There are few conversations more awkward than “The Talk.” But there are also few conversations that are more important than talking about sex and relationships with your children. And with kids turning more and more to TV, the Internet and even their friends for information, it’s even more critical to start the conversation.
Sexologist and sex educator Logan Levkoff says it’s important to start early, because it’s not just a conversation about sex. “It’s about gender and anatomy and different kinds of relationships, and how we express ourselves.” says Levkoff. Simple things like using the correct words for body parts and explaining how the genders are different can make a difference when it comes time to discuss more sensitive topics. As your kids grow up, explain different kinds of relationships, whether it’s a friendship or eventually a romantic and even sexual relationship. Begin by laying the groundwork and a conversation about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases may not be as awkward as you expect.
Levkoff also suggests acknowledging that the conversation is an awkward one. Tell them “this is uncomfortable, but I love you and I want you to have the best information.” And the best information means giving them the tools to be prepared. “It’s important for parents to show early teens and teens what condoms look like, what they are, what options they have.” But providing your kids with the knowledge and tools does not mean they’ll go out and have sex. Research has shown that comprehensive sex education can actually delay sex in teens.
But the conversation has to be more than simply telling your child to wait until they’re ready. “I teach thousands of teens every year and I say, how many of you have been told by your parents, ‘Wait until you’re ready’ and they all raise their hands,” says Levkoff. “And then you ask the follow up, did they ever tell you what ready means? And they say, no.” Readiness, Levkoff says, is about being comfortable with your body and the choices you’re making. It’s about knowing the potential risks and the positive and negative outcomes that can come from sex. It’s about being committed to using protection and not being embarrassed to buy protection. And it’s about going to the gynecologist, if you’re female, and getting tested. “These things are important and if you can’t do these things, it’s a sign that perhaps you’re not ready.”
Arming your children with the right information will not only lead to smart decisions, but also healthy relationships, both emotionally and sexually. So, take a deep breath and have “The Talk.”