Despite advancements in web technologies, text messaging, and social networking, parents are still the best source of information about sexuality for teenagers. Only a parent can take the most current information about safe sex, child behavior and incorporate it with their own values and beliefs to ensure that their teen gets the correct message. However, there are three very important tools that every parent can use to help protect their teens emotions during a very delicate conversation.
There is a great deal of step by step information on the internet that can guide parents on how to speak to teens about sex, from conversation starters, to concrete information on safe sex, to a variety of other topics. If you would like more concrete information the Planned Parenthood website is an excellent place to start and a simple Google search will provide you with a variety of additional options. The focus of this article is the equally important emotional context of your discussion with your teens.
Talk to Teens about Sex with These Simple Tools
These three tools should help you keep the conversation with your teens on course fostering positive feelings about their developing sexuality.
Validation: “It’s natural” is the first and probably most important message parents should convey to teens regarding the wide array of seemingly random and often overpowering feelings they have about their sexuality. Confused, overwhelmed, excited, and scared are just some of the perfectly natural feelings that can occur. Thoroughly reinforce that there should be no shameful feelings associated with sex.
Exploration: Anytime teens mention sexuality it is a golden opportunity to peek into their lives and find out what they’ve done or might be about to do, as well as plant some good information in their heads. In order to do that, it is essential for teens to feel like they are being listened to and not lectured.
Open ended questions such as “How do you feel about that?” or “What do you think?” are the best way to engage teens in discussion that keeps them talking and shows genuine interest in their feelings. When a teen is simply asked, “Do you understand?” it prompts a yes or no answer and doesn’t leave any room for discussion or exploration.
Acceptance: At all costs, avoid statements that are judgmental such as, “That’s not right. You should never do that. Don’t ever talk about that, it’s not something people discuss.” If your teen says something you aren’t prepared for and your only possible reaction is negative, put it off. “I’m gonna have to think about that one,” is a great way to temporarily delay answering a difficult question that has the added benefit of being true. Then after giving yourself time to calm down and talk it over with your spouse, therapist or someone you trust, you can go back to your teen after you have gained your perspective.