Everyday life provides lots of opportunities for talking about sexuality. When watching a TX show that shows a young person going through puberty or going out on a date, seeing an ad that prompts thoughts about body acceptance, or running into a pregnant neighbor, we can use that to initiate conversations with our children. These teachable moments occur every day, and can help make the conversation easier and more natural.
Providing young people with information that is age-appropriate makes it easier for them to understand that sex is a natural part of human and emotional development. It also makes it easier to talk with them about the more complicated aspects of sexual intimacy as they get older.
Don't worry if you haven't started talking with your children about sexuality yet. It's never too late. Just don't try to "catch up" all at once. The most important thing is to be open and available whenever a child wants to talk.
It's important to give our kids truthful, useful, and accurate information that conveys our own values about sex and sexuality. It's also important to prepare them to make responsible choices whenever they become sexually active. By the time they turn 19 years old, 70 percent of teens have had intercourse. So in addition to conveying our own values about sexual relationships, it's important to talk with teens about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Its helps to think ahead of time about what messages we want to express. For example, a common topic that comes up with children is the difference between boys and girls or men and women. Some parents might want to convey the feeling that boys and girls are mostly the same except for some body parts, and boys and girls can do that same things. Other parents may want to express the belief that boys and girls are quite different from one another in many ways.
Talking about sexuality may be uncomfortable at first, but it will get easier in time. Being open to discussing sexuality can be challenging. It's common for parents and kids to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when talking to one another about sex. Owning up to that can help relieve the ension. We might try saying, "it's totally normal that this feels awkward, but I love you and care about you so we need to talk about important things like this." In time and with practice, it will get easier. The key is to keep the conversation open and ongoing.
Listening to children shows them that we're interested in and respect what they have to say. We don't always have to agree with what we hear, but it is important to pay attention to what they say,
It can be tempting to jump in and give our point of view, but if we spend some time just listening and asking questions, we help our kids learn how to explain their ideas clearly. We get to know each other even better, and we build trust by showing we really care about our kids' thoughts and feelings. We can show we understand their point of view by saying things like, "I think I see where you are coming from..." or "I understand what you are feeling and I often felt that way when I was your age, too."
Our kids have various reasons for asking us questions about sex and sexuality. They might ask out of curiosity. They may need help making a decision or making sense of the world. Or they may need to be reassured that they are "normal". Kids may also disguise their real questions with other questions. So, no matter how surprising their questions may be, kids always need honest, factual answers.
Try to find out what is really being asked. What seems like a straightforward question might not be. To find out the true nature of the question, we might ask, "What have you heard about that?" "What do you think about that?" or "Can you tell me what you already know about that?"
Check their understanding. After answering a question, we can ask, "Does that answer your question?"
Some parents worry that they won't know the answers to their children's questions. It's perfectly fine not to know something, or not to have an immediate answer. One of the best ways we can teach our kids about sexuality is to find the answers together and then talk about what we've learned. Seeking out information together in the books, online, or by asking others can help build a respectful and trusting relationship, as well as model how our kids can seek answers on their own.