As your child gets older and enters high school, it’s probably time to go beyond the birds and the bees talk. It’s natural for teenagers to have questions about their changing bodies, and about sex and sexuality. Although many teens receive sex education in school, it’s important to for parents and teens to communicate about sex at home too. Here are some things to keep in mind when talking with teens about sex.
Establish a good relationship
Your child is more likely to open up and respond to what you have to say if the two of you already have a good relationship. Many parent-child relationships experience some strain during the teenage years. Some of the best things you can do to encourage a strong relationship during this time are to express interest in your teen’s feelings and activities, encourage them to share their thoughts and emotions, and be accepting when they do.
Be open and honest
It’s normal to be a little embarrassed when talking about sex with teens, but when you treat this topic as normal and healthy, they learn that you’re okay talking about it, and they will feel safe talking with you about it in turn. Encourage them to ask questions, and answer them openly and honestly. Although you want to be accepting of your teen, it’s also okay to share your own beliefs and values about sex. If you believe it’s important to be a certain age, married, or in a committed relationship before having sex, share that with your teenager.
Encourage them to share their feelings
Sex isn’t just about facts—it also comes with a lot of emotion and feelings. Encourage your child to express the feelings they’re experiencing. This can help both of you to understand what they are feeling about the idea of sex (curiosity, pleasure, anxiety, etc.) and deal with those emotions effectively.
Help them come up with appropriate responses
Once you and your teen decide on appropriate boundaries, you can help them come up with responses to deal with sexual pressures. For example, if they aren’t comfortable having sex right now, or the two of you have decided it isn’t a good idea yet, you can help them decide how to say no to others if they find themselves in a sexual situation. If you and your teen are agreed that experimenting with sex is okay at this point, the two of you can learn together about safe sex (such as using condoms and birth control), and discuss what to do to minimize the possibility of STDs.
Whatever your family values and beliefs about sex, it’s important to talk about sex with your teen to strengthen your relationship, teach them to feel comfortable in their own body, and help them develop and mature in a safe and healthy way.