Sex…. It’s the talk that so many of us remember having with our parents and it’s the talk so many of our parents dreading having with us. Let’s Talk about…Sex I remember well my mother turning nine shades of red when she told me about the birds and the bees. That was over thirty years ago and now, the world is a much different place.
The America Academy of Pediatrics estimates that kids see over 15,000 advertisements a year. In many of those advertisements, sex is an underlying theme. That, along with the bombardment of sex on sitcoms and in movies, it has become essential for parents to speak to their children about sexuality and character.
But how and why?
To make this conversation less awkward and better received, Dr. Pepper Schwartz, one of the leading relationship experts in the country and author of Ten Talks Parents Must have with Their Children About Sex and Character offers a simple bit of advice.
“Keep it abstract,” Dr. Schwartz encourages. “Say something like ‘I’ve heard kids your age ___ what do you think about that?’ or ‘Have you seen something like ____ at school?’”
Not asking the child directly helps him/her better answer the question without being felt like they are under the magnifying glass.
Dr. Schwartz says when you don’t make the conversation confrontational or box in the person with yes/no questions, the dialogue has an easier tendency to flow.
“The big thing here to keep the lines of communication open,” she states. “You want your kids to come talk to you, feel comfortable with you.”
Feel comfortable? Sex can be an uncomfortable subject for both sides of the conversation, but it shouldn’t be one either of you should avoid.
Sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, Herpes, genital warts, and HIV are incredibly prevalent in our society. Not to educate your child on how they can contract these diseases and better yet, protect themselves from it, can hurt them.
For those of you who think talking to your kids about sex will only encourage them to do it, “There have been many statistics to prove the opposite is true,” states Dr. Schwartz. In fact, it’s been proven that kids make better decisions about sex when they understand and know about it.”
Just like you knowing your cholesterol level or your heart disease risk, being active in your health, it should be encouraged in your child/teen’s health as well.
Or what if your stance is abstinence only until marriage?
“Explain to your teen why that is,” she encourages. No matter the reason for the talk, sit down and explain your position on a calm, non-confrontational way. “If your religion is a reason why you believe this way (or any way), you need to explain it to them, not shut the door and say ‘we just don’t do that.’”
Let’s say you never had the sex talk and you have no idea how to talk to your teen about sexuality. What do you do then?
One aspect of talking to your children about sex is to know when to ask and when to listen. There will be times when your child/teen is simply wanting to talk and not wanting advice.
Maybe start the conversation with “This is uncomfortable for me too, but I want you to know I’m here for you if you ever need to talk about anything.”
“You want your child to know they can come to you for questions,” Dr. Schwartz states. “Always have a way they can do that.”
Dr. Schwartz has contributed to many magazines, journals and newspapers including the New York Times “Parent and Child” column, Sexual Health, Psychology Today and Contexts. Dr. Schwartz was a regular member of the KIRO-TV (Seattle) news staff for twelve years and appears regularly on national TV news, documentaries and other programs. She is the author of more than 40 scholarly articles and has served as a consultant to many national organizations. Dr. Schwartz lectures nationally and internationally on relationship topics, women’s issues, parent and child issues, communication between men and women in intimate and work relationships, and maintaining personal and family well-being in today’s world.