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How to Talk About Sex with Older Children

9 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Talking to Children about Sex

No matter how much you enjoy talking to your kids, having “the talk” about sex with your older children can be nerve-wracking. For the sex ed conversation to be most effective, it needs to be heart-to-heart and factual. That sounds scary to many parents, and they may hope to avoid the talk by relying on information given out in school-sponsored sexual education classes. In reality, that information often isn’t enough and may come too late. Instead, arm yourself with the information you need to understand how to handle talking to your children about sex.

  • Don’t put “the talk” off. The biggest worry that some parents have expressed about sex education is that if they acknowledge to their teens that sex exists, and if they go over safer sex practices with them, then they’ll be giving the message that having premarital sex is okay. That fear is groundless if you, as a parent, take charge of the situation. If you tell your teen in no uncertain terms that you do not approve of premarital sex, then your teen won’t get mixed signals.

  • Talk about the present, not your past. Many parents avoid the topic of sex (and drug use) because they’re afraid their children may ask about their past. Do your children have the right to know about your current sex life? Then your past sex life isn’t any of their business either. Just make it a hard and fast rule that your past is not part of the discussion.

  • Talk about safe sex. The libido is very strong, and if two young people fall in love, their relationship may lead to sex. You can slow the process down, but if sex is going to happen, you can’t stop it. You can’t be there every second. Because of this fact, your job as a parent includes making sure that your child understands safer sex procedures.

  • Giving condoms depends on you. Some parents take their responsibilities so seriously that they make sure that their teens, particularly boys, know where condoms are kept in the house. Because no parent can resist the temptation of counting those condoms from time to time, you must be prepared to accept your child’s sexual life if you adopt this policy.

Condoms are easy to buy these days, but your child’s trust is not. If your child thinks that the only reason you stored those condoms was to catch him or her using them, then you may seriously damage your relationship with that child. If you know yourself well enough and are sure that you will stick your nose into the situation as soon as those condoms start disappearing, then maybe you’d better not play drugstore.

  • Sometimes, kids need to know. Sometimes your child may be hearing things that he or she finds frightening from other, possibly older, children. You have to be ready, in those situations, to give your child a full lesson so he or she understands that there’s nothing to be frightened of.

  • Hit the books. Having a book to look at together makes teaching your child about sexuality a lot less embarrassing for both of you. You can read the parts that embarrass you, rather than having to stumble around in your own words. And the book will probably have pictures or drawings to help you.

After you’ve given your lesson, leave the book out so your child can look at it alone. Children should be allowed to take the material into their rooms, close their doors, and read it in private. Just the way that adults need privacy when it comes to sexual matters, so do kids. And you have to respect that privacy.

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