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March is National Talk to Your Teen About Sex Month

Talking to your teens about sex can be an awkward conversation. Use media to make a connection, share values and prompt exploration.

March is National Talk to Your Teen about Sex Month. I’m a fan of talking about it every day but hey, since there’s an actual month named for talking to your teen about sex, far be it for us as a nation to waste it! 

Yes, I want you to talk to your teen about sex.  Talk about it this month and then keep talking about it. 

Here’s how you may envision this conversation going with your teen: 

You: “Hey did you know March is ‘National Talk to Your Teen about Sex’ month?”

Teen:  “Did you know that ain’t happening cause the last person I want to discuss sex with is you?” (as your teen flees the room).

Ok, it probably won’t happen like that, but trust me, they are feeling just as awkward as you are about this conversation, but you have to persevere because: 

  1. Teens report their parents as the biggest influence when it comes time to making decisions about sex.  Parents have double the influence over friends, the next closest influence. 
  2. Good conversations now can help them delay sexual intercourse, have fewer partners and they will be more apt to use condoms and other forms of birth control when the time comes.
  3. Sharing values now and talking about sensitive topics develops trust and lays the ground work right for making you an “approachable “parent when other issues come up.

 Teachable Moments

Thinking back, how did you learn about sex? Was it from your parents or friends? Did you have all the correct information?  Did you know where to get it?  Maybe you had one quick “birds and the bees talk” or maybe you were fortunate and it was a lifelong conversation that included communication, guidance, and factual information.  I’m not suggesting parents give the same birds and bees talk over and over, but rather, that they are able to convey their thoughts and values around sexuality for a lifetime.  An easy way to do this is by using teachable moments whenever they pop up.   

A teachable moment is the moment that someone is made aware of something.  That moment conveys values and exploration versus turning the moment into a lesson.   I like using media examples as my “moment.”  In my experience, teens are more often able to make connections to something when the spotlight isn’t on them.

Snooki's Pregnant!

Let’s use Snooki, from The Jersey Shore to illustrate a teachable moment. She’s pregnant.  Did you know that?  Who cares if Snooki is pregnant?  Well… you should. Lots of teachable moments right there. Use this as a jumping board for a host of conversations.

What are your feelings on premarital pregnancy, birth control and sexually transmitted infections?  What does “reality TV” teach teens about respect and self esteem?  Is there typically gender bias?  How are females and males treated?  Could someone regret or be embarrassed by actions played out to 8 million viewers?  Will their new child be proud?  Here’s the perfect opportunity to add in conversations about the Internet (YouTube, Facebook, etc.) as something that is public and permanent. Even if a video or post is deleted, it may have been downloaded by someone, living on forever.

Snooki cheated on her boyfriend a few times during their yearlong courtship. Some people question if the baby is even his child.  You can discuss healthy relationships, cheating, trust, and maybe even paternity tests.  Snooki found out she was pregnant right after New Year’s Eve - heavy drinking that night concerned her. Snooki is over 21; however, you can still use this as a segway to discuss underage drinking, poor choices and your values surrounding that.  It may sound like I’m judging Snooks, but I’m not trying to. (Well, maybe a little, I can’t believe she’s going to be someone’s mother, the girl has difficulty walking!)

I love The Jersey Shore for many reasons, the main one being that young adults are watching this train wreck and emulating it. What better way to connect with teens than at their level?  Use The Jersey Shore and other shows teens are watching, to pull out teachable moments and have a conversation. 

Also try books and movies - in the hugely popular Twilight series Edward is popping in and out of Bella’s bedroom unannounced and without obtaining her consent. Their relationship is dangerous. It can even kill Bella, yet she gives up her human life for him.  Yes, relationships are give and take and sacrifices are made in the name of love, so let’s have a dialogue about this. 

Watching Glee? Kurt, Santana and Dave Karofsky are dealing with what it’s like to be a gay teen in high school.  While Kurt and Santana have supportive parents, Dave’s mother told him he has a disease that can be cured.  This season, after Karofsky’s football teammates discovered he was gay they teased him and vandalized his locker with homophobic slurs. He attempted suicide as a result.  What power do our words and actions have?  How can teens be a good friend when someone is suffering?  Does anyone choose to be straight or where they just born that?  Why would it be any different with being born gay?  What resources are available when it all appears lost?  Again, even if you have never watched Glee,  gay teen suicide is rising at an alarming rate  and being playing out in high schools all across the nation.

Ready, Set, Talk.

Without being judgmental and skewing their response, ask your teen what they think about Snooki, Bella, the Glee cast, or any other media character you choose.  Use your teachable moment to prompt them to share their thoughts and values.  Really listen to what they have to say, and don’t assume if they have questions about sex and birth control, they are having sex. 

