Having ‘the talk’ with your teen Featured

By Jan de Lange

 

Talking to teenagers about sex is a daunting prospect for many parents. The wealth of hilarious sitcom tropes portraying these conversations as being inherently awkward and uncomfortable does little to quell any fears both parents and teenagers have. However, if approached sensibly and honestly these conversations don’t need to become fodder for the next Two and a Half Men spin-off.

While it is important to teach the facts around sexuality, it is also important to remember that for your teen, this is mostly uncharted territory. That’s why your approach will benefit from a combination of honesty, open-mindedness, and acceptance. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Share your values

Chances are that on one level or another you’ve been doing this all along. However, when you discuss sex with your teenager, it becomes more important to convey. There are numerous influences on your child’s perception of sexuality: peer discussion, popular culture, the media, and other adults. Ideally, the values conveyed to your teen are something they can anchor themselves to throughout puberty. So, before you initiate the discussion, be sure that you have thought these through too.

Don’t wait for the teenage years

Discuss sex with your kids early and often. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re discussing all aspects from the beginning but, if you introduce the notions of intimacy between adults, how it can lead to pregnancy and other issues surrounding the topic gradually over time, the teenage discussions become much less awkward. This will also encourage your kids to ask questions on the topic of sex as they grow, allowing them to lead an ongoing conversation and you to address confusing topics as they emerge.

Trust

This is a biggie. Trust is absolutely key to this discussion. It’s built through honesty, listening and openness. Without trust your teenager will not be comfortable engaging on the topic of sexuality honestly and openly, which makes any conversation on the topic that much more difficult. So build trust by showing your kids that not only are you teaching them about sex, but you are also there to listen to their experiences and the things that they will no doubt find confusing.

Know the facts

During the teenage years’ kids are wired to not only learn facts but understand them. Discuss the behaviours that lead to unintended pregnancy and STDs. Research the facts concerning STDs, their long-term consequences, and the various ways they can be contracted and make clear that these are not exclusively transmitted through penetrative sex. Discuss the use of condoms, their benefits and limitations. Discuss the benefits of abstinence but also listen to their thoughts on it so that you can address any perceptions they might have around it.

Don’t assume that your child is heterosexual

In an age where gender identity is becoming a more complex and constantly changing concept, be prepared for the possibility that your child might not conform to conventional sexual identities. Try and gain at least a vague understanding of what this might entail, so that if it is the case, that’s not entirely new to you. This puts you in a position that allows a degree of engagement on non-heterosexual identity, following which you can go do some more research into how they identify to table the discussion again later.

Sex is a complex, ever evolving topic. Finding constructive ways to discuss it with your children before and during their teenage years will benefit them well beyond.

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