Talking to teenagers about sexual health can be a difficult conversation, but it is important to their development into a sexually healthy adult. It's impossible to avoid sex in the media, but it is somehow still rarely talked about. Here are some tips to make it easier for both parents and their teens:
- Be direct and honest. It's okay to admit it's difficult to discuss. Just by having the conversation you are showing that you value their health and are there to support them.
- The conversation doesn't have to be a scary sit-down, formal discussion. In fact, that can feel more like a lecture to most teens. Conversations in the car or while completing a household chore together can sometimes be the most productive. Consider letting the radio, news or advertisement spark a short discussion.
- Listen carefully to your teen's response to better understand their experiences, knowledge and concerns.
- Be prepared to discuss your family's religious and cultural values about sexuality. It's important to discuss safe relationships (in person and online), dating violence, sexually transmitted infections and sexual orientation. Most teens are just starting to explore what it means to be a sexual being and need safe boundaries, loving support and reliable resources for information.
- Be a good role model. Children learn a lot about relationships by watching their parents.
- It may not seem like they are interested or prepared to respond with every conversation, but trust they are listening. The most important message to send is that you care and you're available when they are ready to discuss their feelings.
- Direct them to a trusted health care provider for possible sexually transmitted infection screenings and contraception if appropriate.
It's an important time in your child's life to have open lines of communication with you. Don't be concerned that you don't have the perfect approach or say the exact right thing-what's important is that you're having the conversation.