A couple of weeks ago I had a guest post on RooMag.com urging parents to add “Sex Talks with my Teen” to their Back-To-School List. It was a real hit. All of zero people commented on the post.
Perhaps it was a bit premature. Here I am urging parents to talk about this with their kids without addressing one of the underlying questions: “Why?”
Why as parents do you need to have these talks with your children? Yes, plural, not singular. This is not a one time monologue to be delivered with sock puppets and catchy slogans like, “Just say no!” It is an ongoing conversation that begins when they’re young and ends when…they get married.
You’re going to be doing this a lot. Sometimes it will go great, and other times you will be left wondering why in the world you said what you did.
Your "Why" is your motivation. It is what will drive you forward when you want to shrink back, what will compel you to keep having these critical conversations when you’d rather throw the towel in and just be done with it. Locking your child in their room until their 25 years old is also not an option.
There are the physical reasons why:
To avoid being one of the nearly 9 million 15–25 year olds this year who will get a Sexually Transmitted Disease (in the United States).
Or to prevent them from being one of the 750,000 teens in the US who will get pregnant. All of them girls. All of them by a guy. Twenty-six percent of those teen pregnancies will end in abortion.
The emotional reasons why:
To help your teen avoid a broken heart, the depression we sometimes see in sexually active teens, regret, guilt, and the possible cost to your child’s reputation or self-esteem.
The long-term why:
To help them build relationship patterns and habits now that will benefit them in the future.
To give them a healthy, balanced understanding of sex and sexuality that elevates without idealizing.
The most important why:
If you don’t talk to them, someone else will. It may be their teacher, their friends, Glee, MTV, Lady Gaga, or any of the dozens of other voices in their world. What will they be teaching your child? Will it be in line with your values and your beliefs? Will they be teaching your son or daughter what is best, or settle at ‘good enough’?
Those other sources, no matter how well-meaning, cannot and will not care about your child as much as you do.
In a culture that is becoming increasingly sexualized, having open, honest, and sometimes awkward conversations on these issues is a must, not an option.
Whatever your “Why,” talk it over with your spouse or your child’s other parent, write it down, and then make a point to talk to your kids this week about some aspect of these topics. And then do it again the next week. And the week after that.
There are dozens of resources, experts and tools available to help you do this successfully. Including me! Email me at joanna at joannahyatt.com, check out my Resources page for book ideas, or post your questions below.
What is your “why” that motivates you to talk to your teens and pre-teens on these topics?