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Real Talk: Start the conversation about sex

A mom's perspective

How to have the tough conversations with your teens about sex

Get the other perspective. See how a professional answers the same question.

Even with the topic of sex everywhere in the media, it is still a topic that makes teens and parents squirm when it becomes personal. It is much easier to talk about sex when it is a character in a show or the newest news story.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) talking with teens about sex does make a difference. On their website they write, “Studies have shown that teens who report talking with their parents about sex are more likely to delay having sex and to use condoms when they do have sex.” The website says that the line of communication should make sure teens feel understood by their parents, parents should concentrate on what and how they talk about the topic and should talk about sex regularly.

I have two teens and one just beginning her twenties. My son, 17, who is on the autistic spectrum, has declared that relationships are too complicated and he wants to be a bachelor forever. I have told him we need to talk about why he might change his mind about that. Conversations with him are always tricky when they get personal because he gets very shy when talking about feelings. I use his sisters are examples and we talk about respect and safety. He rolls his eyes and says that is what we are talking about in health class. That gives me a jumping off point. With him, conversations are short and handled a little at a time.

My daughters are 15 and 20. We have talked about relationships, respect, safety, health issues, pregnancy, and more since middle school. I often use the news as a way to begin. I also used their health classes in middle and high school. Most districts will let parents know what topics are covered which is helpful. It gives parent and child a way to make it less personal and potentially more comfortable.

What is most important is that my young adults feel safe to talk with me. I constantly make it clear that their safety comes before my judgment. I put it right out there. “Even if you think you have made a mistake, let’s deal with it together. I am always here to help.”

 I do emphasize that some choices are harder to bounce back from than others. The best way to handle many teen situations is to avoid a mistake in the first place. Then we talk about options. With the Me Too Movement, we also have many opportunities to talk about how to try to stay safe from those who will try to take advantage. “Sometimes what seems like a small risk can turn into a bigger one. For example, unfortunately, if you drink too much being drunk is not the only risk you are taking. When you are drunk, you are less likely to make other good decisions and may put yourself in situations that you would not if you are sober. Teens often do not think that far ahead. If you find yourself drunk then be sure to stay with your friends. That helps keep you safe from those who may take advantage of your circumstances. Call for a ride home.”

For me and my young adults, humor and open communication are the main ways we handle this challenging topic.

For parents who are not sure how to begin, there are websites with talking points:

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