Of all the dreams we have for our children, becoming teen parents isn’t one of them.
In today’s highly sexualized culture where teen moms get their own TV shows and sex tapes are the road to fame, how do we help our children navigate a different path?
Here are three tips for you as a parent to implement today that will go a long way towards helping your child make healthy decisions about sex and relationships.
Admit You Don’t Know Everything
As parents, it can be intimidating to talk to our kids about sex, dating and relationships because we fear we don’t know enough to be able to answer all their questions.
Here’s a little secret: your kids don’t expect you to know anything, so already you’re ahead of the game.
When your child asks you a question about sex that you don’t have an answer for, consider it a great opportunity to find those answers together, teaching your son or daughter how to discern good sources from the less reputable or even dangerous. By admitting that we at times don’t have all the answers, we actually make ourselves more approachable.
Having mentioned sex to your kids once or twice is not sufficient. You know from experience that anything you want to teach them has to be reiterated and reinforced over and over and over again. Your values about healthy dating and relationships need to be spoken often, from a number of angles.
Gone are the days of “The Talk” where you started with the birds and the bees and ended with, “Just say no.” The most effective, and enjoyable, way of communicating with your kids is going to be through the multiple conversations you have on the way to the grocery store, while watching TV, after school, or during one-on-one parent/child outings.
Use the teachable moments around you (thank you Hollywood and Facebook) to effortlessly start a conversation that fits right in with where your kids are at and what is most relevant in their lives.
Eight out of 10 teens say they would have an easier time avoiding early sexual activity and teen pregnancy if they could have more open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents.
Be encouraged. Your kids want for you to discuss sex with them and they need for you to, so don’t be afraid to take the first halting steps.
Perfect the Art of Listening
Once your kids realize this is a conversation that you’re open to discussing with them, chances are they’ll actually start talking. It may be a flood of words, some timid steps towards broaching the subject, or just the occasional comment when they come up for air from their iPhone.
At some point, every child is going to ask a question or make a statement that is going to shock you.
This is your moment, Mom and/or Dad.
Internally, you are allowed to have a mini heart attack. “Did my child really just say that?” They may be testing you to see how you’ll react or asking simply because they’re are curious and don’t know who else to ask.
How you respond will determine whether or not they come to you again in the future to talk about sex.
Read that carefully. You have one chance to respond in a way that communicates that you are a safe place for your son or daughter to bring their questions, that you are sincere when you say they can talk to you about anything. Your body language, your tone of voice, and of course your words, will all have an impact.
When your child starts opening up, put away your cell phone, listen with your whole body, and get ready for some eye-opening, heart-racing conversations.
If you need a little help along the way, I’ve written a book called The Sex Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents, that will give you a more in-depth look at what you should be covering and how you can talk about healthy dating and sexuality in a way that will actually stick. Consider it your primer to mastering the sex talk.
Based out of Los Angeles, Joanna Hyatt is a national speaker on dating, relationships and sex, and the author of The Sex Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents. Joanna blogs at joannahyatt.com and tweets @JoannaHyatt.