I got this question submitted to me in honor of Real Life Real Talk Rockland’s “It’s okay, you can say it month.” The goal is to increase open and honest dialogue about sexual health issues.
I think it is so important for parents to openly and honestly to talk to their kids about sex no matter how uncomfortable. I posted a version of this article a few months ago and wanted to republish it in honor of their campaign to help raise awareness.
I want to start off first by saying that I do not have a specific age recommendation for giving the sex talk because I truly believe that every child and family is different with a variety of values. Therefore these tips are simply things that most teenagers I speak with, wish their parents knew about before giving them the talk, so please pick and choose what is right for your own family and values.
I do have some general tips for those who have are about to talk to their kids about sex, STD’s, relationships or dating. These can also be useful if you have already had the basic ‘science’ talk, now your teen is dating and starting to experiment and you feel that having a more adult talk would be a good idea.
1) No Stories
I am usually a huge supporter of telling stories to relate, and often find them helpful when trying to understand a new concept or trying to explain one. But, I think no matter what, any kind of story you want to bring up when talking to your kids about sex will lead to full fledged blushing and uncomfortable feelings.
2) Use Correct Words
Thank goodness my parents didn’t try to replace penis and vagina with the words garden hose and flowerbed. If you are talking to teens, I always think it is better to use the real words for body parts, sexual acts and STD’s. There are two reasons for this, first they might not know the word you are using and get confused with words they have heard at school. Second, when and if they finally have to talk about these issues in class or with a significant other they should be comfortable using the real words.
3) Keep it Brief
This one is pretty simple, and I think that most anyone would completely agree. There is no need to drag it out…be direct and tell them the facts and what you think, but please please please do not make it longer than it needs to be. If you know you are a talked when you get nervous (I blabber when I am the most anxious) then practice before hand or keep a little piece of paper with bullets.
4) Warn Them its Coming
I always tend to do better when I know that my parents and I are about to have a ‘talk’ whether it is about money, sex, school, job or general seriousness. I always get really defensive and closed-up when it is sprung upon me in a car or before a movie and I think most teens feel this way. So if you want to have a talk with them, casually mention it; “Hey son after dinner I hope we can go grab ice cream to talk about some stuff” or “honey, this weekend you and dad and I are going to talk, just wanted to let you know.” This way they can brace themselves, and be on super good behavior until then = ).
5) Leave the Door Open
This actually was our household rule: When a boy was over, if you are in your room, the door stays open. But in this sense I mean that at the end of the conversation, tell them they can always, anytime, come back to you for more questions. Most likely, your teen will want to end the conversation as quickly as possible and will ask minimal questions, but it is important for them to know that they can always come back to you for any later questions.
6) Its OK to Laugh
No matter what, this will be an awkward conversation. It is ok to say at the beginning of the talk that it is as uncomfortable for you, as it is for them. They might actually appreciate this. And sometimes, if it gets really uncomfortable or there is a piercing silence, its ok to just laugh about the situation, take a deep breath, and try to start again.
Real Life Real Talk will be collecting stories all through the month of October via their Web site, www.realliferealtalk.org. Stories can be submitted as videos as well.