In our sex-soaked culture, it’s everywhere. There is no hiding from it and there is plenty of misinformation out there.   After you have heard their responses, use this opportunity to share yours. Correct mistakes you’ve heard and convey (and repeat!) your family values.  It’s never too late to start the conversation and it’s incredibly powerful in affecting the choices your child will make in the future.

And there you are, talking about sex. See? That wasn’t too hard, was it?

Kim Comatas
Partners in Sex Education

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jim Rizoli April 02, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Kim...The Churches have failed in their responsibility to teach their flock. The result is obvious.... Yes it's the parents primary responsibility to teach sex education. I would think they would't want problems to arise in their childrens life so they would be honest and straightforward. Problem is many parents today don't have a good moral background in what is condidered "moral" and the everything goes lifestyle,whatever makes you feel good life comes into play here. Not the lifstyle that is going to make for a good future. The standards are there it's too bad more don't grasp on to them. David...."sexual openness".....that takes in a lot of things....some in which people are in jail for. Maybe you can explain what is considred "open" Jim@ccfiile.com
Kim Poness April 02, 2012 at 03:50 PM
I would posit that it is very easy for people without children to place all of the blame for society’s perceived moral evils at the feet of the parents. In fact, parenting is a very complex undertaking, for which a one-size-fits-all approach, in my experience, simply doesn’t work. Morals, or the generally accepted rules for behavior, seem to evolve over time, as does the set of values by which each individual person governs their personal lives and decisions. That said, each parent needs to decide for themselves what exactly IS honest and straightforward according to their own set of values. I had very open discussions with my children about sex and sexuality beginning when they were very young. In my particular situation, I’m glad I did that, as by the time they were teenagers, they weren’t particularly interested in having any in-depth conversations with me about those topics. Personally, I think the bigger ill in society today is the nasty, rude, and divisive manner in which a great many people speak to each other. But I digress, as usual.
Jim Rizoli April 02, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Kim...I would agree with you on those points. In regard to the "nasty, rude, and divisive manner in which a great many people speak to each other" I would also agree with that. In my travels I speak on many taboo issues, and you haven't seen Rude, nasty, divisive, until you get caught up in the frill of those topics. I find people will call "You" actually me...every insult in the book....for what...having a different opinion? But even more rude is people not talking to you at all, which is their way to dispense you out of existence. It's actually a Cult thing. Now what do you think is worse being rude, or nasty to you, or not even acknowledging that you exist? I find this latter point actually used by the people you would think would be vehemently against it. One thing is for sure, if the "Witch" trials were brought back I already know who would be the ones lighting the fires, and smiling as they do it. Jim@ccfiile.com
Brenda Crawshaw April 02, 2012 at 05:16 PM
I don't know about anyone else but I would be **exceedingly** uncomfortable with a church that has permitted the pervasive and wholesale sexual abuse against boys by its leaders to have ANYTHING at ALL to do with the sexual education of my child. This is why from a very early age I have been extremely frank in providing age appropriate information to my son about pretty much everything, including the topic of sex. As a result I am the proud mom of a son who does NOT sexualize his female peers, doesn't find misogynistic behavior acceptable and has a very healthy outlook about the sanctity of sexual activity. I highly doubt any school or church could have provided him with the same foundation to assimilate the information in the way he has.
Joe Rizoli April 02, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I would also like to admit that people who even bring up their kids with a moral Biblical background still have problems because like Kim says, parenting is "a very complex undertaking" People will sometimes NOT do something BECAUSE it is "against the Law" My references to a foundation, a set of beliefs based on the Bible was used in that same context, as was the early foundation for our country, whether those here believe in it or not, but the Bible WAS the early foundation for our countries laws, albeit sometimes it went to a bit of extremes as interpreted, Ann Hutchinson comes to mind. Believe me, don't think I am in line with the current born again crazies now, I am not, but I do believe that the education of our kids could get on a better tract if people showed that some lifestyles are against the council of Bible. That's all I am trying to say. There is some great council in the Bible for husbands, wives, children, our dealings for honest business practices, I could go on and on.... http://tinyurl.com/ct3xhdw My daughter understands that my dealings in life centers around Biblical teachings as a foundation on how to live and treat people. If there is no foundation, no core beliefs based on SOMETHING, ( to me it's the Bible, ) then why would anyone live right? That's how I would teach sex education to my daughter or Grand kids. The writer of the article told how she did it I'm telling you how I do it. I don't need the name calling thank you..... Joe Rizoli

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