The New Sex Talk

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Kerry Stutzman from Head and Hearts Parents gives us some advice on how to have the sex talk.

“The big talk” isn’t what you think.

It’s not a big lecture. It’s not like the teenager who finds you annoying and out of date suddenly opens his/her heart and mind wide open and wants to hear about a very personal, sensitive topic from you at precisely the same time you decide it’s time to talk about it.  There are many things that adolescents have to sort through in their teenage years, none of which happen solely from one big talk with their parents.  They have to establish who they are in regards to academics, drugs, alcohol, sex, responsibility (or lack thereof), friends, faith, driving habits, doing chores, managing their money, style of dress, etc. Sexuality is just one of many topics they are sorting out and that we need to be teaching all along the way.  We don’t expect them to sort out their relationship with friends or academics or any of those topics in just one talk.  Body parts, reproduction, how we treat our bodies, romance, love, sex…. all of these should be discussed all they way through childhood.  We can teach them vocabulary and our values from the time they are little.  Think of like having a quart jar full of knowledge, wisdom and opinions about sexuality that you want to relay to your child.  And think of them as only being able to take in a thimble-full at a time.  Lots and lots of little conversations are required.  If you don’t teach them, the media and their peers will.


Be curious.

The “big talk” should actually be one where the parent is curious and the kid is the one doing the talking.  This is your chance to ask questions.  Then shut up and listen.  Be curious.  Wonder out loud about their values.  Watch for opportunities to discuss what other kids are doing, what your kid is doing.  Watch shows together and when sexual stuff comes up, ask the kids about it.  What did they think of that interaction? How would they have handled that comment?  What do they think of how the characters handled the situation?


Teach your kids that they can trust you.

Train your kids that they can share anything with you.  Train them by not getting fired up and mad and starting to lecture every time they do something you disagree with. Remember, they are testing you. If they can’t talk about drinking or ditching or arguing with someone or getting in trouble without you scolding and lecturing, they are learning not to come to you for the big stuff, like sex.  Whatever a teen brings to you, be curious about it.  Ask about their opinions. Ask if they would like to hear yours.  If they have the freedom to opt OUT of your opinion, they are more likely to want to opt IN.  Teens are funny that way.


Talk about the good stuff.

The “sex talk” seems to often be about what NOT to do.  How NOT to get pregnant or a disease.  How NOT to disappoint us.  And yet, relationships and romance and sexuality are some of the yummiest, most meaningful, joy-producing parts of our lives.  Try talking to teens about how to have good relationships.  Tell them about the sweetness of good relationships. Teach them dating skills. Share what you’ve learned about how to pick nice people to date. Talk about the power of being able to say “yes” or “no” to what they want, when they want, according to their values.


Timing is everything

Wait for a teachable moment when your kid is open and receptive and it feels like the right time to have a good conversation. I used to keep a list of topics I wanted to discuss with my teenage sons.  Then on those rare days when they would plop down on the couch while I sat in the living room on my computer, I’d check my list.  Then I’d go slowly and bring up one topic… friends, girls, drinking, whatever was going on.  And then I’d listen.  I would make myself stop sooner than I’d like to, figuring that they were likely to start to squirm sooner than I would. I wanted to leave the door open to more conversation rather than exhaust them to the point of leaving in order to get away from my mom-talk.  I was conscious about not talking too much but just trying to be curious.