Have you had the talk with your teen yet? Ideally, you should have done this before they reached puberty, but if you haven’t done so yet, don’t wait another moment.
Ideally, parents should have had “the birds and the bees” talk with their kids before they reached their teens. But if you haven’t yet done so, get talking. As awkward as it might be, this discussion cannot be left to the internet or their peers. It’s a parent’s responsibility and the earlier it’s discussed, the better.
“Parents should remember that there is constant communication about sex. There is no ‘one talk’ and then it is over. Talking about it is and should be a regular subject,” says child psychologist Christine Scolari.
Sex ed isn’t just for girls – talk to your son
Research indicates when sex is an open subject in a household, the kids make better choices regarding sex. The child is less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour and more likely to wait longer before entering into a sexual relationship.
Scolari stresses the importance of talking about sex with your children. “Parents must keep in mind that children get information everywhere; if they don’t talk about sex with them, they might end up with distorted and inaccurate information.”
If your face turns red at the thought of discussing sex with your teen, Scolari suggests using cues to bring up the topic. “There will be many opportunities to have the discussion, for example a sex scene in a movie or on TV – then one also has the perfect opportunity to get the child’s opinion.”
You can also use additional resources such as magazines or newspaper articles. Scolari recommends parents read the article with their child and then discuss it with them. It’s also important parents remain calm and open when talking to their children about the subject. “They [children] need to feel they can come to you when they need advice; communication is key.”
You are their greatest example
For teens who are already in relationships, setting boundaries and the importance of a loving relationship should be emphasised, says Scolari. “Discuss subjects such as safety when sexually active, for example the importance of using condoms, appropriate behaviour especially when using social networks or technology and the difference between pornography and sex.”
Parents are the greatest influencers and teachers to their children when it comes to sex and life in general. As challenging as it is, the consequences are sometimes detrimental and life changing, and often can’t be reversed.
When discussing sex with your teen, Johannesburg-based educational psychologist Zandie Shabangu suggests parents focus on:
- Male and female reproductive systems
- Safe sex
- Emotional consequences of being sexually active
- Other ways of showing affection without having sex
- How to identify sexual abuse and other forms of abuse
- The effects of alcohol and drugs on your judgment
- Birth control
Why should you talk about it?
Shabangu lists the most important advantages of sex education:
- It helps develop a healthy attitude towards sex.
- It helps children learn safe-sex practices.
- They get accurate information.
- They understand the possible consequences of being sexually active.
Silence could be detrimental
And if you don’t talk to your teen? The disadvantages could be dire: