Let's talk about sex!

Tips for talking to your children about sex

This is the second part to Dr. Paul Schwartz' series of having the “talk” with your kids. A link to part 1 follows at the end.

Here, he discusses more points in helping parents prepare for “the conversation.”

Sex is a fact of life and as normal as breathing. Avoid having your child feel guilty or shameful about their ideas and feelings. Being positive and realistic about an issue isn’t the same as giving them permission. The goal of talking about sex in an open, healthy, honest light is to help develop an understanding of the issues and provide your child with good decision-making skills about sex.

READ MORE: Paul Schwartz says "Don't be afraid of the Sex Talk!"

Here are some helpful ideas to keep in mind:
Be an approachable parent. Encourage your child to ask questions about anything they might be confused about. Avoid topics that can’t be discussed, and don’t develop a preachy or moralizing tone. Be calm and avoid using scare tactics about sexuality.

Scare tactics were the primary methods used to teach kids about the dangers of drugs in the 60’s. Many believe this approach not only backfired completely at the time, but also helped in part to give birth to the rampant drug culture we are trying to control today.

READ MORE: Discussing sexuality with your child

Being positive and realistic about [sex] isn’t the same as giving them permission.

Be clear about values
Relate sex to positive values such as love, intimacy, caring, self-respect and respect for your partner.  Always help your children see the pros and cons of every sexual decision, and teach them that they will ultimately be responsible for the sexual choices they make.

Listen, listen, listen!
A major part of “the talk” — possibly the most important part — is listening to your child respectfully and without interruption. Although as parents we may think we know what our kids know and don’t know, we’re often quite surprised when we really listen to our children’s thoughts and feelings.

READ MORE: Readers share how they talked sex with their kids

How not to talk about sex
.  Avoid discouraging children from discussions by saying that the topic is taboo or dirty.
.  Avoid saying they should ask your spouse, which implies that only one parent has the answers.
.  Avoid the “you’re too young to talk about that, wait until you’re older.” Every age has information that you can share in a language that is suitable. Remember: if you don’t answer their questions they will get them answered somewhere else.
.  Don’t lecture with appropriate diagrams. School-based sex-education programs can be an excellent format for lectures and diagrams. Honesty and openness rather than diagrams work best.

Abstinence vs. Sex Ed in Schools
In numerous surveys it was reported that 90% of all parents are in favor of some type of sex ed program in school.

READ MORE: Is same-sex education beneficial or not?

A number of current research studies have found that abstinence-only programs do not delay the initiation of intercourse and do not reduce HIV and the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases.
Research does indicate that students exposed to comprehensive sex education programs reported less adolescent pregnancies than those that were given abstinence-only or no sex education.

Most experts in the field  conclude that sex education programs that are comprehensive and emphasize contraception knowledge do not increase the likelihood of the initiation of intercourse and are more likely to reduce the risk of adolescent pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections than abstinence only programs.

What we want for our children
When we demonstrate to our children that we can model a healthy open discussion about sexuality with them, we do more than just communicate with them.  We demonstrate to them that when and if they encounter problems at any time in their own lives-we can be trusted to help.

Click to read Part One:
Let’s talk: Sex isn’t something to be afraid of... it’s something to understand!

Paul Schwartz, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College.

Other articles by Paul Schwartz