Resolve to Talk with Your Kids about Sex: Four steps to better communication.

Robin Pittman MS, CHES

Happy New Year! If you are like me, you probably have a list of resolutions for 2019.  In addition to common resolutions such as becoming healthier and more active, I am resolving to inspire parents to have more conversations with their kids about their bodies and about sexuality. Many of us are already talking to our children about their day or their classes, but we need to go deeper with those talks. In this social-media hyper-focused world, kids are seeing and hearing messages about sex, relationships, and dating, and the majority of the information they are hearing is skewed at best, and sometimes just plain wrong. Parents need to be proactive on this topic.

When discussing sex, relationships, and dating, society presents a dichotomous view: fear and shame on one hand and glamour and glitter on the other. This causes the topics of sex to be confusing for kids. Parents are often scared to talk about sexual health fearing that the conversation may cause their children to prematurely engage in sexual activities. However, the research suggests that the more sex education children receive, the less they are to actually engage in sexual activity.

In fact, kids who lack the knowledge about the benefits of delaying sex tend have sex at an earlier age and have more sexual partners.  According to research from the Guttmacher Institute, comprehensive sex education helps teens delay sex and helps with other related decisions such as selecting partners and using contraceptives. This fact is a game-changer for a lot of parents as delaying sex tends to be a major focus when raising adolescents.

With the increase of comprehensive sex education in school systems across the country, teen pregnancy rates have dropped dramatically since the 1990’s. If parents can partner with their school systems by continuing to talk about sexuality at home, rates are likely to drop even more.

The key message here is to keep talking about sexuality with pre-teens and teens.  It works. Let’s do this together by letting our youth know the truth about their growing bodies so they can make smart, informed decisions.

Here are some tips to help guide you through this topic as you open your minds and mouths and make 2019 a great year of communication between you and your child.

1. It is not the child’s responsibility to start this conversation.

If your child approaches you with questions, that is wonderful! You have made yourself approachable. Being an approachable parent means your kids are comfortable with you and see you as a reliable resource for answers. Always let your child know you are there to answer questions, and be open and honest with your response.

However, most kids are not going to run to their parents every time they hear something they are confused about in regards to sexuality. So take the lead by starting the conversation. Check in with them. Discuss messages they hear in movies, television, and music that refer to sex and relationships or human growth and development. Let them know you are here and willing to answer questions. If you are not entirely comfortable with the topic, practice what you want to say first. The more you talk, the easier the conversations will become.

2. Start the conversation early.

The earlier the better! Talking about sexuality when they are young means more complex conversations will be easier as they get older. If you start talking about sexuality with your child at a young age, you and your child will be more comfortable discussing the topic and more complex issues by the time your child reaches adolescence. Wait until their teens, and the chances of your child being uncomfortable and closed off increases.  Each time you have a conversation with your child, a sense of comfort builds, and you open the door for them to keep having these conversations. They will look to you as a guide from a young age.

So what does “sex ed” look like for young ages? Sex education for kids ages 5-6 should teach them about body parts by using the correct anatomical names. Answer all their questions. Try not to avoid them. Questions might be simple like, “Why do adults kiss?” or “Why do people get married?” Keep responses simple and straightforward, and you will open a life-long dialogue about this tough topic.

For more information on this and age by age guide, click on this link

3. Talk comprehensively.

When talking about sex and sexuality during the middle and high school years, it is important to include a range of topics. A comprehensive discussion includes family values and morals, sexual intercourse, reproductive systems of males and females, peer pressure, sexually transmitted diseases, healthy relationships, sexual assault and harassment, and contraceptive methods.

Remember, knowledge is power. Informed kids will make informed decisions about their sexual health and relationships. The more kids know, the better equipped they will be to make the right decisions.

4. Get help.

You are not in this alone. There are several great books that can guide your family through these discussions. Books alone won’t be as effective as a conversation, but they serve as a supplement, providing more in-depth information. Titles such as It’s So Amazing, The Ultimate Girls Body Book and The Ultimate Boys Body Book are great resources. The Poe Center also is offering a mother-daughter workshop called Girl Talk on March 3rd at 9:00 a.m. Find more information below.

(2012). Sex Education Linked to Delay in First Sex. Guttmacher Institute.
(2017). What is Behind Teen Pregnancy Rates? Guttmacher Institute.


 
Classroom Crio Lesson

The Poe Center has partnered with SAS through Curriculum Pathways to provide online access to health science and health education lessons at no cost to teachers across the State of North Carolina. Designed to complement its health education curriculum, the Poe Center’s programs and online content are aligned with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Healthful Living and Science Essential Standards.

Healthy Relationships 101

Grade Level: 9th-12th grade
Program Length: 15-45 minutes

Healthy Relationships 101 explores the facets of what makes a healthy relationship. Setting and communicating personal boundaries, identifying warning signs of unhealthy relationships, and identifying societal influences that impact relationships are discussed through engaging activities, multi-media, and thoughtful reflection. Check out our library of Crio courses today!


 Poe Program: Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Workshop 

Grade Level: 4th – 7th
Program Length: 2 hours

Girl Talk addresses the timely topic of adolescent growth and development and the physical, social and emotional changes that girls experience during puberty. 3-D theater exhibits, hands-on activities, movies and candid discussions help moms and their daughters explore a range of topics from the workings of the reproductive system to the menstrual cycle to feminine hygiene protection & more. Girl Talk has been specifically designed with activities that foster and encourage open mother-daughter communication.

This workshop is being offered at the Poe Center on Saturday, March 2, 2019 from 9:00 am to 11:00 am. Registration is $25.00 for each mother & daughter pair, and $10.00 for each additional daughter.

To register, contact Robin Pittman at: r.pittman@poehealth.org or 919-231-4006