How to talk to teens about sex

Apr 16, 2012 at 6:00 a.m. ET

Talking to your teen about sex may be the hardest conversation you have ever had with them, but it doesn’t need to be. Whether you like it or not, it needs to be done as your teenager will find out for themselves sooner or later! Here are eight tips to help you have "the chat" without either you or your child feeling uncomfortable.

Teen sex talk

Do it early

Don’t leave it until they are probably already experimenting. It is better to tackle the subject when they are younger and more likely to sit down and listen to you rather than scoff and look embarrassed. At least you are making them aware that you are there to talk to if they ever want to come and discuss an issue with you. Try to sit down with them when they are just entering their teens, but are still quite happy to spend time with you as when they hit 15 to 16, pinning them down for a parent child chat will be far more difficult!

Be approachable

Make sure your children feel comfortable talking to you about sex if they want to. There is nothing worse than teens feeling like they may be judged or shouted at if they ask questions or need to confide in someone. By asking them questions first, you have broken the ice and this may allow them to be more forthcoming and open about the subject. Don’t ask questions accusingly though, a simple, "So do you have a boyfriend at the moment?" will suffice and shows them you are interested in that part of their life.

Appear comfortable with the subject

One of the main reasons teens become embarrassed about sex chats is because their parents are recoiling in embarrassment in the corner. Teens will take your lead and if you appear happy and comfortable talking about sex, it will rub off on them. However, make sure they don’t confuse this with a laid back attitude towards sex which could give them the wrong impression.

Have a conversation not a lecture

It can be very easy as a parent to launch into a sex talk as if it were a list of do’s and don’ts. This will do nothing but make your teen shut off and view it as yet another lecture from their mum or dad. You should start off the chat, but ask them if they have any questions they want to ask you, anything they aren’t sure about and allow them to be open with you.

Hide your emotions if needed

Some teens may take the chat as the green light to completely open up to you about their worries, fears and even their experiences. If they tell or ask you something you did not expect to hear, don’t act shocked, upset or disapproving. You may not be happy with something they tell you, but you need to hide this and let them know you are pleased they have opened up to you. What would you prefer – your child to confide in you or hide things from you?

Keep it short

Don’t have long, in depth chats on the subject as your teen will get fed up and bored, not to mention embarrassed. Short chats every six months or so will be enough to remind them that you are available to talk.

Start debates

Try to bring the subject up casually using the media to put your views across and to gauge theirs. If a music video comes on which has sexual content, or a magazine publishes raunchy pictures of a soap star, mention to your teen how you think these people are degrading themselves and wait for the reply. Try and have a fun but thought provoking discussion with them so they don’t associate embarrassment and awkwardness with sex talk.

Don’t just talk about pregnancy and STD’s

Many parents focus their sex chats on the risk of pregnancy and STD’s. This is guaranteed to be the number one way to lose the interest of your teen. They will consider it a lecture and switch off. Instead, talk about feelings, loving relationships and the positives of there being less risk of STD’s and unwanted pregnancy. Slip those points in there but don’t make them the main focus.

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