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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.

Brenda Crawshaw March 20, 2012 at 11:48 AM
AWESOME article Kim! Talking about sex demystifies it and what is better protection than the FACTS? You wouldn't let your kids see all these movies about how fun it is to drive and then leave them in a lot full of cars with the keys in the ignition, right? With all their friends doing doughnuts and drag racing? So why be this way about sex? It's THEIR bodies; they have the right and the responsibility to know the whole picture. Your kids are lucky indeed!
Joe Rizoli April 01, 2012 at 06:53 AM
We've come a long way from the Northwest Ordinance ( 1787 ) which said: >> Article the Third. Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.>> http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/northwest.html GREAT source of other documents. http://www.constitution.org/primarysources/primarysources.html Just my two cents: We have lost the ability to give our children guidance, which when our early Forefathers came here was made plane in the Mayflower Compact, which said GOD is part of our liberty and a good government. At that point in time the BIBLE was used in the classrooms as the standard for that " Religion, morality and knowledge". It is not now, it is mocked and made irrelevant by today's generation. Some time back we did a video explaining a very important link to our pass that proved that point as to what we have lost. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnTvJxdoKwQ&feature=related%20%7F Actor Kirk Cameron also proved that point also 2 years later after us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRPm3M660Bk That movie, MONUMENTAL, had a one night stand at the Framingham AMC theater this last Tue to a sizable crowd. Joe Rizoli
Kim Poness April 01, 2012 at 12:43 PM
I feel compelled to respond, as I'm not seeing the link between the Northwest Ordinance, the Mayflower Compact, the Bible, and talking about sex with your teen.
Jim Rizoli April 01, 2012 at 03:27 PM
The point I believe Joe is making is WE'VE come a long way from the original intentions of those articles, as morals seem to not to exist in too many areas today. If these conversations make the point to hold onto these strong moral values .......good......... if not I guess we reap what we sow. It would do you good to visit the Forefathers Monument in Plymouth to see what was the original intent of the Puritans/Pilgrims in coming here in the first place. Plymouth is not advertising this Monument because it would only open up more questions about the past. Most of Society has lost their way today, what can I say. Jim@ccfiile.com
Brenda Crawshaw April 01, 2012 at 04:43 PM
As usual, TweedleJim and TweedleJoe have to chime in with something that has relevance only in their minds........
Jim Rizoli April 01, 2012 at 07:43 PM
We have to defend our Constitution, The Bible, and the laws laid out by God..... Would be remiss if I didn't. Jim@ccfiile.com
Susan Petroni (Editor) April 01, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Jim/Joe: the article is on sex education for youths and young adults - let's stick to the topic! Let's focus on sex here and not religion ... and keep it appropriate.
Kim Poness April 01, 2012 at 08:20 PM
I grew up in Manomet, went to school in Plymouth, and have been to the monument more times than I can count, but thanks for the suggestion.
Jim Rizoli April 01, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Ok...... I'm willing to "focus" on SEX here.......Just don't delete me. Jim@ccfiile.com
Susan Petroni (Editor) April 01, 2012 at 10:40 PM
I did say keep it appropriate!!! The blog post is on sex education for youths and young adults - let's stick to the topic!
Joe Rizoli April 01, 2012 at 11:21 PM
The original article posted said this: >>Kim Comatas Mother and educator. What Mother isn't?>> Her great article mentions a few times the word "values". Where do values come from? They come from the families "educator". Where does the family educator get that information about the values she/he has about sex education? I don't think it comes from observing animals at the zoo.Those values come from PEOPLE, parents, grandparents, the religious institutions you visit every Sunday or whenever. My point is using Kirk Cameron as an example for education is that he has six kids. How does he do it? Does he have a set of values he has given to his six kids? You bet. That's why he was at the Forefathers monument. It may offend some here but that monument tells the history of our country and the FOUNDATION that it stands on, or used to stand on. Our country was founded on certain values. Those values came from where the person on that Forefathers monument is pointing. Kirk Cameron as an educator of his children was put here in my links as a great example for those who are having problems with explaining sex to their kids. If that offends anyone then you should think about moving out of the USA. You can't erase the words of the Mayflower Compact. The existence of our New England colonies rest on those words. The fact that MORALITY was one of the monuments four huge statues hopefully will give some here some sort of direction to WHERE MORALITY comes from. Joe Rizoli
Brenda Crawshaw April 01, 2012 at 11:32 PM
OMG - anyone else hear a Swiss clock?
David Nolta April 02, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Brenda, do not despair. You are not alone. And the claim (bizarre, in a post about an article on sex education) that the Founders Monument in Plymouth is somehow the "most important monument" in the USA, and the unilateral source of all truth (not to mention the equally absurd and grotesquely inaccurate claim that "Plymouth is not advertising this Monument because it would only open up more questions about the past,"), well, you shouldn't be concerned about that. This continent was not "discovered" only by Puritans, nor was this great country founded by close-minded religious bigots, nor is the The Constitution a blue-print for oppressing anybody who doesn't interpret the Bible the way a small bunch of boat-people did in the 17th century. And as for morality, that's the province of all thinking and feeling people--we all have a say in determining what is best for ourselves, our children, and our nation. So bring on the education--bring on the questioning, that teaches our children to think seriously about what they are told about EVERYTHING, including sex, and including religion, and including all those things that really matter in life.
