The good news is that teens are experiencing fewer unintended pregnancies today than they did just a few years ago; many teens are choosing to postpone sex (sexual abstinence), and many are using birth control methods properly. Here in Hennepin County, the teen birth rate has dropped by 66% over the past eight years!
The bad news is that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are increasing among teens who are sexually active. Parents can help their teens reduce the risk of pregnancy and STIs when they talk openly and honestly with their children about their bodies and sexual health.
Many of us who are parents may be unsure how to have conversations with our children about sex because our own parents never really had “the talk” with us. It might be awkward. It might be challenging. But sexual health experts recommend that we discuss sexual health topics with our children early and often.
We have a variety of programs and workshops designed to help you learn how to talk with your child about the changes of puberty, healthy relationships, and sexual health!
Parent education programs
- It’s That Easy! – Learn about typical adolescent development, identify your values around relationships and sexuality, and develop tools and strategies to engage your child in these important conversations.
- Annex House Party! – Host a session in your home or community- view our menu for ideas!
- Customized Workshops – Seeking a different type of workshop about parent/child communication, puberty, or sexual health? Contact us & we’ll work with you! For more information, contact Kristy Couture, Parent Educator at 763-533-1316 x 4906 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for talking about the birds and the bees
- Sharing age-appropriate information with your child early and often. For example: “Bodies come in all different shapes and sizes! Just look at how different my body is from your aunt’s body! If you ever have questions about your body, please ask me! You have great questions.”
- Answering questions as your child brings them up. For example: “I’m so glad you asked me about this! Yes, boys’ voices start to change, and become deeper when they begin to go through puberty. Have you noticed that your voice is cracking more? We all have our own timing, so some of your friends’ voices may have already changed, and some of your friends’ voices won’t change until much later. Everyone has their own timing. What other questions do you have about body changes?”
- Providing age-appropriate resources for your child to learn more information. For example, share websites with them that you trust as reliable resources. Keep in mind that there are many websites that do not provide professional, fact-based resources, but just allow anyone online to offer a guess or diagnosis!
- Purchasing books geared for your child’s age regarding a topic they may be interested in. For example, provide them with a fact-based book on puberty BEFORE your child has gone through the changes of puberty.
- As your child grows older, they may begin to feel embarrassed to talk with you about sensitive and sexual questions. This is normal. Talk with your child about another caring adult who may be able to answer their questions. For example, is there a family member or close family friend you can agree upon?
Helpful ways to respond to a question about sex
Being comfortable talking about sex with our children is not a prerequisite for being a parent. In fact, most parents struggle to know how to approach topics around sexuality. Here are some quick tips that may help, especially if your child needs guidance about a tough situation you’re unsure how to handle:
- What is your gut reaction? Often it’s fear, panic, anger, or at least discomfort. If we show that reaction immediately, our kids often feel those things, too, and shut down. Breathe. Find some calm and ask for a little time to think before you respond. Often you don’t need to answer immediately and a little time always helps.
- What are the facts? Ask the right questions to get a clearer picture of the situation. This may help both you both to see the scope of things.
- What family value, if any, is being compromised? Identifying your values helps clarify what matters and why.
- What is a key message you want to give your child in this situation? Our normal reaction is to talk too much. What if we miss something?! Well, if we can come up with just one key message each time, it’s easier for kids to hear us.
- Now, what words could we use to start these conversations?
- Tell me more about your question or situation.
- I’m so glad you came to me with your question/concern…
- It’s hard for me to talk to you about this but I need you to hear it from me…
- I’m sorry this happened to you and I want to help you figure it out…
- I want to make sure you get the correct information…
Will we screw up?
Yep! A lot. It’s OK to let your child know that, too. Apologize if you felt you handled something wrong, and your authenticity will shine through. Kids really respond to it and it can make your communication better going forward! Want more conversations about parenting? Schedule a house party for your friends and family, or attend an Annex workshop! Learn more here.