The bird and bees discussion is so uncomfortable to have with your teens! It’s my guess that many parents simply avoid the conversation.
Unfortunately, most of what teens learn about and hear about sex is from other teenagers (great source, right?). As early as 4th or 5th grade the joking starts. By 6th grade a lot of young adolescents have already heard of some friends “doing stuff” with other adolescents. At that age it is usually pretty shocking. However, within two to three years, discussions about sex are fairly commonplace at school.
You have to ask yourself where you want your child to learn about sex. At some point one of their peers is going to try and show your child a pornographic movie they’ve found. At some point one of your teenager’s friends will be “sexting” with another teen, and will talk about it around your child, or ask your child to participate. Teens will definitely hear about and be exposed to sex. The question is whether you want them to learn everything they know from other teens, or if you’d like to have input. I know as a parent I want to have input because I want to be able to let my kids know what I do and don’t think is okay.
First of all, how do you bring up this discussion? It’s not like it’s going to just naturally flow into a conversation. Most parents find they have to be intentional about it.
If you’re feeling a little awkward about this, just imagine your teen! They’re at an age where awkward is almost a permanent state of being. So, it could help to say something like, “I’m a little uncomfortable to talk with you about this, but it needs to be done.” Then find out what your teen already knows about sex. What have they been hearing from their peers? Gently correct their misconceptions. Ask them how they think sex should be treated. Do they thing it’s something special that should wait for marriage? Educate them on how to resist situations they are not comfortable with.
If you were promiscuous in your younger years, tell them what you’ve learned from that behavior. If you have religious views about sexuality, explain the reasons for those views, don’t just tell them what the views are. For example, as a Christian I will tell my daughter that our faith teaches to wait until marriage. If she does get married, God wants her and her husband to have a bond that is completely unique and special. I will explain to her that sex within marriage is fun, sacred, and very much each couple’s own special thing. I will tell her that based on my past mistakes, sex outside marriage doesn’t contain the same closeness or emotional safety, and that’s why God didn’t plan it that way. I really want her to know the why behind the views we’re teaching her, and your adolescents will appreciate knowing the why behind whatever it is you teach them. I will also answer any questions she has about the physical mechanics of sex since adolescents often hear incorrect information about this. In fact, some of the things they’ve heard are just downright hilarious (You’ll have to work hard to keep a straight face).
This conversation is a great time to cover other related topics such as puberty and masturbation. Again, I know this is not your favorite topic of discussion, but it is still very important.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT