It’s the moment every parent dreads: your child asks you about sex and all you can do is fumble your words in an effort to explain the birds and the bees, amid stressful sighs, uncontrollable sweating, and awkward seat shifting.
But instead of being caught off guard by a curious kid, be the one to initiate the conversation and come prepared with talking points. Knowing what to say and how to say it will be the difference between educating your young ones and making you both feel completely uncomfortable.
And in case you’ve been contemplating skipping “the talk” altogether, just know that young adults who grow up in families where sexuality is openly discussed are less likely to participate in sexual activity before they’re ready. You’ve got this. Here’s everything you need to know about having a productive parent-child conversation about sex.
Don’t assume your child isn’t thinking about sex
In our media-driven, digital age, this generation’s youth is so exposed to sexual subjects — they literally have access to unlimited searches, hypersexualized social media, and sexting at their fingertips. It’s possible you could’ve been a late bloomer, but it’s much more difficult to shelter kids these days. The best way to keep your child informed is to start young with age-appropriate conversations (like good touch, bad touch, puberty, and hygiene), then evolve the discussions to safe sex as they get older.
Have an open-door policy
Be approachable — you don’t want them going to their peers for the important questions, thus becoming misinformed from other misinformed teens. Also, try to play it cool. Your child will sense your nervous disposition, which only makes them feel more awkward. The more comfortable they feel, the more they will come to you for advice.
Lastly, be sure to answer every one of their questions. If you don’t know the answer to a particular inquiry, be honest. Tell your child you’ll do some research for them and report back with an informative answer.
Refrain from using nicknames for body parts
When referring to male and female reproductive parts, refrain from using terms like “pee pee” or “wee wee.” Again, it’s important to give your child all of the information, and this includes calling body parts by their proper names. Additionally, nicknaming the penis, vagina, and breasts, for instance, suggests that talking about sex is embarassing, and you want them to know it’s okay to discuss.
Don’t be judgemental
As a parent, it’s natural to want to grab your child and demand they wait until marriage, but let’s be realistic, the more you try to make up their mind for them, the further you’ll push them to rebel. It’s important to give your children all of the information and allow them to make an informed decision on their own. Help them realize it’s their body and teach them how to respect it, but never make them feel like you’re scolding them. Say things like, “If it were me” or, “When I was your age” when giving advice — this makes them feel like you can relate to them, and that they can confide in you.
Don’t sugarcoat the facts
There are so many risks associated with adolescent intercourse, including teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and emotional trauma. Rather than trying to force them to hold off on having sex, explain the dangers that can come along with it. Come prepared with visual aids and reading material that demonstrate how to use condoms and other contraceptives. When it comes to teen pregnancy, explain how it can lead to dropping out of school, missing out on teenage milestones, and a higher risk of poverty.
As much as your kids pretend to brush off your advice, know that your approval and suggestions mean so much to them. Even when you think they’re not listening, they are. Remember your talking points and try to relate to your children. You’ll be surprised how receptive they’ll be once you open up. You’ve got this.