Friday, June 1, 2012

Talking To Your Children About Sex, Part II

In an earlier post, I gave some advice about how to broach the subject of sex with your children. That post focused mostly on things like telling your kids where babies come from in terms they will understand, but now I'm going to take a different angle.

By the time our kids are tweens or teenagers, they usually have a good idea about what sex is in the biological sense. But what about the psychological aspects? How can we talk to our kids about morality, responsibility or any of the emotional things that come with having *that* level of intimacy with someone? How can we help them respond to peer pressure regarding sex?

In the other post, I suggested getting your child a book to read and making yourself available for questions 'afterward'. That's good advice here too, but using a different kind of book. Unlike the purely-biological books I mentioned before, find a book that talks about sex from a variety of angles. I think the most helpful book about sex that my mom ever got me was a pamphlet by the late Ann Landers called, 'Sex and the Teenager'. If you haven't read anything by her, Ann Landers was a nationally-syndicated advice columnist who was compassionate but had no problems 'telling it like it is'. Such books can be a very good 'jumping-off' point for discussions.

Set clear boundaries. Be clear about what is acceptable and what is not. Make sure you know where your kids are at all times and that an adult will be around. Don't allow them to spend a lot of unsupervised time with the opposite sex until you know they are mature and responsible enough to make the right choices. Know their friends, and their friends' parents. Support them spending time with people who are good influences on them, and discourage them from hanging out with people who are not.

Be straight with your kids about your feelings, and encourage them to discuss theirs. For many of us, sex and love are intertwined; we don't have sex with people we don't love. For this reason, it can be very easy for someone-especially an emotionally-vulnerable teenager-to get the two mixed up. Give them a positive view of themselves and of sex, and be clear about the values you want them to have. If your religion has something to say about premarital sex (and many of them do), mention that. If your child has someone else they can talk to in addition to you (a favorite teacher or clergy-person), encourage them to do so.

Don't be afraid to be direct when it comes to discussing birth control and other matters of sexual health. If you ask in a 'curious' manner rather than a 'suspicious' manner, your kids may feel more comfortable talking to you. Also, ask open-ended questions, and listen closely to what they say. Active listening techniques such as restating what was said in your own words and identifying their feelings can let them know that you are trying to have a conversation rather than give a lecture.

Help them to weigh the pros and cons of having a sexual relationship. Teen pregnancy, possibly getting an STD, doing it for the wrong reasons and any problems with your religion or values should be considered. Don't try to make these decisions for them, but encourage them to make their own.

Give them strategies to deal with pressure. If you know some of the common 'lines', give them good responses. If your daughter's boyfriend says, 'you would if you loved me', let her know that if he loved her, he wouldn't be trying to get her to do something she doesn't want to do. Even if it's uncomfortable for a guy to get aroused and not 'get relief' (another common line), someone who loves her wouldn't give her a guilt trip like that.

Hopefully I've given you a few tips for making talking about sex with your children a bit easier. The idea of our tweens or teens having sex can be a frightening one, but having a frank, open-ended discussion about these things can go a long way in making it a little less scary for both of you.

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