At Teen Therapy OC, we know how important it is to strive toward having open and honest conversations with your teens about uncomfortable topics like sex. We know that in the adolescent development stage, teens are often exposed to information about human sexuality at different rates. This means that some children are exposed to sexual material and information earlier than others and this discrepancy can lead to misinformation spread by their peers. Because of this, we hope parents have conversations with their children about human sexuality and how to set healthy boundaries for themselves.
The “California Healthy Youth Act” is the sex education curriculum for public schools. We thought it would be helpful to provide the information to you so that you can educate yourself of what your 8th graders will be learning to prepare you to have conversations about the things they may not understand or may not be aligned with your family’s beliefs. Depending on your own beliefs and your evaluation of your child’s readiness for this level of information, you may choose to opt out of this program. If after reading the material, you are concerned, call your child’s school for more information about this curriculum and your options as a parent.
Here are some tips for talking to your kids about sex:
-Understand that they aren’t going to be thrilled to have this conversation with you. If you give them choices about when and where they have this conversation with you, they will feel they have some amount of control.
-Choose a time when there aren’t siblings or other people around to help foster a safe environment for sharing about what is likely embarrassing for them to talk about.
-Ask questions about what THEY think about what they learned.
-Try to avoid talking more than they do in order to help them develop their own critical thinking skills.
-Ask the teen what they think are healthy sexual boundaries for teens.
-Ask what reasons they have for choosing those particular boundaries around sex.
-Be sure to stay calm and breathe slowly if their answers aren’t what you hoped they would be. This is a sign that their child brain is developing critical thinking skills, which is a sign of a maturing brain. You can still share what you think and why without making them “wrong or bad” for thinking what they think.
-If your teen’s answers don’t align with what your boundaries are for them as their parent, try not to react negatively to their answer. Instead, validate that sexual desire is normal, but needs to be treated thoughtfully like any of our other human desires so that we behave responsibly.
– It is important to clearly define your expectations for their boundaries until they become an adult and have the freedom to choose their own boundaries.
-If your family has particular beliefs that don’t align with something taught in the curriculum, try not to pass judgment on the curriculum itself as being “bad” or “wrong”, but instead calmly and thoughtfully explore the differences with your teen.
Thank you for having the hard conversations. Being a parent isn’t for wimps!
Helping teens grow and families improve connections,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT