So you haven’t had the “sex talk” with your teen yet. Well, you’re not alone! Many parents of teenagers came from a generation where their parents never talked to them about sex. As a result, parents of today may not be comfortable talking to their children about sex either. The discomfort can make us put off having conversations. If you fit in that category, it’s not too late (and you’re not alone)!

The reality is that it’s difficult to keep today’s teenagers away from learning about sex outside of home. They learn about sex through social media, television, movies, and peers, and they learn about sex as early as elementary school. All of this outside information can be dangerous! Your teenager may be learning things that are not true, not healthy, and not helpful. You may be depending on your teenager’s school to teach them about sex. At school, they may learn the biology of their bodies, but it doesn’t mean they totally understand sex. The other problem is that most of these other methods of learning do not teach about healthy relationships, boundaries, dating, consent, intimacy, and the emotions that arise through sexual experiences. That means it’s up to you to educate your teenager. And there’s no time like the present!

There are many resources you can go to for ideas on how to start the conversation and what to say. Our website has suggestions based on your child’s age. Here are a couple of other ideas:

Get to know your child on a more personal level.

Spending time with them is the best way to do this. Learn more about their interests and hobbies. Once you feel your relationship is in a good place, ask your teenager what they already know or what questions they may have about sex.

Communicate openly.

As you have conversations about sex, try hard not to look surprised or bothered by anything your teen may say. Avoid judgment statements! If you show discomfort, they will be uncomfortable. In my experience, your teenager will likely shut down if you show any of these signs. Try to talk to them as an adult and not in a condescending manner. Don’t expect that they will talk to you the first time you ask questions. Try to be open with them about any topic. That will open up the door to them feeling comfortable to talk to you about sex.

If you struggle to start the conversation, wait for an opportunity.

When you’re watching a movie or television show that raises issues about sexuality, ask them what they think about what they are watching and what questions they may have. You can point out where sources, such as television, may set unrealistic expectations like sex always being wonderful for both parties, there was consent, it was true love, etc. Another good time to talk about intimacy is if your teenager brings up a problem that one of their friends is having in a relationship.

Recognize that you and your teen might have differing views.

Remember, even though you have raised your child, they may not have the same values and beliefs about sex as you. That doesn’t mean don’t teach them, but educate instead of shame. Validate their feelings, including feelings of arousal and/or confusion.

It really is never too late to talk to your teenager about this topic even if they have already had sexual experiences. Giving them information and being there for them will only empower them and prepare them for whatever comes their way. It will also improve your relationship with your teenager as they feel understood and listened to. And finally, as my 17-year-old son advises, “Keep it casual!”

About the Author

Annette Curtis

Annette Curtis, LCSW, earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brigham Young University and her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Utah. She has worked with children, adolescents, and families for over 23 years, primarily with youth in the foster care system due to abuse and neglect. She has worked extensively with clients who have experienced sexual abuse and trauma. Annette has been involved in training locally as well as presentations nationally on teaching healthy sexuality to children and parents, warning signs of sexual abuse, and how to respond and support a child who has experienced abuse. She is dedicated to helping survivors of sexual abuse develop skills and learn to heal from their trauma.

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