Talking to your children about
love, intimacy, and sex is an important
part of parenting.
Parents can be very helpful by creating a comfortable atmosphere
in which to talk to their children about these issues. However,
many parents avoid or postpone the discussion. Each year about
one million teenage girls become pregnant in the United States
and three million teens get a sexually transmitted disease. Children
and adolescents need input and guidance from parents
to help them make healthy and appropriate decisions regarding
behavior since they can be confused and over-stimulated by
what they see and hear. Information about sex obtained by children
from the Internet can often be inaccurate and/or inappropriate.
Talking about sex may be uncomfortable
for both parents and children. Parents should respond to the needs
and curiosity level of their individual child, offering no more
or less information than their child is asking for and is able
to understand. Getting advice from a clergyman, pediatrician,
family physician, or other health professional may be helpful.
Books that use illustrations or diagrams may aid communication
Children have different levels
of curiosity and understanding depending upon their age and level
of maturity. As children grow older, they will often ask for more
details about sex. Many children have their own words for body
It is important to find out words
they know and are comfortable with to make talking with them easier.
A 5-year-old may be happy with the simple answer that babies come
from a seed that grows in a special place inside the mother. Dad
helps when his seed combines with mom's seed which causes the
baby to start to grow. An 8-year-old may want to know how dad's
seed gets to mom's seed. Parents may want to talk about dad's
seed (or sperm) coming from his penis and combining with mom's
seed (or egg) in her uterus. Then the baby grows in the safety
of mom's uterus for nine months until it is strong enough to be
born. An 11-year-old may want to know even more and parents can
help by talking about how a man and woman fall in love and then
may decide to have sex.
It is important to talk about the
responsibilities and consequences that come from being
sexually active. Pregnancy, sexually transmitted
diseases, and feelings about sex are important issues to be discussed.
Talking to your children can help them make the decisions that
are best for them without feeling pressured to do something before
they are ready. Helping children understand that these are decisions
that require maturity and responsibility will increase the chance
that they make good choices.
Adolescents are able to talk about
lovemaking and sex in terms of dating and relationships. They
may need help dealing with the intensity of their own sexual feelings,
confusion regarding their sexual identity, and sexual behavior
in a relationship. Concerns regarding masturbation, menstruation,
and sexually transmitted diseases are common. Some adolescents
also struggle with conflicts around family, religious or cultural
values. Open communication and accurate information from parents
increases the chance that teens will postpone sex and will use
appropriate methods of birth control once they begin.
In talking with your child or adolescent, it is helpful
* Encourage your child to talk and ask questions.
* Maintain a calm and non-critical atmosphere for discussions.
* Use words that are understandable and comfortable.
* Try to determine your child's level of knowledge and understanding.
* Keep your sense of humor and don't be afraid to talk about your
* Relate sex to love, intimacy, caring, and respect for oneself
and one's partner.
* Be open in sharing your values and concerns.
* Discuss the importance of responsibility for choices and decisions.
* Help your child to consider the pros and cons of choices.
By developing open, honest and
ongoing communication about responsibility, sex, and choice, parents
can help their youngsters learn about sex in a healthy and positive
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