It can be difficult to talk to your teen about sex and sexuality. You may feel uncomfortable and they likely will too. You may need to balance your teen’s developing sense of independence with providing them with reliable guidance. Usually, simply telling them what to do doesn’t work.
More than 50% of teenagers will have experimented with sex and sexuality by the time they finish high school, and if your child is one of them, it’s important that you’ve helped them develop the maturity to make responsible sexual decisions. Below are some tips to have helpful and effective discussions with your teen about this difficult topic.
You can set up the lines of communication on the topic of sex and sexuality by being open about your thoughts and feelings when things come up (for example on TV or in a movie). If you ignore the subject completely, your teen might feel like they can’t come to you with their thoughts and questions. Try to bring up the topic well before your child is sexually active so they will be prepared.
Research shows that the children of well-informed parents who communicate well are more likely to make good sexual decisions. Make sure that you are well equipped with current, reliable information on contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and the emotional implications of having sex. Studies have shown that this kind of education does not encourage your teen to have more sex.
Make sure you are responsive and open with your child and that you let them know that you want them to have happy relationships. Ask them questions about their thoughts and feelings about sex and sexuality and don’t be afraid to share your opinions. Research shows that teens with communicative parents actually have less sex and are more responsible about sex than children of parents who don’t communicate as well.
Effective sexual education has three components: information, motivation and behavioural skills. Providing the right information is only the first part of helping your teenager make good decisions with respect to sex. They must be motivated, and have the skills to follow through. Help them understand how abstinence or contraception and safer sex practices can help prevent negative consequences. You can also help them develop the skills to use the tools available or the ability to stand up to peer pressure or think their decisions through.
You are the most important resource to help your teen to develop a healthy sense of sexuality and to be protected from serious negative consequences. Many teens prefer to get this kind of information from their parents and to know that you are looking out for them. The conversations may be difficult at first, but there’s no better source of education and support for your child than you.