One obstacle for many parents when it comes to teaching their child about healthy sexual development is what to teach, and when. We want to help provide you with an outline of things that you may consider teaching at different age ranges. Of course some children are more or less mature than their peers, and you should adjust your talks accordingly.
For a younger teen (from ages 13 to 15) they may be struggling with the continuation or beginning of puberty. Girls mature more quickly and generally earlier than boys, which may cause some confusion or difficulties for both of them.
Both of them may have more mood swings, more interest in physical relationships, and pushing boundaries with authority figures—like their parents. They may also be a lot more focused on the present and may give little or no thought to long-term consequences.
At this age, if you haven’t created open communication with them, it may be difficult to talk to them about anything, especially healthy sexual development. But this topic is important enough that you should put any hesitancy aside and start the conversation about the topics below:
Continue to support your child’s self-esteem. Compliment their whole self. Their beauty, intelligence, and talents are all quite tenuous for them right now. They need frequent reminders from you about how amazing they really are.
As they’re changing and growing and experiencing puberty, make sure they know what’s going on with their bodies. Teens may not ask questions, so you might need to bring it up with them.
Peers are extremely influential at this age. If your teen hasn’t been taught about the negative aspects of drug and alcohol use, they may not be equipped to make the right choice when that situation arises. Also help them understand the connection between substance use and risky sexual behaviors.
Every family has a value system. Now is the time to reinforce your family values and expectations. Younger teens often push against these value systems. Reminding them of what your values are and why you believe they are important is essential to open communication. With that said, be sure to make it safe for them to communicate with you if they choose to go against your values.
This can be very difficult to talk about, but it is imperative that you educate your teen about delaying sex as well as using contraception. An astonishing number of young teens will have sex for the first time at this age and it’s important that they know the dangers of unprotected sex, precautions they should take in relationships, and the significance of delaying sex. If your family promotes abstinence, be sure to create an environment where they will come talk to you if they choose to be sexually active. You don’t want them to hide the behavior from you.
Show them and each them what a healthy relationship should look like. Continue to educate them about consent—both for themselves and others. Teach them the role respect should play in their relationships.
Empower them to set boundaries with the people in their lives. Talk openly about sexual abuse and what they should do if it occurs, has occurred, or if they are worried it will occur.
Have discussions about how sexuality, body image, and gender roles are portrayed in the media. Include a discussion on pornography and the dangers that can come from viewing women, sex, and relationships through that type of media.
Your teen is more curious than ever about sex. They are trying to be independent and it may seem like they don’t want to have you in their life, but they need to know that you’re there for them. Be open and supportive and help them traverse this difficult time in their life.
Talking to Your Kids at All Ages
You can talk to your child about healthy sexual development no matter the age. Below we have links to articles about what you should cover in each age range. Always take the time to think through what you’re going to say and remember to keep your child’s maturity in mind. And remember, every time you have a little talk it makes it a little easier to have the next one.
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