It’s Easier Than You Might Think
Many parents nowadays think that it’s okay to be friends with their child. In fact, trying to be your child’s friend can be confusing. Kids need boundaries and rules. They look to you for guidance. Your child sees the choices you make in life, and they get a good sense of what is right and wrong. They may not always show it, but those lessons become a part of their moral compass. Your kids are navigating the choppy waters of adolescence—that includes sex. That’s why it’s important to talk to them about sex, and that conversation needs to come from you.
How to start the conversation
The earlier this conversation happens the better. You and your child might feel uncomfortable about the topic, but you need to push through the awkwardness. Acknowledge that you both feel icky talking about sex. Take a minute to share a laugh, but then take a deep breath and dive in. Find a time when the two of you can be alone, without distractions. If sitting down together increases the tension, then go for a walk or a drive. Don’t have this conversation with a TV on in the background. Turn cell phones off.
Many parents are shocked to learn how young kids are hooking up. According to the CDC, 42% of girls from ages 15-19 have had sex. Among teen boys, 44% reported having had sex. Be aware that your child may have already had sex. Don’t freak out, and don’t judge them.
Be ready for any questions they might have. This will give you an idea of how much they know. Don’t be afraid to speak frankly and honestly. Listen to what they have to say. When talking about the body, use medical terms like vagina, uterus, ovaries, penis, and testicles.
Talking about sex isn’t just about sex
It’s about self-confidence, self-respect, and consent. Many times, younger girls in 7th or 8th grade may make out with a boy, things get heated, and the girl is then pressured to engage in oral sex. This “anything but intercourse” trend adopted by middle schoolers is a way to avoid pregnancy and hold on to their virginity. It’s now expected behavior. There are any number of problems with this scenario, not the least of which is that it’s only the boy that’s being gratified.
Teach them about consent
Girls are often brought up to be concerned about how others feel. They may think if they say no to sex that they’ll hurt the boy’s feelings. Boys may make a girl feel guilty if they say no. They may tell them it’s unfair of them to get them excited and not finish the job. They may even label the girl a tease. The girl might be afraid if she doesn’t go through with it, then she won’t be liked, or she’ll lose a friend. It’s important for you to teach your child about consent. Give them the confidence to say no when they don’t feel comfortable. It is not disrespectful, rude, or bad to say no. And no explanation is ever needed. Ever.
Cell phone and social media
These days, it’s not uncommon for a boy to take a girl’s telephone number to arrange a date. He may then text her saying he’s excited for the date, but before they go out, he wants her to text him a picture of her breasts or vagina. He may initiate by texting her a picture of his penis. He may pressure her to send a nude picture or the date is off. As mind-blowing as it sounds, parents need to know this is a thing, for real. Talk to your child about the dangers of sexting. Your child might think you’re being paranoid. Remind them that what they imagine is private between two people can quickly go viral. Once on the internet, the images stay there for good. They can surface later during a job interview or when she’s in a future relationship.
Social media is chuck full of explicit sexual content. Numerous sites amplify age-old stereotypes that adolescent and teenage girls are nothing more than sexual beings, reinforcing a culture of sexism and misogyny. Studies show that when kids are exposed to sexually explicit content in early adolescence, there is a greater chance that they will engage in risky sexual behavior. Parents can keep electronic devices in common areas of the home and monitor their usage, but talking to your child about the risks can help them handle any exposure they may encounter outside the home.
It’s better to wait
It’s important for your child to know that even if they’ve already had sex, it’s okay to delay having sex again until they’re older. By the time they reach their junior or senior year in high school, dating more closely resembles a real relationship with respect and communication and not just a hookup. It’s a form of communication between two people. It’s emotional. And if it’s a mature, healthy relationship, it’s mutual and respectful. Data shows that there are many benefits to delaying sexual activity:
- Delaying sex from early teens to later teens reduces the chance of an unwanted pregnancy
- Delaying sex decreases the chance of transmitting an STI
- Among girls, delaying sex until 18 reduces the chance of the first marriage ending in divorce
- Among girls, delayed sex increases the chances of graduating from high school
Many times, kids have regrets after hooking up. Few kids have regrets about waiting to have sex. Bring up the subject of alcohol and drug usage. Kids may find it harder to say no to sex if they’re buzzed or high. When your child has full control over their faculties, they can make wiser decisions in the moment and have fewer regrets down the road.
Talking to your child about having sex makes a difference
It’s not only important to talk to your child about sex, it’s beneficial in many ways. Studies show that one of the many benefits of parents talking to their kids about sex is that those kids were more inclined to delay having sex until they’re older. Also, they were more likely to make healthy choices such as using condoms to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
Talk to them about what a healthy and respectful relationship looks like. Bring up the fact that there are different kinds of relationships, including those with opposite-sex and same-sex partners. Don’t assume that your child is only interested in opposite-sex relationships. Those kids who identify as gay, lesbian, and bisexual are less inclined to be depressed if they know their parents are supportive.
You don’t have to fit everything into one conversation
Your child may not feel comfortable talking about their sexual activity, and that’s okay. One discussion about sex isn’t enough. They’re going to need lots of information about their bodies, sex, sexuality, relationships, and so much more. Kids learn through continued exposure to any subject. Learning about sex is no different. By starting the conversation, you’ve opened the door for ongoing discussions. Let your child know they can come to you at any time for advice and support.
Talking openly and honestly to your child about sex is important, and it’s never too early to start. Letting them know they have your support and understanding can give them the confidence they need to make healthy choices for themselves.
If you have any questions about how to begin a conversation with your child about sex, please reach out to us. We can give suggestions you can use to get started. At Wallace Family Therapy, we are trained to provide the most effective treatment that meets your specific needs and challenges. We’re here to help you.