30 Jun 3 Things to Remember When Teaching Children About Sex
By Candice LeSueur
I once heard a story about a girl who became pregnant and could not understand why. When she discussed her situation with her therapist, she said, “I didn’t even kiss him. So how could this have happened to me?” It was learned that this young woman’s mother taught her that if she kissed boys, she would end up pregnant.
Parents have a powerful influence on how their children develop sexual ideologies and behaviors. It is vital that parents have open communication with their children about healthy sexuality, but many parents struggle with this topic. Some believe that if they share too much, then their children will experiment. This is not true; in fact, the opposite occurs. A study by Rogers, Ha, Stormshak & Dishion (2015) has shown that communication about sex that is receptive, supportive, and moderately open is related to sexual intercourse at a later age, decreased sexual risk-taking, and adolescents’ placing greater value on sexual abstinence.
Then why do many parents have a hard time having these conversations? Here are three pieces of advice parents can use to help them communicate more effectively with their kids:
First, be respectful.
When it comes to parent-adolescent conversations about sex, the quality of parents’ communication with their youth may specifically relate to how well children internalize their parents’ counsel. It was found that communication through lecturing, as opposed to conversations, about dating and sex was related to an increased likelihood of having sex. Additionally, parents’ use of criticism and contempt to solve difficulties with adolescents may make matters worse, causing adolescent problem behavior to escalate over time. That being said, please be respectful and use your active listening skills when having open conversations with your kids.
Second, feel comfortable.
Social-learning theory suggests that the norms and behaviors of those around teenagers, particularly parents, influence their behavior. Therefore, parents need to make discussions with their children about sex feel natural if they would like their children to feel comfortable coming to them when they have concerns. Although effective sex communication can lead to decreased adolescent risk-taking sexual behaviors, discomfort experienced by parents and their adolescents can prevent effective sex education. So let go of your fears and be comfortable talking about sex with your children, and they will reciprocate.
Third, use accuracy.
Children are regularly exposed to a wide range of negative sexual influences, whether they are ready for it or not. Therefore, parents need to be well-equipped with the right knowledge to better inform their children about sexuality. They also need to know accurate information in order to feel more comfortable and confident that they possess the necessary communication skills to be effective in discussing risk-taking sexual behaviors with their adolescents. Parents should be the primary educators of their children and need to feel empowered to take on this role. If you don’t know how to answer certain questions your child has, all you have to do is reassure them that you will answer their question, go do your homework, and then absolutely return to them and pick up where you left off. When you give your children accuracy, they will know they can always turn to you.
As parents strive to work on these three areas when talking to their children about sexuality, they will gain a relationship of trust with their kids. Children will know that they can feel safe going to their parents anytime with any questions they might have and they won’t be turned away. Parents will also find that talking about sex is an ongoing conversation rather than a one-time event. Having this type of communication will help their children have a sense of security with this important topic while the world around them constantly sends messages of obscurity.