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WV Focus: Reproductive Education and Equality

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How to Start Communication

Talking With Your Children about Sex: Why Is It So Hard to Talk about Sex?

  • Some parents did not grow up in an environment where parent/child sexuality discussions occurred.
  • Some parents are afraid they don’t know the “right” answers.
  • Some parents are afraid that if they talk about sex, it will encourage their children to experiment.
  • Some parents don’t know what is appropriate to talk about at what age.
  • Some parents are uncomfortable with the idea that the child is a sexual being.
  • Some parents don’t think their children should know anything about sex.
  • Some parents are embarrassed and uncomfortable.
  • Some parents believe their children get a comprehensive, complete sexuality education at school and so they don’t have to say or do anything.
  • Some parents don’t know when and how to start.
  • Some parents are afraid of answering personal questions about their own behavior.
  • Some parents are afraid to learn that their children might not share their values and beliefs.

The answer to all the above statements is true. But, your children need and want you to talk with them about sexuality. Don’t let any of these keep you from discussing sexuality with your children.

Door Slammer When You Talk to Young People

1. Try not to criticize or mock a child. Avoid:

  • Labeling (“Don’t be such a baby.”)
  • Personal Attacks (“You are so lazy.”)
  • Sarcasm (“Thanks a lot for nothing.”)
  • Put Downs (“You are so clumsy. Why don’t you watch what you’re doing.”)

2. Find yourself doing one-way communication? Avoid:

  • Commands (“How many times do I have to tell you this?”)
  • Threats (“If you don’t shape up, you’ll be sorry.”)
  • Sermons (“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times…”)

3. Taking a youth’s problems too lightly? Avoid:

  • “Cheer up! It can’t be that bad.”
  • “You’ll forget all about it by next week.”
  • “There’s no point dwelling on it.”
  • “Think you have it tough? Why when I was your age…” • “If your friends told you to jump off a bridge…”

4. Find yourself giving too much advice?

  • Listen, Listen, Listen
  • Ask if they want your advice

Of course, adults are only human. if you find yourself slamming shut the door to good communication try to:

  • Take a deep breath and start over!
  • Listen to what a child is really saying and use the communication tips you know work.
  • Apologize when you say something hurtful, untrue or unkind out of anger.
  • Ask your child how your words made him/her feel and take responsibility for the hurt you may have caused.

Helpful Hints for Communicating about Sex and Sexuality

Children Learn by Observation: Actions speak louder than words. Set good examples that show kids how your life is enriched by your values. “Do as I say, not as I do” sends a confusing message to young people.

Normalize: Reassure them that they’re normal.

Build Their Self-Esteem: Credit them for their talents, personalities, and accomplishments. Remind them frequently that they are capable and lovable.

Do not Pry: Respect your children’s privacy as much as you value your own.

Language is Important: Use correct names for sex organs and sexual behaviors. Practice saying them out loud or in front of a mirror if you are embarrassed.

Use Teachable Moments: Take advantage of “teachable moments.” A friend’s pregnancy, neighborhood gossip, and TV shows can help start a conversation.

Answer Questions Simply And Directly: Give accurate, honest, short, and simple answers.

Listen More Than you Talk: Think about what else you’re being asked. For example, “How old do you have to be to do it?” might also mean, “I’m thinking about having sex. What should I do?” On the other hand, a question about sex doesn’t mean your daughter or son is having—or is thinking about having—sex. So, don’t jump to conclusions.

Be Available: Let your children know that you’re available, and make it a habit to talk about what you think and feel.

Ask Questions: Even if they don’t ask you questions, ask them about what they think and what they know.

Be Honest: Be clear and truthful about your own feelings and figure out what you want to say about them before you speak.

Listen: Find out where your kids are coming from, and what they know or have heard about a particular topic before answering a question. It can be helpful to have some context for your child’s curiosity.

Be Gentle: Use your children’s mistakes as positive opportunities for learning. It won’t help them learn if you criticize, nag, lecture, or shout.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open: Let your body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice support what you say with words.

Learn Their World: Get to know the world your children live in. What pressures are they feeling? What do they consider normal? What’s “cool”? If you show interest in their activities and friends, they’ll know you care and want to be a part of their lives.

Be Patient: Your children hear and learn about sexuality from lots of different sources. You will need to clarify, repeat and build on your child’s knowledge as she/he grows and matures. You can expect the same questions to recur.

Learning about Sexuality is a Life-Long Process: Adults need to continue to learn, too. Talk seriously about sexuality with your spouse, close friends or health professionals. Find out if your church or synagogue will sponsor a discussion on faith and sexuality. Get pamphlets and information from your local health department, health provider, library, or Planned Parenthood.

Keep your Sense of Humor: But don’t laugh at your children.

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