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Parents and Teens Talking About Sex? Really? Yes!

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Parents and Teens Talking About Sex

Teenagers and their parents should always communicate with one another about sexuality.

Sexuality isn’t just about sex - it is also about healthy relationships, body image, reproduction, gender, sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. There are so many opportunities to talk!

Parents and Teens and Sex

A recent survey conducted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America revealed that while parents feel comfortable talking to their teens about topics related to sex, teens aren’t so comfortable with the conversation. At Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM), we want to help parents AND teens!

We know that when teens are able to have open, ongoing conversations with their parents about relationships and sex, they can get good advice and trusted information – which helps them make healthier, safer decisions. That’s why we are focused on empowering parents to be the primary sexuality educators of their children.

Our parent education program, Let’s Be Honest: Communication in Families that Keeps Kids Healthy, is designed to support parents as the primary sexuality educators of their children. We provide useful skills, information and resources to help parents share facts and their values about sexuality topics during ongoing conversations with their children. We can work with you to bring a workshop to your school, community organization, or in your home.

We also work with teens through the Get Real Teen Council (GRTC), a group of dedicated high school peer educators. Coming from high schools across the Metro-Boston area, Teen Council members are trained by PPLM education staff to facilitate comprehensive sexuality education workshops and act as sexual health resources for their peers, families and communities. Because they are our “in-house” experts, for Let’s Talk month, we asked them to respond to the following question: “What are tips/advice you would offer to other teens about talking to their parents about sex/sexuality?” Here is their sage advice for teens and parents. (They thought that the parents might need a little help too!) Share the list with your adolescent to get the ball rolling on your conversations!

Talking About Sex with Teens

Tips For Teens:

  • If you’re uncomfortable, put it on someone else: “My friend has this issue/concern, etc.” It might make your parents more comfortable to know other teens are going through or feeling the same things that you are.

  • Be patient and calm even if your parents don’t stay calm.

  • Ask questions! “What was it like for your friends when they were teens?”

  • It may not seem like it, but your parents were teens too. Ask them about their experiences when they were your age. They may have experienced/felt like you do.

  • Allow for mistakes your parents may have made in the past (and vice versa). No scolding if either or you reveals something the other one might not feel that good about.

  • Ask your parents not to be change the subject or avoid a question.

Tips For Parents:

  • Talk with other parents to share ideas about what works and what doesn’t, and use those suggestions in conversations with their own kids.

  • Kids should be able to ask questions. And, parents should give the answers with facts. (If you don’t know the facts – we can help!)

  • Respect that different family members might have different attitudes, values and beliefs about sex and sexuality topics.

  • Each side can set their boundaries in preparation for conversations and have an agreement for how to handle discomfort. Make other resources available if necessary, like books you trust.

  • Try not to assume the reason why a kid is asking a question or needs information.

  • The “Ten on the Face” Rule. Practice your poker face when faced with a question or situation. Stay calm.

  • The “Penis/Vagina” Rule. Use medically accurate language for sex and sexuality topics (no nicknames or euphemisms.) Otherwise, the conversation can turn into a joke.

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