Sex education: Talking to your teen about sex
Is your teenager ready to make tough choices about sex? Uncomfortable as it may be, sex education is your responsibility. Here's help getting started.
You understand the importance of sex education. But don't count on classroom instruction alone. Although the basics may be covered in health class, your child might not hear - or understand - everything he or she needs to know. That's where you come in. Awkward as it may be, sex education is a parent's responsibility. By reinforcing and supplementing what your child learns in school, you can help your child make good decisions about sex.
Breaking the ice
Sex is a staple of news, entertainment and advertising. It's often hard to avoid this ever-present topic. But when parents and children need to talk, it isn't always so easy. If you wait for the perfect moment, you might miss the best opportunities. Instead, think of sex education as an ongoing conversation. Here are some ideas to help you get started - and keep the discussion going.
Addressing tough topics
Sex education includes abstinence, date rape, homosexuality and other tough topics. Be prepared for questions like these:
Responding to behavior
If your child becomes sexually active - whether you think he or she is ready or not - it may be more important than ever to keep the conversation going. State your feelings and calmly explain your objections. You might say, "I'm disappointed in your decision to have sex. I don't think it's appropriate or healthy for you to have sex right now. But the decision is yours. I expect you to take the associated responsibilities seriously."
Stress the importance of safe sex, and make sure your child understands how to use contraception. You might talk about keeping a sexual relationship exclusive, not only as a matter of trust and respect but also to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Also set and enforce reasonable boundaries, such as curfews and rules about visits from friends of the opposite sex.
Your child's doctor can help, too. A routine checkup can give your child the opportunity to address sexual activity and other behaviors in a supportive, confidential atmosphere.
With your support, your child can emerge into a sexually responsible adult. Be honest and speak from the heart. Even if your child remains silent, he or she will hear you.
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