Parenting Advice: How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex

As a single mom of an eighteen year old boy, I feel relatively qualified to offer some advice concerning this topic. Our society continues to evolve and we, as parents, must adapt to the changes in order to provide our children with the strategic tools they need in order to become well adjusted members of the adult world.

The best way to educate our kids is by communicating with them. Your child is ready to learn about sex when he or she asks about sex. If you have been paying attention, you will know how to answer the questions posed in an appropriate manner.  When my five year old child asked where babies came from, he was told that men and women both had something to contribute, I conveyed to him that there was intimacy involved without using the word, "love" (which was appropriate for us; I was single and he did not know his biological father; I have always been honest with him) and that the baby needed time to grow in the woman's belly. He was still a baby himself, so I used a cake baking in an oven as an example telling him that there were ingredients that only a man could give and some only a woman could give. I did not need to give a five year old a biology lesson. He continued to ask and I continued to tell as he got older. I was "in the loop" when he became sexually active and assisted in the birth control process. My not becoming a thirty-eight year old grandmother tells me that I did O.K. Of course, our situation is unique to us, as every other parent/child relationship is unique. The ultimate goal is to keep open the communication process between your children and yourself. Your values are sure to differ from my own and it is important to distinguish that. I do, however, urge parents to err on the side of current trends. Being ultra conservative may not bring forth the results you desire.

Too many teen aged girls are getting pregnant (visit: http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/why-it-matters/ for more info on education and prevention) and finding themselves alienated from their families because they have failed to live up to the standards that they have been held to all their short lives. We are not protecting them or their babies if we are not honest about what can and cannot happen. I watch the television show “The Doctors,” regularly and an episode that aired on December 24th informed that the United States has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy among developed countries in the world. Face it, folks, our kids are engaging in sexual activity; girls who have sex get pregnant, and they come from all backgroundsAs your child gets older, it is important to be very clear about sex and our society. Regardless of how the subject is broached, pregnancy is the first topic to be covered and the discussion eventually needs to cover topics such as abstinence, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases (including AIDS) and the always unpleasant, oral sex.

Dr. Lisa Masterson, of the Doctors, (visit http://www.thedoctorstv.com/ for local listings) did a segment with a group of ten year old girls in which the subject was sex. She advised that we should begin talking to our kids about sex by the time they are eight years old and that girls, especially, need to be prepared for the onset of menses which is, she says, “a vital sign for women.” When my son was about eleven I initiated a talk and he told me it was embarrassing to talk to me about sex. I made it clear to him that, although I respected that, I needed to make sure that he knew about safe sex and that if he was too embarrassed to speak with me, I encouraged him to talk with my brother if he felt the need. I did make sure he knew that he was to use a condom whenever he engaged in sexual activity before closing the subject.

That was, however, by no means the last time we talked about condoms. I reminded him as often as I felt the need. Talk to your kids when they ask and use age appropriate vocabulary and examples. Do not give them more information than they can understand. Make sure you begin their education by the time they are eight or nine and make sure to cover the major topic of pregnancy, as well as what they should expect will be happening to their bodies within the next few years. Although parents who are conservative may be against any other form of birth control than abstinence, I urge others to introduce the concept by the time your kids are ten. We want them to know about practicing sexual activity responsibly and safely . We want them to avoid unwanted pregnancy and disease. We are not always able to keep them from making unwise decisions and cannot count on, “No,” being an effective means of preventing sexual activity.  Be as honest as you can.  And finally, face it, you know how to talk with your child better than anyone else. 

Use that knowledge to get these points across. Instead of closing with a list of documented statistics, let me cite some facts I have experienced firsthand: I got pregnant the third time I had sex (luckily, I was older, but still not educated enough about how easily I would become pregnant). A younger cousin, our family prodigy, was forced to have sex by a seventeen year old when she was thirteen; She had an abortion at seventeen when she was six months pregnant.

My best friend lost her virginity when she was fourteen. A friend had an abortion at the age of fifteen even though her parents made sure they knew where she was all the time and she was always in the house before dark. I have friends who have had crabs and sexually transmitted diseases. Whether we like it or not, these types of situations happen more than we realize and the sooner we address it with our kids, the better equipped we, as a society, are to change the trends.

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