bigger when she is pregnant and what is happening.
Open your mind
Start with an open mind and remember, sex is not a 4-letter word. As a matter-of-fact, it is only 3, and they aren’t “bad” letters! Don’t portray sex as a bad thing. This causes so many issues later in life when children grow up, and can’t maintain a healthy sexual relationship because of the stigmas that were attached to it when their parents spoke to them about it.
Talk over a period of time
Experts now say not to sit down and have the “big talk” all at once. Have many discussions about it over the course of many years. Look for any opportunity that relates to it such as when watching a movie together, commercials about condoms, or when your child comes home and tells you about what their friends are doing.
Allow open communication
Make sure your kids know they can talk to you about anything, any time. Kids who can talk openly to their parents about sex are much less likely to engage in sexual activities at a younger age than kids who can’t. If they are educated ahead of time, they feel less compelled to try it out to educate themselves to see what it’s all about.
A vital part of communicating with anyone involves not just talking, but listening. There will be plenty of times that will arise for you to play an active role in educating your child about sex. Pay attention, listen closely, and try not to judge!
Sex is not just physical
It is important to include all aspects of sexual relations when talking to your child. Many teens only think of the physical act itself, and have no idea about how it will affect their emotions. They may have seen their friends crying at some point after having sex with their boyfriend/girlfriend, but can’t understand why that happened or what the connection is. When teen’s emotions are running high, they don’t focus on school work, family, etc., and can spiral downward quickly. Talk to them about love, respect and responsibility.
This is not a topic to skip or sugar-coat. Clearly explain all forms of birth control and the consequences of not being sexually responsible. Include details and maybe a few statistics about teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Just because you are teaching your children about sex does NOT mean that you are condoning it. There are many things kids need to be educated about by their parents, or they will learn from other sources that may not be accurate or reliable. Such topics include drugs, sex, divorce, suicide, etc.
In no way does this mean you are encouraging them to do any of these things. But you are not protecting them by not talking about these issues.
As you are teaching your children about these difficult topics, it is prime time to incorporate your family values into the discussions. Be honest about your feelings regarding premarital sex, homosexuality, etc., but don’t take personal offense if they choose something different. They are individuals who may experiment with many different things before they figure out what they are comfortable with.
Depending on what your upbringing was like, and how open and honest your parents were with you about sex, you may not have all of the answers either. But, don’t lie or make things up as you go. There are many resources out there to help you give accurate information. The internet is over-loaded with information, some true and some not so much. Check out a reputable site that has credibility. Also, you can talk to your pastor, counselor, or a trusted family member for help. This will save both of you a lot of confusion.
Children have tested their parents from the day they were born to see what kind of reaction they will get. Stay calm! How you are talking to your children is just as important as what you are saying to them. They will pick up on any anxieties or any negative attitudes you may have regarding sex, which will close the door on communication. Take a deep breath and you will do fine. And since you are reading this, you are already on the right track!
Always remember to practice patience, understanding and honesty with your children. Teenagers may seem tough and stubborn as can be, but on the inside they can be very scared and fragile.