Talking to teenagers about sex is one of the things that parents dread. The teenage years are tough on teens and parents alike. Hormonal changes in teens bring about sexual desires, moodiness, irritability and a tendency to oppose rules or parental advice. Teens are struggling to find their own identity. Parents need to cope with the realization that the child who was playing on the floor just a few years ago is on the threshold of adulthood.
Ideally, the parent-teen relationship has been built on comfortable communication whenever questions arise. Your child feels comfortable asking questions and sharing thoughts or experiences. You feel comfortable listening and giving advice. Parenting is harder when it involves sporadic lectures or uncomfortable talks about important subjects. Although most parents do not have the “ideal” relationship with open communication, it’s never too late to start trying. Do your best to let your teen know that you are there whenever questions arise, you love him/her, and you are happy to listen.
1.Know What You’re Talking About
There are differences between sexual behavior, sexual intercourse and intimacy. Sexual behavior includes a wide range of activity, from kissing to touching to oral sex and sexual intercourse. Simply telling your teen not to have sex until she gets married leaves too much of the discussion unfinished, and it leaves her with no idea about your opinion on appropriate boundaries of sexual behavior.
Sexual behavior is more than the action itself; it is also expression of an intimate relationship. There’s a difference in sexual behavior for the sake of the experience versus behavior that arises as part of a close and intimate relationship. Take some time to think about your own feelings about these topics and how you can discuss them with your teen in terms of your values.
2.Know What You Expect
Once you’ve thought about sexual behavior and intimacy, and reflected on what you feel are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors for your teen, you are prepared to share your views with him. Don’t lecture. Teens resent a lecture and will respond much more positively to a discussion. How do you make it a discussion? Plan to listen as well as talk. Encourage your teen to respond to what you are saying, and express his feelings about the issues.
3.Starting the Discussion
Tell your teen that since she is becoming older, it’s important to talk about some aspects of relationships that will lead to important choices in the near future. Tell her that you want to share some points about sexual behavior and your expectations. Welcome her input into the discussion.
Try to get the uncomfortable words out of the way right at the start. Use the standard anatomical terms. Ask your teen what he knows, but don’t pry into past or current behavior. Most teens can describe sexual activities; where they struggle is putting them into the context of healthy and positive relationships. This is where your guidance can make a real difference.
Be sure to talk about the relationship aspect of sexual behavior. Bring up self esteem, valuing oneself, one’s body and one’s right to choose how to behave. Discuss the importance of trust and getting to know someone well. Point out the difference between love and sexuality.
If you want your teen to abstain from sexual intercourse until marriage, Deborah M. Roffman, author of the highly acclaimed book Sex and Sensibility: the Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex, recommends saying this: “First and foremost, we love you, and we want you to be safe. The best way to be safe is to abstain. And, for people who choose not to abstain there are steps they can take to lower the risks.’ Teenagers don’t hear that as a Do/Don’t message, but as straightforward evidence of how much adults care about their well-being and about how we expect them to take these decisions very seriously.”
Your rules for behavior are your own choice, depending on your religious and moral values as a parent. Be clear and support your reasons. Your teen will respect you and the reasons much more than if you just state a list of rules.
Provide your teen with some resources. This is not limited to information on birth control, STDs, risks and sex education. It should also include how to deal with situations in which a person pressures your teen to engage in behavior that makes him uncomfortable or violates the boundaries he has set. Arm your teen with ways to confidently adhere to the boundaries, and the boundaries will be stronger.
If you are uncomfortable, read more on the subject, practice the discussion when you’re alone, or with your spouse or a close friend. Become confident in your message and know that this discussion will stick in your teen’s mind long after the talk is over. If you are confident and appear comfortable, it will be easier for your teen to accept the discussion as a whole.
It’s okay to admit that you’re uncomfortable, as long as you tell your teen that you felt this was important enough to put your discomfort aside and have the conversation anyway. If a teen feels a subject is taboo to discuss, it makes the subject all the more interesting for her own exploration. Keeping communication open and honest will make things clear and avoid this sort of result.
5.After the Talk
Remember that this conversation is just a starting point. Watch your teen in the weeks and months that follow. Stay involved in his life, getting to know his friends and finding out where he goes. Always be ready to listen to what he has to say without judging his actions or getting angry. To build trust, you need to have a relationship that’s built on open, comfortable communication. Remind your teen that you will always love him and always be there to help him solve problems.
For teens in relationships, get to know the parents of the girlfriend or boyfriend. Find out what their attitudes are toward sex and relationships and discuss your own views. When parents talk to each other, they get a more complete picture of a teen’s behavior.