Do you keep putting off having the “talk” with your child about sex? Worried about saying something wrong? Feeling uncomfortable?
You aren’t alone, says certified sex therapist John O’Neill
, LCSW, LCDC, CAS, coordinator of Addictions Services
at The Menninger Clinic.
“When discussing sex with our children, parents should examine how we think about our own sexuality,” O’Neill says. “It is really hard to talk about sex with our children, if we are not comfortable with it ourselves.”
O’Neill offers the following tips to make the sex talk easier for parents:
Take the pressure off
“We don’t have to be sex experts, sex educators or have all the facts. We just have to have the willingness to talk with our children,” O’Neill says. And it is important for parents to provide balanced information to children about sex, because they likely are getting it from other, often graphic sources. In fact, by the time they are 10 or 11, many children may have actually seen sexual intercourse, on the internet or elsewhere, O’Neill says.
Think about what you want to say
While many parents want the sex talk to be a “one and done” discussion, O’Neill says many talks will be needed as the child matures.
Those talks might happen when riding in the car to activities, at bedtime or other unexpected moments – and catch parents by surprise. To avoid giving your child that deer-in-the-headlights look, O’Neill advises parents to prepare what they want to say.
“Think about what your goal is for the discussion,” O’Neill says. “It shouldn’t be just to prevent pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease. Sex is more complicated than that. It is also about thoughts and feelings. Your goal should be to help your child establish a healthy sense of sexuality.”
As you develop an ongoing dialogue with your child, listen for opportunities to broach the subject of sex. For example, a romantic scene in a movie or television show might be a catalyst for a discussion about what’s happening in their lives.
“When you see those moments, jump on them,” O’Neill says. “And if you are prepared, they can lead to a more natural conversation about sex.”