Having "The Talk:" Why It's So Important

Having "The Talk:" Why It's So Important

The Talk.  We all can remember when our parents had it with us, right? There was lots of shifting in our seats, gazing at the floor and avoiding any sort of eye contact.  And, if the parent of the opposite gender had the conversation with us, even worse!  Despite the awkwardness of the conversation, it is a parent’s responsibility to provide sex education to their children.  Although many tweens and teens do receive the basics in school, parents need to reinforce and supplement the information to ensure that their children get all of the information that they need.  In doing so, you also help to promote a positive sense of self in relation to sex, sexuality and relationships.

In today’s society, children are bombarded with sexual images at younger and younger ages.  They see sexy ads, hear provocative lyrics in songs on the radio, and watch shows on prime time television in which the characters have sexual relationships.  The truth is, while many tweens and teens might want to talk with their parents about sex, they tend to go to their friends, the Internet, television and the movies to inform them.  The problem is that the information they receive is often incorrect. You are not giving your child the message that you are giving permission for him or her to have sex by having the discussion.  In fact, studies indicate that the earlier you start the conversation the better, as your child will be best prepared and know how to make smart, safe decisions regarding her body and her relationships.

Let’s be honest: starting this conversation is not easy.  If you wait until the “ideal” moment, you will be waiting forever!  Instead, find any teachable moment you can to open up the dialogue.  Sex education is not a one-time conversation.  It is one that needs to start early and be ongoing.

Things to consider:

Grab an opportunity: Your children are watching shows, movies, reading books and magazines, and listening to music that are often filled with issues related to sexual behaviors.  Check out what they are watching/reading/listening to and use them as a launching point.  Sometimes, the everyday moments that present themselves are the most optimal.

Be honest and direct: This conversation is uncomfortable for both you and your son or daughter.  It is perfectly fine to recognize that this isn’t an easy conversation, and, in fact, since it validates your child’s feelings as well, it might make the conversation run more smoothly.  If you don’t know an answer, look it up with your son or daughter.

Tied in with being honest is the need to be direct about the risks.  Don’t use scare tactics.  Be objective and realistic, presenting the risks clearly, while explaining your feelings about the issues.

Be sure to listen: If you only lecture, you are just another health education class, and your teen will tune you out.  Be sure to listen carefully to your tween or teen’s opinions about sex. Try to understand where he/she is coming from.

Provide more than just facts: Not only does your tween/teen need accurate information about sex, he/she needs to discuss the different feelings, attitudes and values that may be part of sex.  Sex can be one element of a relationship, and in some relationships, especially for high schoolers, there may be an element of expectation. Talk with your child about what their expectations and values are.  What does he/she think is important about sex? How will he/she handle any pressure that may be put on him/her to have sex?  What other ways are there to express affection?  These are all questions that your teen may be considering and you may want to promote discussion of.

There are many things to consider when talking about sex with your child.  Start early and talk often.  Don’t be afraid to answer questions, provide information or do research if needed.  Be ready to be uncomfortable at times, while you provide support and guidance.  Research shows that when parents talk openly about sex, teens are more responsible in their sexual behaviors.  At then end, isn’t that what makes the talk worth it?