If your parents ever gave you the Talk, you might remember it as being the single most awkward moment in your life. While everyone pointedly avoided eye contact, your parents rushed through their explanation as quick as they could. You were either too embarrassed to ask them questions or didn’t feel your parents would answer them even if you did. Now that you have kids of your own, you want to go about it differently. Kids today are exposed to so much sexual content everywhere that it’s even more important for you to explain things to them. They might get a distorted view of sex from the media or from their friends, so you need to step in to tell them what really happens. Here are a few guidelines which will help give you an idea of how to talk to them about it.
1. Always Be Honest With Them
It doesn’t matter how young your kids are, always answer their questions in an honest, age-appropriate way. Most kids ask the inevitable “where do babies come from?” question when they’re very young. Stay away from using any stories about storks or magic to answer them. Tell them what happens, but use your discretion to make it as kid-friendly as possible. Not only will this clear their doubts, but it will also help them feel that they can ask you anything without feeling embarrassed and that you will always answer them honestly.
2. Don’t Wait Until They’ve Hit Puberty
Puberty doesn’t automatically make your kids eligible to know the truth about sex. Don’t kid yourself into believing that your teenage kids have never heard about sex until now. They have the internet and their friends to feed them (mis)information about sex, so they’re not as clueless as you’d like to believe. However, the wrong information they can get from their peers could create a warped idea of sex in their mind, so you need to provide them with the right information to counter it. Talking to your kids about it from an early age will give them a reliable sounding board when they come across incorrect notions of sex, later on.
3. Do Talk About Contraceptive Options
Far more parents than you’d expect, avoid the subject of birth control believing that it will encourage their kids to become sexually active. Here’s the harsh truth: your kids probably will have sex sooner than you’d like them to. In fact, one survey concluded that 7 in 10 Americans will have had sex by their 19th birthday. Here’s what you can do as a responsible parent. Tell them about the dangers of STDs and STIs and stress that they always use protection. Teach them about birth control methods and let them know that they are non-negotiable. Don’t feel embarrassed to go into the specifics of it. Many young people believe that the withdrawal method is fail-safe, so you need to let your child know that as many as 15% of these instances result in pregnancy. Your kid’s going to be having sex whether you like it or not, so the least you can do is ensure that they’re going to be safe during.
4. Don’t Use Nicknames For Body Parts
Please don’t call your son’s penis his pee-pee or your daughter’s vagina her hoo-hah. Your children are mature enough to be having this discussion with you, so don’t belittle them by using cutesy names for their body parts. Using their biological names will let your kids know that you’re not uncomfortable talking about this with them and that you won’t shy away from difficult questions. You’re trying to promote openness here with your kids, so start by openly calling their body parts for what they are. Using cute names for them will send the message to your kid that you’re trying to evade the talk. Make no mistake, if your kids feel like they can’t talk about this with you openly, they’re going to use less reliable sources to answer their questions.
5. Do Consider The Setting
If you feel like sitting formally in front of each other isn’t the best way to get them comfortable with you, you’re probably right. Think about what will make your kid feel less awkward. A car ride can be a great way to have this conversation because no one has to look at each other (and they can’t leave because they’re locked in). Or maybe when you and your kid are walking the dog, a good opportunity comes by to talk to them. It often helps if you don’t just start off with saying, “It’s time you had the talk.” Start off conversationally, ask them about school, about their friends. When you feel you have an opening, approach the subject in a natural way so they don’t feel cornered.
6. Don’t Stick To Just The Mechanics
Far too many discussions about sex involve the parents just telling their kids what goes where and then leaving it at that. Often more important than just the physical aspect, is the emotional guidance you need to give your kids about sex. It’s extremely important to tell your kids that they should have sex only when they want to do it and when they’re in a secure relationship. You need to tell them that they should never feel pressured into having sex by their peers or by their partner at the time. For boys especially, make it a point to tell them that their partner’s clear consent is paramount before they think of having sex. Let your kids know that if they ever face any problems, you will always be there to support them no matter what. Appearing judgmental to your kid will encourage them to keep secrets from you instead of coming to you for help. Remember that no matter what your own values are, your kid’s emotional and physical well-being takes precedence over it all.