If your kids have gone from little cherubs to hormone-crazed teens, the cute birds and the bees explanation no longer cuts it. You need to really talk to them about sex.
Yet there’s no denying it. Making this conversation comfortable and natural takes a bit of work if you want the dialogue to be truly open, honest, and informative. It’s time to learn how to banish the blushes, put the stammering to sleep, and really tackle this taboo topic head-on.
Feeling a little shy and unsure of where to start? That’s why we’re here to help you talk about sex, baby!
How To Talk To Teens About Sex
Set The Scene
It’s up to you to set the tone for your conversation and to make your teen feel comfortable. If you’re cringing on the inside, that’s OK! You can even tell them this, as it puts you on the same footing.
However, while it’s totally fine to feel a little awkward, you still need to be well-informed and confident in your ability to talk openly. Before starting the conversation, familiarize yourself with the facts. This can help you to feel more confident when answering any questions that may arise. The more confident and comfortable you appear, the more likely it is that your teen will confide in you.
Talking about sex can become a bonding experience and if you set the right tone, you’ll open the door to future discussions.
Know Your ‘Why’
Before you learn the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of talking to your teen about sex, you need to understand the ‘why’.
Are you talking to them from a place of fear and wanting to lay down strict rules? Or are you coming from a place of care and wanting to help guide them toward safe sexual interactions?
If your ‘why’ is the latter, then you’re on the right track.
Your teens are likely getting information about sex from all sorts of places, and some of them may do more harm than good. That’s why you must step in to provide factual and helpful information to combat whatever else they may have been learning so that they can make truly informed decisions.
It’s critical that you also convey your ‘why’ to your teen, as they may feel hostile towards your advice if it comes across like you’re judging or restricting them.
Get To Your ‘What’
Once you know your why you should move on to your ‘what’.
What is it that you would like to cover in your conversation with your teen? Remember that they may have already learned about the mechanics of sex in sex ed classes, on TV or online. While it’s still important to cover the bases, talk to them about more than just human anatomy.
Research from Harvard reveals that most teens want more information about the emotional aspects of a sexual relationship from their parents. So, now would be your time to impart values, and talk about important topics like consent, care, sexual harassment, and misogyny.
If you don’t, there’s the risk that they’ll take their cues from OnlyFans or porn sites. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with watching porn, it’s not the best place to learn about sex, as it provides a very idealised, glossy view of it. This can create unrealistic ideas or expectations about sex that have the potential to cause harm to your teen or their partners.
While your ‘what’ is important, your teens’ ‘what’ is equally as important. Make sure that you also take the time to listen to them and to what their concerns or questions may be. After all, your goal is to have a conversation and not a monologue.
The Big ‘How’
How you talk about sex with your teen is the trickiest part, but we’ve got some pretty useful tips.
Make the conversation an ongoing one: Having an ongoing conversation about sex will show your teen that they can come to you at any point.
You can ease them into the idea by talking about the basics, and then follow up with a chat about different types of contraception, before tackling more below-the-belt topics like masturbation, oral and anal sex, and everything else they need to know about.
Time and a place: Don’t talk about sex for the first time with your teen right before their first date or prom. This can put a lot of pressure on them and can leave them awkwardly trying to finish the conversation as quickly as possible.
Don’t get too personal: Your teen may reject your input if it feels too personal. So, make sure that you don’t reference specific relationships or inquire about their sexual behaviors. Keep the conversation general, and if you’d like to draw from a case example, you could always lean into characters from a TV show to demonstrate your points.
Don’t assume: Never assume your teen’s sexual preferences, sexual orientation, gender identity, or level of sexual experience, as this may isolate them from the conversation completely. You should rather talk neutrally about sex and ask them open-ended questions since they may have different beliefs or experiences than you.
You should also not assume that just because they are coming to you with certain questions or curiosities, they have done what they’re asking about—they may just be coming to you for clarification.
Talk when you’re ready: Taking cues from your teen to see if they’re ready to talk about sex is important. But if you are always waiting around for them to come to you, then the conversation may never happen. It’s important that you take the initiative too.
Talk about pleasure: While warning your teen against STDs is important, sex is also about pleasure, and you should let them know that they should be having fun and feeling good about themselves. Discussing everything from masturbation to body positivity adds a bit of lightness to the talk and helps them to realize that what they’re doing and feeling is 100% normal.
Keep Talking The Talk
At the end of the day, ‘The Talk’ is not a one-and-done thing. Make sure that you keep the lines of communication open with your teen so that you can continue to be a source of support while they navigate this confusing and exciting part of their lives.
After all, you want them to have a healthy sex life, just like you!