By Chris Taylor, MFT, Author "Back to Basics"
The topic that most parents dread as their child nears the teenage years: dating and sexuality. But if you are dreading it, think about how your teen feels? You were their age once. Except now things are probably a little different; there are millions of resources at their fingertips thanks to the internet. The sooner that you can talk to them about dating and sex before they learn what they need to know from the media, friends, and their own personal research, the better. You don’t have to be an expert, but you do have to be open and non-judgemental, and let them know you will behave in this way.
Here is a good place to start if you want to have a straight talk with your teen on dating and sex.
You may want to have a list of topics you want to discuss, or possibly ask them for what they are curious about. If you want to have one ready, here is a starting point:
● Male & Female Reproductive Systems
● Sexual Intercourse
● How to Show Affection Without Having Sex
● Birth Control
● Sexual Orientation (Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, etc.)
● Emotional Consequences of Sex – rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, etc. (and in relation- how to have a healthy sexual relationship)
● How Alcohol and Other Drugs Affect Decisions
Religion & Values
Religious views can often play a role in the discussion of ‘waiting’ or ‘not waiting’ to have sexual intercourse. You can still have a talk with your teen regardless if you tell them that your religious beliefs say they should wait until marriage. But if you and your family do have strong religious beliefs, you will want to incorporate this into the talk as well.
Values are different than religious views, as they are your judgement to what is “right” and a standard of how someone should behave. It is important to let your teen know where your values stand on the topic, but also important to understand that the reason you are having ‘the talk’ is in case your teen has a different view of those values or chooses to not have the same values.
Steps to Starting ‘The Talk”
1. Ask Permission - Don’t force the conversation on your teen, ask if it's okay to discuss it at the time.
2. After you speak, always allow for them to either be silent or speak, and if they do LISTEN. It should be a conversation, not you talking AT them.
3. Discuss fact vs fiction- using some of the topics above, you might want to go over some common misconceptions, or see if they have any.
4. Stay calm and don’t overreact
5. Keep your sense of humor- No one said it had to be serious! Talking about dating and sex is awkward, funny at times, and can have a humorous tone to make it more comfortable, as long as the information being relayed is clear and honest.
6. Do not make the first talk the last- You should encourage your teen to come to you anytime they need to for advice and questions, and you should check-in with them as you feel necessary.
Some Statistics to Reassure Your Decision
● Does talking with teens about sex make a difference?
○ According to teens, the answer is “yes.” In national surveys conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, teens report that their parents have the greatest influence over their decisions about sex—more than friends, siblings, or the media. (Planned Parenthood)
● Research shows that teens who talk with their parents about sex, relationships, birth control and pregnancy— Begin to have sex at later age, use condoms and birth control more often if they do have sex, have better communication with romantic partners, and have sex less often. (cdc.gov)
● Rates of teen pregnancy are higher in the U.S. than in other developed countries. (HHS.gov)
● Adolescents ages 15-24 account for nearly half of the 20 million new cases of STD's each year.(HHS.gov)
Having serious conversations with your child is never easy, but it can be worth avoiding the unintended consequences.