How to "talk" to your teens
Even though talking to your child about sex can be uncomfortable, awkward and difficult you play a pivotal role in your child’s future relationships.
Not having this conversation with your child may cause them to deal with serious issues such as teen pregnancy, depression and sexually transmitted diseases.
A mother and daughter on a couch both wondering how to talk to one another about dating.

   
Be clear about your own sexual values
and attitudes.
Communicating with your children about sex, love, and relationships is often more successful when you are certain in your own mind about these issues. Knowing how to talk to your kids about sex is often complicated by the fact that few of us spend time considering our own sexual values. Knowing how we feel about key issues of sexuality can go a long way to communicating clear and helpful information to our children To help clarify your own attitudes and values, think about the following kinds of questions.
-What do you really think about school-aged teenagers being sexually active — perhaps even becoming parents?
-Who is responsible for setting limits in a relationship and how is that done, realistically?
-Were you sexually active as a teenager and how do you feel about that now?
-Were you sexually active before you were married?
-What do such reflections lead you to say to your own children about these issues?
-Is abstinence best for teens?
-What do think about teens using contraception?
   
Talk with your children early and often about sex, and be specific. Age-appropriate conversations about relationships and intimacy should begin early in a child’s life and continue through adolescence. Resist the idea that there should be just one conversation about all this — you know, “the talk.” Think 18 year conversation. The truth is that parents and kids should be talking about sex and love all along. This applies to both sons and daughters and mothers and fathers. All teens need large amounts of communication, guidance, and information about these issues, even if they sometimes don’t appear to be interested in what you have to say. And if you have regular conversations, you won’t worry so much about making a mistake, because you’ll always be able to talk again.
   

Be an “askable”
parent

A mother and daughter hug

Young people have lots of questions about sex, and they often say that the source they'd most likely to go to for answers are their PARENTS. If you are genuinely interested in raising sexually healthy children you need to create an environment where they feel comfortable asking you questions. Start the conversation, and make sure that it is honest, open, and respectful. If you can't think of how to start the discussion, consider using situations shown on television or in movies as conversation starters. Be sure to have a two-way conversation, not a one-way lecture. Ask them what they think and what they know so you can correct misconceptions. Ask what, if anything, worries them.

Here are the kinds of questions kids say they want to discuss:

®                     How do I know if I'm in love?

®                     Will sex bring me closer to my girlfriend/boyfriend

®                     How will I know when I'm ready to have sex?

®           Should I wait until marriage?

*By the way, research clearly shows that talking with your children about sex does not encourage them to become sexually active. And remember, too, that your own behavior should match your words. The "do as I say, not as I do" approach is bound to lose with children and teenagers, who are careful and constant observers of the adults in their lives.

   

Don’t Feel Pressured to answer sex questions on the spot.

If you are shocked by a question, or get a question you don't know how to answer, it’s okay to admit that, and let your child know you want to talk about it, but you want to do that later. Don't use this as a way to avoid answering the question altogether, but if you've had a long day at work and are rushing around trying to get the grocery shopping done, it's okay to tell you child that they need to wait until the end of the day, or when you're at home and will feel more comfortable talking about it.
   
Supervise and monitor your
children and adolescents

ž     Establish rules, curfews

ž     Have standards of expected behavior

ž     Know where they are when they go out with friends

ž     Make sure there are adults around who are in charge.

Remember: Supervising and monitoring your kids' whereabouts doesn't make you a nag; it makes you a parent.
   
Know your children's friends and their families Friends have a strong influence on each other, so help your children and teenagers become friends with kids whose families share your values. Some parents of teens even arrange to meet with the parents of their children's friends to establish common rules and expectations. It is easier to enforce a curfew that your child's friends share rather than one that makes him or her different-but even if your views don't match those of other parents, hold fast to your convictions. Welcome your children's friends into your home and talk to them openly.
   
Discourage early, frequent,
and steady dating.
Group activities among young people are fine and often fun, but allowing teens to begin steady, one-on-one dating much before age 16 can lead to trouble. Let your child know about your strong feelings about this throughout childhood-don't wait until your young teen proposes a plan that differs from your preferences in this area; otherwise, he or she will think you just don't like the particular person.
   
Help your teenagers to have options for the future that are more attractive than early pregnancy and parenthood. The chances that your children will delay sex, pregnancy, and parenthood are significantly increased if their futures appear bright. This means helping them set meaningful goals for the future, talking to them about what it takes to make future plans come true, and help them reach their goals.
   
Know what your kids watch, read and listen to. The media (television, radio, movies, music videos, magazines, the Internet) are full of material sending the wrong messages. Sex rarely has meaning, unplanned pregnancy seldom happens, and few people having sex ever seem to be married or even especially committed to anyone. Is this consistent with your expectations and values? If not, it is important to talk with your children about what the media portray and what you think about it. You will probably not be able to fully control what your children see and hear, but you can certainly make your views known and control your own home environment.
   
Know your boundaries and model them for your kids You are not your child’s best friend, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to answer every personal question your child might ask you. Establishing boundaries (the things we will and won’t talk about with strangers, family, friends, and eventually romantic partners) is an important developmental stage, and you can model for your child by having clear boundaries about what you will and will not discuss with them.
   

These first ten tips for helping your children avoid teen pregnancy work best when they occur as part of strong, close relationships with your children that are built from an early age. Strive for a relationship that is warm in tone, firm in discipline, and rich in communication, and one that emphasizes mutual trust and respect. There is no single way to create such relationships, but the following habits of the heart can help:

®      Show love and affection clearly and often. Hug your children, and tell them how much they mean to you.

®      Listen carefully to what your children say and pay thoughtful attention to what they do.

®      Spend time with your children engaged in activities that suit their ages and interests, not just yours.

®      Be supportive and be interested in what interests them. Attend their sports events; learn about their hobbies; be enthusiastic about their achievements, even the little ones; ask them questions that show you care and want to know what is going on in their lives.

®      Be courteous and respectful to your children and avoid hurtful teasing or ridicule. Don't compare your teenager with other family members.  Show that you expect courtesy and respect from them in return.

®      Help them to build self-esteem by mastering skills; remember, self-esteem is earned, not given, and one of the best ways to earn it is by doing something well.

®      Try to have meals together as a family as often as possible, and use the time for conversation, not confrontation.

*A final note: it's never too late to improve a relationship with a child or teenager. Don't underestimate the great need that children feel--at all ages--for a close relationship with their parents and for their parents' guidance, approval, and support.

Sources:  www.teenpregnancy.org  http://sexuality.about.com/od/sexeducationforparent  

Resources:  Teen Survival Guide


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