Parents—It's time to talk!
Being a teenager means adjusting to a maturing body, as well as the feelings and experiences that come with it: love, relationships and sex.
It may be hard to believe, but your teenagers want to know what you think. Taking the time now to share your beliefs, values and knowledge will make a big difference as your teenager adapts to his or her developing bodies and minds.
- Being uncomfortable and nervous is perfectly natural. Remember that your teenager probably feels the same way. Go ahead and admit your feelings—it's a great way to break the ice.
- It's not about "the talk," it's about sharing your thoughts and listening to their concerns. This means that you've got to be clear about what you believe and be ready to hear what your teenager has to say. Avoid dictating or preaching—have a two-way conversation. Make sure your teenager knows that no matter what, you are willing to listen—and love them.
- Take advantage of teachable moments. TV shows, movies, video games, music—popular culture is full of sexual references and they provide the perfect opening to start a conversation. Asking your teenager's opinion is an easy way to get started. "Why do you think they did that?" "Do you think its right to…"
- It's okay to say "I don't know." No one expects you to know all the technical details about birth control or the scientific names of each and every body part. But it's important to use the right terms and provide correct information. If you can, brush up on your knowledge using the information on our resources page. If it isn't too awkward, consider researching some of your teenager's questions together.
- It's perfectly normal. Adolescence is a time of change and transition—physically, emotionally and intellectually. Reassure your teenager that what they are experiencing is natural and not a cause for shame. Listen carefully to your child's questions. Often what they really want is reassurance that they are normal.
- Stay positive. There are many risks your teenager will face as they become sexually mature—it is critical that you talk about them (unprotected sex, teen pregnancy, sexual abuse). But don't make your conversations exclusively about fear, judgment and shame. Share your own good feelings and experiences about intimacy and loving relationships, too.
- Practice. If you think about and take the time to practice your answers to the types of questions your teenager might ask, you are likely to feel more comfortable and have a more relaxed conversation.