Just about any parent who has attempted a “sex talk” with their teenager or pre-teen could describe a pretty universal list of “blocking strategies” used by teens. While some teens cover their ears and hum to themselves, others resort to rolling their eyes, crossing their arms and sighing, or saying with exasperation, “I already know all that, Dad.”
Research continues to show that parents, not peers, have the greatest impact on teen’s sexual decisions. Yet for a variety of reasons, including the “blocking strategies” listed above, parents often fail to take advantage of their influence. The Family Life Council is committed to supporting and encouraging parent/child communication about sexuality through our Wise Guys® program for teens and a complementary program for parents entitled, Sexplanations. Most parents need support in teaching their teen about sexuality and the 1½ hour Sexplanations program offers the most up-to-date information, statistics, and communication suggestions for effectively discussing sexuality with their children. By sharing accurate information, as well as values and beliefs about sexuality, parents help foster self-confidence, good decision-making, and a healthy future for their teenagers.
Here are a few reasons for attending the Sexplanations program:
- 53% of young adolescents ages 12-14 say parents most influence their decisions about sex.
- HPV (the virus which causes genital warts) is one of the fastest growing STIs among sexually active teens.
- North Carolina has the 9th highest teen pregnancy rate in the US.
- Abstinence means different things to different people and the lack of clarity and communication about abstinence is part of the reason for the high rates of STIs among teens.
- The percent of early syphilis for 13- to 19-year-olds in Guilford County went from 0% in 2006 to 9% in 2007.
- Every year on TV most teens will view 14,000 references to sexuality (sexual remarks, jokes, and innuendos). However, less than 5% of these remarks will deal with topics such as abstinence or STIs.
- Although 15- to 24-year-olds represent only 1/4 of the sexually active population, they account for nearly 50% of all new STIs each year.
Here are some ideas for parents/guardians to help you talk with your teenagers about sexuality and healthy relationships:
- If your teen responds to you by saying, “Dad, I already know that,” then ask your teen what they do know. You might be surprised by their answers! This would be a good starting point for conversation.
- Scout the public library or local bookstores for a good reference book designed for parents. One suggestion – “How to Talk with Teens about LOVE, RELATIONSHIPS, & SEX” by Amy & Charles Miron, Free Spirit Publishing, www.freespirit.com.
- Talk with your teen explicitly about abstinence to help them explore their definition of abstinence and to be sure they know your concerns and your expectations. Educate your teen about the risks of all forms of sexual behavior.
- Have dress rehearsals with your teenagers by helping them role play responses to peers who may be pressuring them to take risks they don’t want to take.
- Think about your sexual values. Write them down. What do you believe is right? What do you believe is wrong? Why? Where do your beliefs come from? Thinking through your values will help you communicate them more effectively to your teen.
- Use popular media as a springboard to discussions with your children. Listen to music or watch television with your teen and use those examples to discuss your perspective on healthy and unhealthy relationships.
- Educate your teenager about the personal costs (physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and social) of sexual relationships. Teens are developmentally unable to anticipate all the possible consequences of their actions. Having at least some accurate statistics about risks at your disposal will make you a more credible source for information but don’t think that you have to know everything about everything – especially all of the sexually transmitted infections. You can always research a question if you don’t know the answer. Showing your teen that you have done a little homework on the matter is evidence of your love and concern for your teenager.
- Pour on the love. Just because a teenager may be exerting his/her independence more noticeably doesn’t mean they don’t need and want your affection and attention.
For parents who are outside of North Carolina, please note the rest of the parents section of this website is filled with resources to help better equip you to communicate with your teen about sexuality.
Wise Guys and its logo are registered trademarks of Children's Home Society of NC.