Talking about sex with teenagers can be tricky, so when Amy’s 15-year-old daughter started dating, it’s no surprise that she was nervous. “Of course I'd like to say just don't do it, but let's be realistic, she's a teenage girl!"
Luckily, Dr. Logan Levkoff, author of Third Base Ain't What It Used to Be, has loads of tips to help parents figure out how to tackle this challenging topic.
Dr. Levkoff acknowledges that while it’s a difficult conversation, talking to your kids about sex can have tremendous implications on their behavior. Kids whose parents talked to them about condom use, teenage pregnancy, and sexually-transmitted infections are more likely to practice safer sex, the author explains.
“Sex is such an incredible and wonderful part of who we are and once we learn that and once our kids learn that, they are far less likely to make dumb decisions."
Are you ready for the talk? Dr. Levkoff shares four simple strategies for bringing up the topic:
HOW TO APPROACH THE CONVERSATION
"The first question we need to really ask ourselves is what is it that we want for our teens,” says Dr. Levkoff. “Is it really that we want them to be virgins for the rest of their lives or do we want them to grow into sexually healthy adults, ones that are capable of making good decisions and avoiding the potential negatives?" Keep this in mind while you craft what you want to say.
HELP TEENS MAKE GOOD DECISIONS
Make sure your teen has the skills to know what a good relationship looks like and how to know if they’re ready for sex. Ask if they know the facts and if it’s something they really want to do.
Dr. Levkoff suggests asking questions like, "Are you embarrassed to buy condoms because, guess what? If you're too embarrassed you're probably not ready!"
TALK TO BOYS AND GIRLS
"Oftentimes we think of virginity as a girl's issue and it's about protecting the girl," she says, reminding parents of the importance of having the same discussions with sons and daughters. "We do girls a tremendous disservice when we don't acknowledge that they have certain innate wants as well."
KEEP AN OPEN MIND
The most important thing a parent can do is keep an open mind. Teens expect parents to say “no!” and lock them in their rooms, Dr. Levkoff says, but that’s no way to broach the subject.
“We have to listen to our teens and use opportunities just like this conversation we're having today to say, 'You know what? I might not have done this earlier but I heard something, let's talk about it—or if you're not ready to talk about it today, then know that when you're ready I'm here.'"
TRY TO FIND COMMON GROUND
Share your own experiences to help your kids make choices for themselves. No, you don’t have to share everything, but bringing some real-world experiences to the conversation will help your kids understand the decisions they have to make in their own lives.
"You want to say, 'Listen, I'm worried about you because when I was your age I wasn't worried about sexually transmitted infections or we didn't have text messaging, and pop stars weren't running around without their underwear on,'" Dr. Levkoff suggests. "At least it brings you to some kind of common ground."