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Talking to Teens About Sex

Sex is the single most difficult topic to talk to your teens about. I have been working with parents of teens for over two decades, and I am hands-down confident about this statement. No matter how good your relationship with your teen, it's tough to imagine your kid in that sort of physical entanglement or to feel completely comfortable with a sex talk. Nonetheless, it is absolutely necessary to get comfortable talking to your teens about sex. If you have good communication with your teen about this sensitive topic, your kid will make better and safer decisions in the sexual arena.

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So, since there is no way out of talking about this topic—remember, avoidance is unhealthy—here are some key tips to keep in mind when you have the conversation.

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Practice Brings Comfort

Most importantly, do not expect either you or your teen to start out being comfortable with this topic. Comfort comes with practice. I promise you this. You will have plenty of opportunities to talk about sex because the whole idea of a birds-and-the-bees conversation is just plain silly. As your teen gets more comfortable and begins to see you as a go-to person, there will be several opportunities to talk about sex.

Find Opportunities to Discuss Sexual Issues

The media will provide you with plenty of opportunities to talk to your teens about sex. Say you read a newspaper article about teens' rate of pregnancy or use of condoms—share it with your teen and ask for her thoughts. You may even want to watch an episode of Teen Mom with your teenager to get her input and start the dialogue. Talking about teens in the media makes things a lot easier because your kids are not yet talking about themselves. That will come next.

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Be Mindful of How You Speak

I can also promise you that you are much more likely to become your teen's go-to person about sexuality if you listen to them without lots of interrupting or judging. He will also appreciate it if you don't become emotionally overreactive in response to what he is telling you. Even if you are having an emotional reaction to what he is saying, remind yourself that your goal is to keep the conversation going, and, if you start to freak out, the discussion will end abruptly—I can guarantee that this will happen. I have both seen and heard parents and teens tell me about these sorts of abbreviated conversations for over 20 years. I am not suggesting that you not share your own sets of values with your teen, but do so in a way that doesn't make him feel criticized or judged. Do the best you can! Of course, it won't be easy ... but you'd rather have your teen talk to you than someone on the schoolbus, right?

Talk About the Delicate Interplay Between the Heart, Body and the Mind

I can never stress this point enough. In school, from friends, and from parents, teens learn about the mechanics of sex: What intercourse involves, what an orgasm feels like, how to put on a condom, how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, what sexually transmitted diseases are, and how they can be spread. Sadly, though, they learn little about the connection between physical intimacy and the head and heart. Parents must talk to their teens about how feelings get very much involved when getting physically involved with a partner. Physicality does not exist in a vacuum. I have seen way too many teens become distressed when the person that they "hooked-up" with on Saturday night ignored them in school on Monday. And, this is true for boys and girls. Both groups have more than just their skin in the game.

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Good luck as you have these conversations!

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