When should you start having the birds and the bees talk with your children? There is never a right time but do so when your child has a higher maturity level and remember that this will be an ongoing conversation rather than a single instance that you never bring up again. Ease your nerves and make the conversation less awkward with these tips for parents teaching their children about safe sex.
Start With Open-Ended Questions
Around the age of puberty, you can start to give your children books on male and female anatomy and the changes that happen with puberty. Once they’re older, ease into the conversation with a subtle open-ended question. Leave room for them to explain what they might already know and what you need to educate them on.
If they have questions for you first, ensure that you understand what type of question they are asking and respond appropriately based on their age. Having this conversation with your child doesn’t mean you have no values. Instead, it’s one of the best things you can do for your child. Ultimately, you are teaching them how magnificent sex can be when practiced responsibly, the purpose of sex, and the fact that if they want to engage in adult behavior while they are adolescents then they need to be prepared for adult consequences. Including pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and diseases, and the effects engaging in sexual behaviors can have on their mental health.
Never Hyper Fixate on the Don’ts
It’s natural to immediately go through the list of don’ts when it comes to safe sex. The more important aspects are the dos. What can they do to have safe, responsible sex? How can they address peer pressure around sex?
You can’t leave the conversation with, “Just don’t have sex.” While abstinence is clearly the safest form of sex it is important not to set your child up for failure, and when they decide to have sex, they won’t feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns if your approach is simple, “don’t do it”. Provide them with all the knowledge they need to implement safety and responsibility toward all things relating to sex. It is important to address both the factors involved in engaging in an adult activity when they are still adolescents, there is not only the concern of pregnancy or STD but the link between engaging in sexual activity and the neurological, mental health, and emotional bond that occurs.
Use Media To Show the Good and Bad
You can cultivate theoretical scenarios through popular teen culture media, such as TV shows, movies, books, social media platforms, etc. Give them context about different situations they can find themselves in when engaging in sexual activity. You should refrain from passing judgments, though, because that might show your child how you would react if they were to find themselves in a similar situation. If you’re having trouble talking with your child about certain aspects, like discussing the most common STDs, use media to help ease the awkwardness. And be certain to address the fact that sex is more than just physical, it is neurological, there is an emotional connection that occurs, and engaging in sexual activity does affect mental health. And whether that outcome influences their mental health in a positive or negative way often depends on their age, adolescents aren’t mentally equipped to handle the fallout of a relationship let alone one that they took to a physical level. It is so vital that we educate our children on ALL things related to sex, not just exclusively safe sex and contraceptives but also monogamy, abstinence, and natural family planning, it shouldn’t be all or nothing.
Set Positive Expectations and Be Clear About being Responsible & Safety
Inevitably, your child will grow up to be an adult, live on their own, and, therefore, engage in sexual activity. Surround positive energy around the sex talk so that their sexual experiences in the future begin on a positive note. However, be stern and non-negotiable when it comes to practicing responsible sex, the purpose of sex, educating your child on natural family planning, contraceptives, and the correlation between mental health and engaging in sexual relationships. Remember that your main priority for them is to be responsible because you love them.
Teaching your children about safe sex doesn’t have to be a scary or awkward experience. Focus on what is age-appropriate and remain positive throughout to build a healthy relationship regarding sexual health. Remember that this conversation isn’t one-and-done; instead, it should happen throughout their adolescence for the best education.