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Having “The Talk” with Your Child: Tips on Talking to Your Pre-Teen or Teenager About Sex

If you feel uncomfortable even bringing up the subject of sex with your pre-teen or teenage son or daughter, you are not alone. More than one parent has elected to avoid having that talk altogether because they didn’t feel comfortable. However, given the potentially very serious and life-changing consequences of sex, it is a subject that parents ought to discuss.

At no other time have children of all ages been exposed to so much gratuitous sex as today’s children. Sexual messages abound in television, movies, music and advertisements, while the Internet is a new source of ready sexual content for children who are not being carefully supervised. Today, more than ever, it is important to bring up the subject of sex with your son or daughter, instead of relying only on school to teach them what they need to know.

Some child experts advise that parents not wait until children become teenagers to start talking; instead, they recommend that parents begin introducing the topic of sex when children are in elementary school. But at the very least, you should be bringing up the subject about the time that your child begins puberty.

A 2009 survey by the U. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services found that 40 percent of adolescents had had sexual intercourse by 10th grade, and 62 percent — a majority — had had sex by the 12th grade. Schools can only do so much to guide children in a particular direction; the bulk of the responsibility for molding a child’s mind and his or her principles lies, fittingly, with the parents, the most influential and important people in a child’s life.

So, don’t let a little uneasiness keep you from bringing up this very important topic.

Child experts advise that the sex talk is best not limited to just one talk; it should be an ongoing dialogue. If you’re looking for opportunities to ease into the topic, you can certainly use something that you and your child watch on TV or hear in a song, to start the dialogue. Keep in mind that the quality of your relationship with your child will affect how well you are able to discuss this sensitive topic: the closer you and your child are, the more your child will trust you and confide in you.

One thing that you don’t want to do is lecture or use scare tactics, which may in fact backfire. Instead, be sincere when you talk. Express your true feelings and expectations for your child, being mindful to talk about specific consequences that may arise from having sex before a young person is ready: pregnancy, STDs, emotional upheaval, and so forth.

There is no better time to consider and discuss your religious faith than when dealing with the topic of sex. If you are in the 90 percent of Americans who believe in God, this is a perfect time to talk about your religious faith and principles with your child, as they relate to sex. Convey to your child that under God’s plan, a young person who lives in their parents’ home is expected to abstain from having sex; sex by a young, unmarried person living in the parental home is not tolerated under God’s mandates. It is considered a serious offense against the family and against God.

There is also no better time to impress upon your child the belief that there’s nothing special or original about doing what “everyone else” is doing. Sure, today’s teens are more sexually active than teens used to be in the past, but explain to your child that it’s important to be a person of principle and to stand for something, instead of allowing oneself to be swayed by changing social norms and peer pressure. It’s also a good idea to help your child understand how the entertainment media can affect his or her way of thinking and acting. Explain that while we live in an age and a culture where sexual images are everywhere, basic principles of personal responsibility and accountability never change.

Impress upon your child that he or she matters; speak positively about them and teach them to love themselves by being a loving parent. All those things will go a long way toward helping your child respect himself or herself, which will make them much better equipped to hold their ground when peer pressures arise. Explain to your son or your daughter that pressuring someone to have sex does not constitute love, and in fact, it shows a lack of respect toward the person being pressured.

Be prepared to answer questions that your child may have, in a caring and thoughtful way. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you two can research it together.

Once you’ve begun an honest, open and ongoing dialogue about sex issues, it’s key to complement the talks by keeping tabs on your child: get to know his or her friends and learn about the types of activities your child is engaging in. Keep the computer in a shared space, where you can monitor your child’s activity on it.

Address specific parameters for your child. Many of today’s teens consider oral sex not to be sex. Explain to your child that oral sex is sex, and that diseases can be caught through it, just like with vaginal sex. Talk about non-sexual ways in which your child can express his or her love for another peer: long talks, holding hands, hugs, and maybe even kisses. You should also point out to your child that his or her tastes in members of the opposite sex will in all likelihood change as he or she grows older — yet another big reason not to go too far with someone they may be infatuated with at the moment.

By Jamell Andrews

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