Jim Rizoli April 02, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Would we expect any less from you David....Mr. Liberal extraordinaire..... Our past history is what it is you can erase that....but we good you a A+ for trying. jim@ccfiile.com
David Nolta April 02, 2012 at 12:29 AM
When you say "bigot" they immediately answer.
Kim Poness April 02, 2012 at 12:29 AM
As always, well said, David. Thanks for such an intelligent and thoughtful rebuttal (for lack of a better term).
Jim Rizoli April 02, 2012 at 12:45 AM
When WE say Liberal you answer..... Jim@ccfiile.com
David Nolta April 02, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Thank you, Kim. Praise from you is always meaningful.
Myd Nevins April 02, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Agreed. Nicely said, David.
David Nolta April 02, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Thank you too, Myd! I do love to be appreciated!
Joe Rizoli April 02, 2012 at 02:43 AM
So David WHO sets the rules for moral conduct? The Local zoo? Snookie? The Locals at ProvinceTown? Just curious. Do we have some sort of moral guidance as humans to be governed by or is it a free for all as you describe it? I'm really curious here because I would bet a lot of people go to some church or religious service. I would assume that service deals with a Creator that we owe our existence too. If that is true then their must be some set of rules, laws or SOMETHING that we need to follow. Then again if there is NO ultimate decider of morals and how we should live then why do people go to a church? Why waste time in myths, or trying to live by a moral compass when that compass doesn't exist. When does a action by a person become a perversion to society? WHO decides what would make a persons conduct perverted? Is there a real line of demarcation? It would appear that GOD would certainly have to be left out of the picture here, wouldn't it? Because after all it is all of us individually who decides what is moral, decent, virtuous according to YOU. That would include those individuals currently in prison for sex crimes I guess. Gee I wonder why they would be in prison in the first place? Didn't they do what you said? Decide for THEMSELVES what is moral, decent and lawful? Why would they be in prison then? What was wrong with their education about sex? Just curious. Joe Rizoli
Joe Rizoli April 02, 2012 at 03:53 AM
David, Obviously you would not have been on the original Mayflower. When you and your liberal friends get some time explain to us the Mayflower Compact...you won't....Why? Because the words God and Jesus Christ are mentioned in it... You should be ashamed calling the Mayflower "boat people". I am not ashamed of our nations past. Sure, not everything was perfect, but a least some sort of education based on morals existed. The original Websters dictionary of 1850 proved that point nicely, look up words for marriage, and family, also look into an education tool called the Christian Primer. You do know what that was don't you all? I would recommend a refresher in that book for sex education. Joe Rizoli
Jim Rizoli April 02, 2012 at 03:54 AM
David....so who makes the decision on what the kids are taught sexually? The Churches? The politicians? The baker down the street? Morality comes from somehwere, so where? Guys are in jail for raping women where does it say you can't rape women? Having sex with underage children is that right? Where does it say that having sex with young child is "inappropriate"? Believe it or not the Puritans (those bad "Boat people") had it right and their views are what established All of New-England and the rest of this country, and these "morals" stood firm with us until around 50 yrs ago when the liberal lifestye took over. Bottom line.....People have an inward conscience speaking to them on what is right and wrong in regards to sexual matters. I think this inner consceince comes from our creator, and these words have been left for us in written form......That's why there are churches...those are the places where we would learn those things. I guess the Churches are not doing what they should be doing, and I'm sure you're happy about that. Jim@ccfiile.com
Kim Poness April 02, 2012 at 01:19 PM
What a strange conclusion - that someone would be happy that churches are not doing what they "should" be doing, simply because they hold what is considered to be a liberal view (interesting note : one of the definitions of "liberal" is "free from bigotry"). It may be important to note that some of the Puritan views were harsh, extreme, bigoted, and xenophobic. What I personally find to be equally as important in light of this conversation is the Puritan notion that each individual should interpret the Bible for themselves. As far as morals and values with regard to sexual education for children - that should be left up to the parents. I would venture to say that open-minded people do not simply take the views of their parents and pass them along to their children unquestioned - I would say that they take those views and examine them through the lens of both their own experiences and the changing societal landscape. I would also say that it becomes difficult to use religion as a basis for those conversations in light of the church scandals of the last decades.
David Nolta April 02, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Yes, Kim. And the Puritans, to whom we all owe something, I'm sure, were the newcomers--the 'xenes" then, too (I think I made that word up). The way that the Spaniards and Portuguese were in Florida and more southerly territories of the so-called New World, many arriving long before The Mayflower. Reading the comments above, I find it funny that some people choose to be offended by the expression "boat people"; all I meant is that the original Puritans who came to this area came by boat, were fleeing from persecution or intolerance (like "boat people" in more recent times), and that they had to stay on the boat when they first reached land. No shame at all in the term, but then, "honi soit qui mal y pense". And it is a fact of history and human nature that many Puritans had real problems with people who didn't agree with their interpretations of Scripture, and were often intolerant and violent toward them... Now I have another question that you or someone else might be able to explain. In one of their comments, a Rizoli mentions "The Locals at ProvinceTown". That sounds like the name of a band, but I wonder what it means. I am not from this area originally, nor have I ever been to Provincetown, but I wondered if perhaps the reference had something to do with the people who built the Pilgrim Monument (another one!) in Provincetown. Or could it have to do with Provincetown's reputation for sexual openness? In any case, I'm for sex education, even in April.
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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