By: A Philadelphia High School Student
When my mom gave me “the talk”, she gave me the medical run-down of the basics of sex and we never discussed it again until I asked about dating in high school. It would have been a better experience if she made me feel comfortable to ask questions or clarifications on things I didn’t understand.
Talking about sex with your kids is so important and it’s also important to stay welcoming when you start this conversation. “The Talk” is not just one conversation, or happens one time. It is an open-ended conversation that should happen multiple times, be an on-going discussion, and will ultimately help your tweens/teens make smart and healthy decisions.
When should you start having “The Talk” with your teen?
Since there is not just one talk, you can break everything up to make it less daunting for your teen. I think starting this discussion is best during the early middle school years because this is a time when teens are starting to get curious, or exposed to, sex. And when I mean “exposed to sex”, this can happen from the movies or TV shows they start to watch, conversations they hear from upper-classmen, and similar moments to those.
Keep it casual!
The first conversation about sex and sexual health you have with your teen may feel awkward, but the best advice I can give is to keep it casual. This will make it less nerve-wracking for both you and your teen.
Keeping conversation light-hearted also includes relaxing your body language. If your arms are crossed, your leg is bouncing, or you aren’t making eye contact, your teen will notice that and feel uncomfortable. If you are feeling uncomfortable, do some research beforehand to understand things that you may not so you are better equipped to convey it to your teen.
What topics should you cover with your teen?
It is important to talk to your teen about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), birth control, and consent, especially before they start dating. Let them know the basics about condoms, including where to purchase them, how and when to use them, and their importance against HIV/STIs and pregnancy. If parents talk about these topics early and often with their teens, it will normalize condom use and hopefully decrease the amount of STIs being spread amongst high school students.
My mom did a great job with educating me on sex and STIs, and she never passed judgement when I had questions. She even offered to buy me condoms and take me to my doctor to start using birth control. Did you know that other forms of birth control, like hormonal contraceptives, can be used for non-pregnancy prevention purposes? I didn’t and this would have been good to know!
Be open, non-judgmental, and a good support system for your teen.
Always be open with your teens and never pass judgement, welcome any questions, and continue to check in with them with what they know or have heard in school or from friends. Be an ally to your teen and let them know of other adults in their lives that can also serve as allies – their school nurse or social worker, friends’ parents, older siblings, or other family members. Your child may not come to you for everything, so making sure they know who they can go to is key. But, always make it known that you are a safe and non-judgmental outlet for them to open up about their sexual health with.
In Conclusion: Don’t avoid “the talk”!
A seemingly “awkward” conversation is worth it if it protects your teen from STIs, unwanted pregnancies, and regretful choices. Looking back, the talk my mom gave me could have been better, but I am grateful for her trying and it set me up for success down the road.
Check out a past article called “Sexual Health – More Talking, Less Stigma” HERE.
We also had another local Philadelphia high school student submit an article on her experience with learning about sexual health and safe sex practices at home. Read her article HERE.
To read more information on hormonal contraceptives, click HERE.