This is a post by Amy Moeller. Amy is a therapist who has worked with children and adolescents for 25 years. She works in the Adolescent Health Department at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and treats teenagers experiencing depression, anxiety, social struggles and chemical dependency. In addition, Amy co-founded The Family Enhancement Center in south Minneapolis 17 years ago. She works at the center part time with children and families who have been affected by physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Amy is married and the mother of three children.
So you may no longer be the most influential force in your teenager’s life. Guess what: Your child still needs you and (secretly) wants your help and guidance.
This includes guidance about the topic some of us dread: Sex. When planning a conversation with your teen about sex, don’t save up for “The Talk” of olden days. The conversation about sex and sexuality isn’t a one-time event.
Believe it or not, teens want parental involvement. They want rules and boundaries that help them feel safe, and they want their sexual information to come from you – the parent. They can get the basic facts and figures from sex education in school. What they can’t get from their friends or school are values. Values come from the parent.
Before you have the first of many conversations, consider the following:
Keep an open mind. Don’t judge. Be open to your son or daughter’s ideas and thoughts, even if they’re different from your own. Accepting and acknowledging your teen’s feelings will get you far. Respect your teen. You don’t have to agree with him or her every time, but try to listen and treat him or her fairly. Be open and honest and, in return, you won’t get shut out. Teenagers have a keen sense of when adults aren’t being honest and genuine.
Consider the door closers. I give parents “door openers” and “door closers.” If your daughter comes home and tells you that her friend is pregnant, do you say, “You can’t hang out with her anymore. That’s terrible. See what happens when you have sex”? I’m sure you can imagine how far that response will get you. Open-ended, non-judgmental questions will get you further. Do you want to talk about it? How are you feeling about your friend’s pregnancy?
Be proactive. Don’t wait for questions. Messages in popular culture provide great conversation starters. Watch what your teens are watching, listen to their music and read what they read. This gives you an opportunity to ask them what they think about the lyrics or the messages. Then you can share your ideas, opinions and values. I personally find the car to be my favorite place to bring up these subjects. When my son and I are alone in the car – let’s face it — he can’t escape me. I end up learning as much from him as he does from me.
Help your teen understand that sex isn’t just intercourse. Discuss other types of sex including oral sex. Many teens believe oral sex isn’t actually sex.
Talk about healthy relationships and love. Teens want to know about more than the mechanics. Find out what they think a healthy relationship looks like. Share your vision of a healthy relationship.
Have no fear. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” You can search for answers together.
If you’re still having trouble approaching your teen about sex, find a trusted adult to help you. And remember that while your teen may act like she doesn’t want you to have “The Talk” with her, she really does.
Have you faced any challenges when talking to your child about topics like sex and sexuality?