Written on October 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm , by familycircle
John T. Chirban, Ph.D., Th.D. is a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of How to Talk With Your Kids About Sex.
Most parents treat the topic of sex as if it were nitroglycerin: acting like one wrong move means everything will explode! So it’s no surprise that they absolutely dread having those conversations with their kid. In the “Sex Talk” survey Family Circle and Planned Parenthood conducted and reported on this November, they found that more than 70% of parents wait until their child is 11 or older to talk about any topics related to sexuality. And even when they do chat with their kids, it’s not very frequent. In a survey of over 45,000 parents and children of divorce that I’m conducting on Dr. Phil’s website, parents frequently reported that they spoke with their kids about sex; however, most kids disclosed that they don’t recall any such conversations.
Why the anxiety? Parents reveal that their reluctance to talk about sex with their kids stem from embarrassment about their own experiences that tap into their own associations and baggage with sex. They also worry that they will convey wrong information or that merely raising the topic will encourage their child to engage in sexual acts. Parents need to distinguish between their concerns about sex and the needs of their child at the various stages of the child’s growth.
Studies show that parents who discuss sex in a loving and honest way actually decrease the likelihood that their child will engage in sexual activity. In fact, kids who share a good relationship with their parents and can honestly discuss their concerns about sex, dating, and love are less influenced by peer behavior regarding drugs, alcohol, and sex and report less depression and anxiety and more self-reliance and self-esteem. These kids are also more successful in school and develop more meaningful relationships. Such studies confirm that the quality and importance of our communications at home strongly influences our children’s life.
Remember: You don’t have to pretend that you know it all. If you’re natural about any uncertainty yet show that you are willing to learn as you go along, you set the stage for an honest relationship with your child. Providing accurate information and details is important, however, it’s more critical to express interest, support, and openness and respond to your child’s needs.
Parents need to demystify sex and guide their kids to manage the physical aspects of sexuality and support their children’s emotional, social, relational and spiritual sexual growth. We need to help our kids make the connections between intimacy and love and understand healthy relationships. If we don’t take effective action to communicate with our kids, they can’t be expected to make effective decisions—and they will go elsewhere to find answers.
Parents go to extraordinary lengths to nurture, strengthen and support their kids—academically, athletically, socially and spiritually. It’s not okay to leave your child to fend for himself regarding his or her sexual development. Parents need to reclaim their role as their child’s guide concerning sex. By communicating with our kids, in an age appropriate manner, from infancy through adolescence about sex, we will come through for them on concerns when our children need us most.
John T. Chirban, Ph.D., Th.D. is a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of How to Talk With Your Kids About Sex, which clarifies what kids need at each stage of development and how parents can effectively communicate. For more information, go to drchirban.com and sexualproblems.com.
Read more about having the sex talk with your teen here.
Written on October 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm , by familycircle
Deborah Roffman, author of Talk To Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your kids’ Go-To Person about Sex, shares advice for parents and “the sex talk” for Planned Parenthood’s Let’s Talk Month.
If you define the word “sex” the way most Americans define it, the title of this blog might seem pretty controversial. Perhaps even misguided. Educating teens to say “Yes“ to sexual intercourse? Why would a parent want to do that?
In my experience as a parent educator for more than 30 years, most parents definitely prefer that their children postpone potentially risky sexual behaviors until they are mature enough to manage the physical, social and emotional aspects of deeply intimate relationships. (There are other parents who prefer that their children postpone these behaviors until they are married or in a long term committed relationship, no matter their level of maturity.)
But the thing is, the kinds of sexual experiences teens engage in run the gamut from kissing to French kissing to hugging to touching breasts or genitals to more intimate and potentially riskier behaviors like oral sex or vaginal intercourse. These are all forms of sexual behavior, and engaging in any one of them constitutes being “sexually active.”
Unfortunately, when adults use phrases like “sexually active” as the equivalent of “having intercourse,” as most Americans do, we imply to kids that these other forms of sexual behavior don’t really count and don’t require careful decision-making.
Each of the behaviors along this continuum represents a real yes or no choice, regardless of the particular behavior involved, and many if not most of our kids will eventually find themselves in situations where they’ll need to make decisions about participating, or not, in one or more of them. Moreover, many parents might even consider some of these experiences during the teen years to be a healthy and normal part of growing up.
So, indeed, most parents don’t want their children to always say “no” to all sexual experiences. Giving our children guidance about good decision making means giving them the tools to know how and when it might be okay to say yes to a particular sexual experience, and under what circumstances it would probably, or definitely, be best for them to say no. That means talking with them about a host of issues, including relationships, pressures, values, motivation, communication, mutuality, consent, caring, empathy and respect for boundaries, our own and others’.
If we wait to begin these conversations until the point in time when our children might be contemplating engaging in sexual intercourse, we’ll have missed out on lots of opportunities to teach them how to make good sexual decisions, regardless of whether they’re going to say yes or no.
Read more about having “the sex talk” with your teen here.
Deborah Roffman is a teacher, parent educator and author who has given hundreds of presentations for parent groups across the country. Her most recent book is Talk To Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your kids’ Go-To Person about Sex. Her website is Talk2MeFirst.com. Read more of her advice on talking to teens about sex in our November feature, “How to Have the Sex Talk with Your Teen.”
Written on October 2, 2012 at 10:44 am , by Lynya Floyd
In our November “Sex Talk” feature, we offered up dozens of ways to get that important dialogue going with your kid. Looking for more conversation starters? Try these five things every teen should know about sex.
