It’s the one conversation that makes parents cringe and squirm: the sex talk.
It’s natural if you feel anxious about this and you can let your child know this if it happens. They too will probably feel awkward but if you keep calm and aren’t afraid of having this discussion, it will help them feel safer with you.
If you are finding yourself in this position, considering these ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ may help you handle the situation:
Do Start the Conversation Early
This means starting the discussion much earlier than you might imagine. So be prepared, learn what to say and agree with your partner on how to approach this sensitive topic.
Parents who choose to do so have “The Talk” just before their child’s teen years. Yet, the conversation really needs to happen earlier than that, and not just once.
Of course, you want to be age-appropriate, especially with young children. One good resource for knowing when to start and what to say is your child’s pediatrician. Also, several excellent books on this topic are available.
Young people are usually way ahead of their parents when it comes to leaning about sex. They’ve already seen or heard a lot of sexual references in TV shows, movies, social media and music.
But without proper guidance, trying to make sense of this on their own can leave a child confused and anxious. So instead of waiting until your child starts believing what they see and hear from friends or on social media, consider starting these discussions more sooner than later.
Don’t Overreact to Questions
If your child starts asking questions about sex, don’t overreact. Instead, take a few deep breaths to get yourself centered and ready to talk. Thank them for coming to you and tell them you know how hard this might be for them.
Their curiosity is normal, and taking the initiative to ask you indicates that they trust and feel safe you. But, if they see you getting upset or overreacting, they may blame themselves and learn not to ask you again.
Their questions are an opportunity for you to educate them about sex and what it means to have a healthy, romantic relationship with someone.
If it’s not the best time for you to focus on their questions, let them know and then commit to talking with them later. Keeping this commitment will be vital in keeping their trust.
Do Listen to Your Child
Ask your child what they know about sex and where they got their information. Often they get it from their friends, so be prepared for the possibility that they won’t want to disclose their sources. It’s natural if this happens and it’s best if you don’t insist on this
Hold back on judgments you might have about any misconceptions that they might have about sex. Instead, listen and make sure you understand their question and ideas. Definitely do not laugh at what they say. Then you can gently but firmly clarify any of their misunderstandings. This way they won’t feel embarrassed or ashamed during or after the discussion.
If you have a pattern of judging your children, now would be a good time to stop. Making judgment during talks about sex can be most damaging to their self-esteem and self confidence.
Don’t Use Analogies
You may feel uncomfortable using the correct terminology for parts of the body. Yet, not using those terms does a disservice to your child. The risk is that you will teach them that these are parts of their bodies to be ashamed of.
Rather than employing analogies, use the correct words to describe the human body. Remember, this is a time when they are beginning to explore their own bodies. Using the right words helps them with that process. Again, remember that you are teaching a life-long lesson.
Do Get Up to Speed on Current Trends
There has probably been a lot of advancement in sex education since you went through puberty. Learn what you can about the various parenting trends in sex education. For example, today there are new forms of birth control are available.
Take the time to do your research so that you are passing along accurate knowledge to your child. Admit when you don’t know or are unsure about an answer to their question; tell them you will get back to them, and then follow through.
Don’t Ignore the Setting
Consider when and where you are having this conversation. For example, sitting in front of the TV at night probably isn’t the best time to be talking about sex. Both of you are distracted by what’s happening onscreen.
When having these talks, find a quiet and private space where you can face each other and listen well. Turn off cell phones and remove other distractions. This conversation warrants your full attention.
Do Keep the Conversation Going
Talking about sex with your child shouldn’t be a one-time event. As your child matures mentally and physically, it would be natural for them to want and need more information from you.
Set aside your feelings of awkwardness and be open to the process. After all, this is all part of the journey – you’re being a good parent and your child is growing up. As a parent, you have a lot of influence over what kinds of choices your child will make in the future. Don’t miss that opportunity when it comes to talk about sex.
Talking to your child about sex only has to be awkward if you let it. By considering these ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ you have the opportunity to be a positive and supportive influence in their lives.
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