You have probably spent months getting ready to send your teen off to college. You bought sheets and towels. You packed up toiletries. You have reserved a refrigerator. Your son or daughter may have already talked to their new roommate. You have talked about alcohol, parties, studying and staying safe. You have let your son or daughter know your expectations as far as grades go. You think you are done…but have you talked about sex?
It might seem useless to have a "sex" conversation with your college-bound child. It might seem that it is simply too late. But, it isn’t. Chances are, if your teen is heading off to college, you have had some talks about sex before this. As your child grows into a young adult the discussions change but they shouldn’t stop.
College is your teen’s first taste of independence. While you might still be paying for their tuition, room and board, you aren’t around to watch,and judge, their every move. They don’t have to answer to you if they choose to stay out late, get drunk or spend the night with someone. Your child, now young adult, is trying to find out who he is and formulate his own beliefs. On one hand, he wants to show you that he can make responsible decisions but, on the other hand, he wants to still be a teen and still have fun. Even though you aren’t with him every day, he still needs your guidance and support. Part of that is discussing relationships and sex. The following are some of the topics you can discuss with your college-age child.
Share your values. Your college-aged child probably already knows your values, after all, he or she has spent a lot of time with you over the past 18 years. Even so, talk about how you feel about sexual relationships during college.
Talk about healthy relationships. Remind your young adult that in healthy relationships there is mutual respect. If one person (either one) isn’t ready for intimacy, the other should respect that. Healthy relationships rely on communication and honesty. Both partners must respect each other’s opinions and share in decision making. There must be trust.
Discuss abstinence as an option. Let your teen know that it is okay to remain abstinent. Some college-age teens might feel they "must" have sex because it is what is expected. Let your child know that he or she has the right to make the decision to remain abstinent and also has the right to change that decision at a later time.
Talk about sexual safety. This includes talking about how drinking can impact sexual decisions, protection from STD’s and pregnancy (and yes, a discussion with sons about preventing pregnancy is just as important as talking to girls). In this discussion, give your teen practical information, such as services offered at the college health center.
Accept you can’t control your child’s actions. Once you drop your teen off at the dorm, you don’t have any control over their actions. Whether you have a son or daughter, however, your child needs to know that you will love him or her no matter what.
Let your teen know that despite no longer living in the same house on a daily basis, you are still there for him or her. College can seem like a lonely place, especially during the first few weeks. Keep communication going with weekly phone calls. Your teen might be less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior if he or she knows you are only a phone call away. But, no matter what decisions your teen makes, make sure he knows you will always love him or her.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.