Parents: Talking to Your Teen About Sexuality
Why Talking About Sexuality So ImportantOften times, teens state that they don't get enough information about sex from their families. Adolescence can be confusing, with bodies changing, peer pressure and input from the media coming in full force. Teens might have the "facts" from school but they want help with questions about values, love, relationships and behavior.
RememberTeens are establishing independence, defining a personal values system. As parents we need to let go a bit and allow them the freedom to develop their individual identities. At the same time, its important to establish an atmosphere of safety and acceptance. It can be unsettling to realize that somehow as parents some power is lost during the teen years. We can offer the chance fore teens to learn, express the family values and beliefs and give input on their choices.
It may feel uncomfortable talking about sex with your teen. Why?
- Nobody ever talked to you about it
- It's embarrassing
- They seem like they know more than adults do! Will I have all the answers?
- If we talk about sex, maybe they'll do it.
- Your love and patience may be tested to the limit.
- It's hard to admit that are children might be sexual
The ApproachDon't be fooled by the "adult packaging" of many teens. Appreciate their learning of independence and who they are, but be aware that hormones are causing a constant flip-flop between being a temperamental child and a self-assured, responsible being. Nurture their self-esteem through all your talks, as we know that teens who feel good about themselves and supported by their parents are much more likely to make healthy, responsible decisions about school, drugs, relationships and sex.
To boost self-esteem, don't compare them to others or heap empty praise upon them. Help them acknowledge and appreciate their personal values, abilities and strengths. Tell them often that you love them. Point out growth that you see. If you need to reprimand, focus on the behavior as unacceptable, not the teen. A teen can change behavior, but if they feel that they as a person is bad," it only leads to low self-esteem.
Look to your heart when it comes to what messages you want to share with your children. Consider what you wish for them and their future. You will know what to say deep down. You are the most important role model for your teens, and whom they should learn about sexual responsibility from. They need your experience, support and values to help them learn about making responsible, healthy decisions. If you aren't the one providing the information, your teens will naturally get all their information from friends or the media. Which would you prefer?
OpportunityYou have the chance to:
- Communicate your family's values to your teen
- Make trust and honesty important in your family
- Help your teen with skills that strengthen their ability to deal with peer pressure
- Encourage safe, healthy attitudes about sex