1. You’re not the only virgin. Less than half of all high school students have ever engaged in intercourse.
2. It won’t make him/her fall in love with you. Sex and love don’t necessarily go hand in hand. If you’re looking for something to bring you two closer together, consider how you’d feel if it actually pulled you apart.
3. You can get pregnant the first time. Birth control prevents the sperm and egg from meeting up—not how often you have sex.
4. Two condoms are not better than one. Doubling up condoms increases friction and decreases effectiveness. The only 100% effective form of birth control is abstinence.
5. You can tell if someone has an STI. Not always. And remember, not all sexually transmitted infections have cures and many can impact your fertility or overall health.
What do you wish every teen knew about getting intimate? Post a comment below and tell us!
Read more about having the sex talk with your teen here.
Lyna Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine.
Written on October 2, 2012 at 8:30 am , by familycircle
By Leslie Kantor, Vice President of Education, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Vincent Guilamos-Ramos, Co-director of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU
When Planned Parenthood and the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU (CLAFH) began thinking about our second annual survey looking at how parents and teens talk about sex and sexuality, we couldn’t think of a better partner than Family Circle. We all share a common goal of wanting to help parents and teens become comfortable talking about sex and sexuality so that young people can make good decisions. And there is no better time than October for parents to be reminded of this since it’s Let’s Talk Month—an annual effort to get parents and teens talking about sexuality.
Our national survey polled more than 2,000 parents and teens living in the same households, and the results quickly made one thing clear: what parents intend to say is different than what teens are hearing.
We asked parents to tell us what messages about sex they most wanted to send to their teens, and we asked teens to tell us the main message they had received about sex from their parents. Here’s what one parent told us, and what her teenager heard:
“To make a healthy choice about who she wishes to date and have a physical relationship for the right reasons.”
— 50-year-old mother
“Not to do it.”
— her 16-year-old daughter
Time and time again we saw similar communication breakdowns between parents and teens. The good news is most families are talking about sex and sexuality. Still, these talks aren’t as productive as they could be. Parents, for example, think they are having these conversations more often than their teens think they are, and surprisingly, teens are actually much more uncomfortable talking about sex than their parents. Half of all parents and just 18 percent of teens said they feel very comfortable having these talks.
Our survey also found that 80 percent of parents of sexually active teens knew their teens were having sex. That fact alone highlights the importance of parents talking with their teens and continuing to engage them even after they become sexually active so that they know how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and to make sure their teens’ relationships are healthy. So this month Planned Parenthood, CLAFH, and Family Circle are providing tips and a story packed full of information that can help parents start the conversation with their teens.
We know that parents make a difference when they talk with their kids about sex, so let’s teach them how to say no if they’re not ready to have sex, and if they are, let’s continue having these conversations and encourage them to make good decisions about relationships and their sexual health. Bottom line: keeping our teens healthy and safe means talking with them about sex.
So let’s talk.
Leslie Kantor is Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Vincent Guilamos-Ramos is Co-director of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU. Read more about having the sex talk with your teen, all month, here.
Categories: Parenting Teens & Tweens, The Sex Talk | Tags: clafh, leslie kantor, parenting teens and tweens, planned parenthood, sex, sex talk, talking about sex, the talk, vincent guilamos-ramos
Written on October 2, 2012 at 7:45 am , by Lynya Floyd
Last year I was a guest on “Doctor Radio,” New York University’s SiriusXM show, when a concerned mother called in. She told us that after her teenage daughter admitted to being sexually active, she immediately took her to the ob/gyn to get birth control. But mom later found out her husband disagreed with that course of action and now there was trouble at home. “Did I do the right thing?” she asked us.
Before you answer that question, I’d like you to take a mental step back and look at the events that led up to it:
- A daughter talking to her mom about something teens spend so much time trying to hide.
- A husband and wife talking about their relationship expectations of their daughter.
- And then, mom coming to experts for more information.
The central theme here: Communication.
How many kids do you know that talk to their parents about having sex? (It turns out 50% of teens feel uncomfortable talking to their parents about sex in general—I’m sure that number spikes when it comes to them having sex.)
When was the last time you spoke with your partner about relationship expectations you have for your child? Nearly ¼ (23%) of parents have talked only “a little” or “not at all” with their partner about this.
And have you ever reached out to an expert for help navigating those discussions like the mom who called in did? That family was pretty impressive, I thought, despite the turmoil at home.
When we talk to teens about sex, how often we talk about it and what we say were questions that lingered in my head after that call came in to the radio show. And they were questions Planned Parenthood wanted to explore as well when we joined forces with them to survey thousands of parents and their teens across the country about “The Sex Talk.” (Those stats I rattled off above came from our survey.) And here’s another one: one in six teens say their parents have never spoken with them about anything related to sex.
If there’s one thing I hope comes from this story, it’s a dramatic increase in communication and conversations around The Sex Talk. Studies show that teens who talk to their parents about sex-related topics have sex at a later age and use protection more often. So this month, we at Family Circle have partnered with with Planned Parenthood, the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU and parenting bloggers from across the country to bring you resources that’ll help you start the conversation with your child, make it less awkward and ensure that your points are getting across. And if there’s a question we haven’t answered, post a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask it.
So now back to that caller. What do you think: Did mom do the right thing? Post a comment and let us know.
And read more about having the sex talk with your teen here.
Lyna Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine.