Few topics make parents more uncomfortable than sex. While many parents manage the “birds and the bees” conversation just fine with their younger children, they don’t know how to approach the topic with their teen. Research suggests that open communication between parents and their teenagers about sex and intimacy can go a long way in helping their teen to develop healthy and safe relationships. Keep the following in mind:
1. Sometimes the most important conversations we have are also the most uncomfortable. Don’t let that stop you – it’s too important of a topic to ignore. Your teen may try to shut the conversation down. Try again.
2. Your teenager should understand what your personal values are around sex and intimacy. If you think they should wait until marriage, tell them. If you think sex before marriage is okay as long as they protect themselves and are in a committed and loving relationship, tell them that. Your values do shape their behavior, even if it’s not always apparent.
3. Recognize that your teenager may be sexually active, even if they deny it. Encourage open discussion about birth control, STDs, and respect for themselves and their partner.
4. Offer your knowledge and support, but recognize that your teenager may set some boundaries and not want to discuss everything with you. That’s appropriate too.
5. Talk to teens of both sexes about date rape and sexual violence. This conversation is as important to have with boys as it is girls.
6. If you see or hear something that concerns you, talk to your teen about it. They need to know that you are there to guide and help them.