Teens often look to media (music, television or movies) for advice on things they think their parents won’t talk about. Though drugs and alcohol are high on the list, sex remains the most taboo topic between teens and parents.
Though better at portraying teen sexual encounters more realistically, media’s representations still romanticize and idolize situations, peeking teen curiosity. To make matters worse, media often portrays the “birds and bees” talk as awkward and uneventful, leaving teens to seek friends or media for sex advice. While quite uncomfortable, a real “birds and bees” talk could save your teen(s) from embarrassing, harmful and/or life-altering experiences.
1. Actively LISTEN
When you speak to your spouse, boss, and even your teen, nothing is more obnoxious than inactive listening. You can tell whether or not the person is paying attention based on their body language and responses. Parents/guardians are usually so focused on ending the talk, more often lecture, that they don’t really listen to what their teen has to say. The more obvious this is to him/her, the less they will share. If you actively listen to your teen, he/she will more actively listen to you.
2. Be Honest
First, be honest with yourself. Though silly and possibly irresponsible, your teen is physically and physiologically not a child anymore; he/she has the same urges and impulses as you. Second, “be honest” is not synonymous with “tell all YOUR business.” The impact of sharing your experiences is directly tied to the relationship between you and your teen…proceed with caution. Third, “be honest” is not synonymous with being graphic. The impact of being graphic depends on not only the relationship you have but the personality of your teen. In some cases, “scared-straight” is the best option, in others, it is completely unnecessary and only causes more distance. Again, proceed with caution.
3. Reserve judgement
I have the coolest mom in the world, but she fell short in this area. She asked me about sex, but as I began to share, I could see her getting uncomfortable. While your teen shares your DNA, he/she is not a carbon copy. If you realize and accept that the “urges” your teen feels are natural, it may help you reserve judgment. Reserving judgment does not mean you condone any and everything, remember you are being honest, but there is a “way” to do it without making your teen feel dirty. For example, a simple, “I see” and for those who are comfortable, “I wouldn’t know” can go a long way. This type of response will reinforce your teen’s faith in your genuine concern.
4. Initiate the talk
Don’t wait for your teen to come to you, that may never happen…but don’t bring up sex out of the blue either. Try to make it relevant to something you are doing together (watching TV, listening to the radio, reading a book, etc); A House Party marathon could be a lot of fun, and yield some great conversation. Your teen won’t be as shocked if the talk is related to something you’re doing together. When you initiate the conversation, make sure you are also prepared to do the first three steps.
Whenever I spoke to my students, I never challenged what they did or why they did it; I challenged their ability to cope with the possible consequences of it: pregnancy, disease, etc. Students listened because I was objective.
I don’t have children yet, but I have taught and mentored thousands of teens in my teaching eight-year career. It saddens me to know that I am more aware of some students lives than their parents. I always encouraged my students to talk to their parents, but I also understood why some felt they couldn’t. I completely understand how uncomfortable this conversation could be, but I believe the health of the teen, be it mental, emotional, or physical, is worth the discomfort.