There are three topics parents must be prepared to talk about when sex is discussed between parent and child. These three topics are body parts, sexuality and romance or love. Love is both simple and complex. It is one of the strongest human drives at every age, and yet, its meaning changes from infancy to adulthood. This is why parents must educate their children about the meaning of love or someone else will.
Parents must discuss sex with their child early and often. Proper timing and location are essential. Public places should be avoided, and it is best to follow a child’s lead and wait for a question, situation or event to incite the discussion.
Sex discussions are age, knowledge and maturity dependent. The focus must be on how sex and sexuality makes you and your child feel. Proclamations, don’ts and judgment must be avoided. By discussing the do’s with your child a positive attitude about sexuality is portrayed to your child and fear, anger, shame and guilt are avoided.
Common parental mistakes include talking down to a child or not respecting a child’s intelligence or curiosity. Generational, gender, religious and cultural biases also must be recognized and dealt with. These mistakes often limit your ability to teach your child.
Topics to be addressed include the importance of being both sexually aware and sexually healthy. The physical, emotional and spiritual components of sexuality must be recognized, understood and responded to. In addition, the role of peer and partner pressure must be discussed and rumors or myths concerning sex must be dispelled. Safe sex must always be supported and the risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases must always be openly and honestly discussed and accurate information provided.
Parents must talk about how sex fits into a relationship. Learning how to set expectations empowers children and teens to establish and follow appropriate boundaries concerning sexual behaviors and practices. This type of preparation teaches children why many types of sexual behaviors are worth waiting for and at the same time enhances expectations of future sexual experiences made more powerful by experience and maturity.
The best teaching tools for parents are role-playing and the media. By using the media as a springboard for role-playing discussions your views, behavior and attitude are easily represented and expressed to your child. Family and personal values can be discussed as can the timing of sexual behaviors. Parents who focus on asking rather than telling will obtain more engagement. At the same time it is important not to ask too many questions and to always speak in generalities unless specifically asked.
A final skill every parent must master is the acceptance of experimentation and exploration by children and teens. Never tell a child that his or her behavior disappoints you. This engenders guilt and decreases your child’s opportunity to learn from a mistake and make healthier future decisions about sex.