Talking to Kids About Sex

For many parents, having “the talk,” can be a frightening thought. However, most adolescents report that they would prefer to hear information about sex from their parents rather than their peers, the media or other sources. Below are some tips for communicating with children and adolescents about sex.

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE ABOUT SEXUALITY
o Acquire a broad range of factual information about sexuality from reliable books or websites.
o Learn the correct terminology for body parts and functions
o Thoughtfully explore your own feelings and values about love and sexuality
o Talk WITH your child
o Don’t worry about; being “with it,” being embarrassed, which parent should talk with a child, not having all the answers

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUNG CHILDREN
o Remember that if they are old enough to ask, they are old enough to learn the correct answer and the correct words
o Be sure you understand what they are asking
o Answer the question that is asked
o Answer slightly above the level for which you think the child is ready to lay a foundation for future questions
o Remember that even with young children, it is appropriate to discuss your values and standards

COMMUNICATING WITH TEENS
o Try to recall how you felt when you were a teen
o Teens are sensitive to mutually respectful conversations – try to avoid dictating
o Don’t assume that a teen is either sexually experienced and knowledgeable or sexually inexperienced and naïve
o Don’t underestimate teens’ abilities to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of various options

SOME DOs AND DON’Ts OF COMMUNICATION
DO:
Relax – effective communication can’t happen if everyone is tired and tense.
Choose the right time and place – set aside enough time to really connect.
Listen – acknowledge what the child is saying and clarify if you don’t understand.
Enhance self-esteem – praise your child and point out positive things about his or her behavior and choices.

DON’T:
Don’t lecture – let your child have equal talking time.
Don’t make up your mind ahead of time – if you only want to get your point across, you will never hear your child’s side of things.
Don’t criticize your child, criticize the behavior – make sure your child knows you’re unhappy with their actions or behavior, not with them as a person.