Talking to Your Kids about SEX

Merely Me Health Guide
  • Well it is all around us.  Sex, that is.  In my day we kids had to work a bit to find information about sex.  There was no internet and you didn't have fifty million channels on television.  Maybe you found out some things about sex from talking with friends or from the stash of porn magazines under your older sibling's bed.  Or perhaps you found interest in the wild life shows which discussed the mating rituals of the pygmy hippo.  Like I said, you had to work a little bit to satiate your adolescent curiosity about sex.  Most people who are of my generation or older (I am in my forties) weren't told a whole lot about sex from parents, teachers, or media.  Not so nowadays.  Just google that combination of letters "S-E-X" and you are going to come up with probably millions of references some of which may make your hair stand on end.

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    In addition to the internet, there are whole talk shows devoted to sexual matters from angry transvestites on Jerry Springer to Oprah discussing vibrators with sex experts.    So with all of this "information" about sex out there, are the kids today more knowledgeable about this topic?  It is my opinion that the answer may be no.  I fear that they are more confused than ever. 

     

    I have my proof right here on this sexual health site.  Hundreds of questions come to us each month and many are from young people who are scared and do not know the risks of their actions when it comes to sex.  Many refuse to see a doctor and still more refuse to talk to their parents about what is really going on with them.  Sometimes I want to close my eyes because I see disaster just waiting to happen.  There are many young people out there who will contract a sexually transmitted disease, young teen age girls who will become pregnant, and still others who will be taken advantage of sexually because they didn't know the facts about sex. 

     

    So this post is a call to action for all those parents out there.  Make it emotionally safe for your kids to come to you to discuss sex.  Do initiate providing clear information to your kids about relationships, intimacy, and sexual intercourse.  If you won't do it then who will?  Do you trust other sources more than you do yourself?  Talk to your kids about sex.  In my opinion, it is the responsible thing to do.

     

    Here are some tips for discussing sex with your kids:

      

    • You can use movies or current events to initiate a discussion about sex. The movie, Juno, which is out on DVD now is a great movie exploring the topic of teen pregnancy. Stories in the news about such teens as Jamie Lynn Spears or Bristol Palin can also provide fodder for discussion about pregnancy.

    • Most of the sexual health experts will tell you that you should use the correct medical terminology for talking about genitalia including "vagina" and "penis" instead of pet names like "Vajayjay " or "wee wee." Correct terminology will avoid confusion for any future discussions.

    • You will want to be upfront about your personal and/or religious values.

    • Sex does not occur in a vacuum. You will want to talk about intimacy within the context of relationships. You might explore topics such as how to know if someone cares about you, dating, and commitment. You want to get away from only discussing sexual organs or actions. Your child's emotions will quite often dictate their actions with respect to sex. You want to make sure that you don't neglect talking about the psychological aspects of intimacy.

    • It is important to discuss all aspects of sexual behavior including kissing, foreplay, oral sex, anal sex as well as possible aspects of sexual intercourse. There are many children in middle school, for example, who engage in oral sex but do not understand that one can get a sexually transmitted disease this way.

    • It is my opinion that parents should teach their children assertiveness when it comes to sexuality. Teach them that they have the right to say no to anything which hurts them either physically or emotionally. Many children and teens are bullied into having sexual relations because they don't understand that they have rights over their own body. Make your child feel safe to come to you if there was ever a problem. There are children and teens who will keep molestation or forced sex a secret because they feel ashamed despite the fact that they are a victim. Let your child know that such secrets should never be kept from you.

    • Keep the discussion simple and on-going. You won't be able to cover everything in just one talk nor should you. Your child can only take in so much information. Be prepared for follow up conversations. Make sure your child has the opportunity to ask questions.

    • In my experience of answering questions for this site I have found the one theme which keeps coming repeatedly for our young readers is how one does or does not get pregnant. I have written an article on this very topic, entitled "The Misconceptions about Conception" which you may refer to in your discussion with your child or teen. 
    • Other topics of discussion may include: The female and male anatomy and reproduction, how to prevent getting a sexually transmitted disease, birth control methods, and/or sexual orientation. With girls in particular you will want to talk about menstruation and how her cycle works.

     

    • There are many teens that come to this site and have medical issues which need attention and they tell me they cannot see a doctor. It is my opinion that it is imperative for parents to get their children proper medical care and especially pertaining to sexual health. Your children of both sexes need the care of a pediatrician or general practitioner and your girls will eventually need to see a gynecologist.

      When is the right time for a girl to be seen by a gynecologist?  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists believe that young women should have their first visit with a gynecologist or nurse practitioner between the ages of 13 and 15 simply to talk, if nothing else.  There are many things which can go wrong which have nothing to do with sexual intercourse but may impact on your daughter's health such as menstrual irregularities or hormonal problems.   You want to be aware of any medical problems or issues before they arise.  Likewise, you don't want your children to live in fear of going to the doctor until some emergency puts their health at risk. 

     

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    I hope that this list has been helpful to the parents out there.  I know it can seem awkward and uncomfortable to talk about sex with your kids.  What is worse than feeling uncomfortable?  Having your daughter come home and say she is pregnant or having your son tell you he has gotten an STD because they didn't know any better would be way worse in my opinion.  So get to talking!  Information is power.  Give your children the best chance to navigate life by giving them the tools they need to make responsible and informed choices.

     

     

Published On: July 27, 2009