Sex Education for Teenagers
Our kids live in a society where they are exposed to sexual images and behaviours much before they are psychologically, emotionally and mentally prepared to handle them properly. Before the kids get influenced by television, internet, or friends who have half-baked knowledge, it is our responsibility as parents and caregivers to inform and educate our kids about sex. The earlier we start to address this issue, the better as there is no dearth of ‘misleading’ information out there. Being transparent and honest about sexuality with our kids is important if we want to raise confident, body positive youngsters.
What does Sex Education Entail?
Information about body structures of men and women, knowledge about birth is definitely a big part of sex education. Sex education can include a parent telling a child where babies come from, parent discussing values and beliefs about navigating relationships, or a friend telling another friend about contraceptives or menstruation. The scope is quite wide indeed.
Evolution of Sex Education
Sex education has evolved quite a lot from the times we were kids. It used to be a taboo back then; we would walk out of the living room whenever a kissing scene would come up on TV or would be embarrassed to talk about menstruation with friends. I remember some of the parents in earlier times would be uncomfortable expressing love in front of kids or talking about anything sexual in the presence of youngsters. However, current times are definitely better than before in terms of openness and transparency. Nowadays, sex education doesn’t have to one big talk with a teenager; it is rather a series of small, frequent, and repetitive conversations with your child.
How to Go About Educating Kids about Sex?
It can be daunting to know where to start, especially if we were not handed down the necessary and adequate information when we were kids. While we can tell ourselves that their schools will do a decent job of educating about sex, it definitely needs to be complemented with information from home too. No matter how awkward and uncomfortable you might be to broach the topic, sex education is a parent’s responsibility. Lean on your spouse to help you if you think you can’t break ice at first and thereon work together on this journey.
So let’s help you with some ways you can get started about sex education with your kids:
1. Use Everyday Opportunity’s to Talk about Sexuality and Relationships
Some of the common teachable moments at home could be when a family member announces a pregnancy, or there are TV ads for sanitary pads/tampons or birth control. You can even educate them about how unrealistic and sexualised images/photoshopped pictures are out there. Respect your child if you think the teen is not ready to hear it at the moment.
2. Be Encouraging
Reassure your kid that it’s ok for them to come talk to you anytime about any questions or concerns regarding this topic, no matter how big or small. Keep them encouraged by using phrases such as “Michelle, I am glad you trusted me enough to come and talk to me.” It reinforces a sense of pride and security in kids.
3. Help them Understand What Healthy Relationship Looks like
It is important to emphasize to kids that the bottom-line is to have a healthy relationship, not something centred around sex alone. Here is how you can help:
• Be a Role Model
If you have a good relationship with your partner, chances are you are already steps ahead in this journey. Let your kids witness you and your partner working through a conflict in a respectful, calm, and collected manner and try to find a win-win solution. Let your child know it is necessary to feel honoured in their relationships, to be able to ‘keep’ their friends and family after entering a new relationship, and to feel good about who they are.
• Get Into Some Details - Use examples from family or friend circle to show your teens what healthy relationships look like. Try to know how does he treat you when you are alone compared to when your friends or parents are around? Tell them what is ok to share on social media and what is not. Most importantly, if your kid is feeling pressured to do somethings that he or she is not comfortable doing, show them how to assertively put their foot down.
• Talk about Consent - This is key that your child understands the concept of consent. Impress the fact that no means no. Explain to your kid that sex should not happen out of fear or a sense of obligation to your partner. If the partner threatens to leave you if you don’t have sex, show them how to negotiate out of that situation. Do remember to emphasize that usage of alcohol or drugs hampers judgement and shouldn’t be used.
4. Leverage the Media
No better way to educate your child thorough a medium they like best. You can look up an informative series on Netflix such as ’13 Reasons Why’ (there are several others) and discuss it together. Make sure your voice doesn’t change from normal to serious when talking about these things. Don’t change channels if you see an uncomfortable scene or difficult messaging - use it as a teachable moment.
5. Educate them About the Consequences of Sex
This might be the most awkward part and parcel of sex education but as parents, we need to get it done. While most of it will most likely be covered in their schools too, reiterating it at home at best, will help impress the critical piece in their minds, or at worst, clarify whatever doubts they had from the class session. You will have to cover the entire gamut from emotional distress to pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
6. Brace Yourself with Answers
Prepare yourself to answer tough questions such as ‘how will I know when I am ready for sex?’ Peer pressure, the feeling of isolation, being cast out of the group, and the desire to be part of the “friends gang”, might make them want to indulge into early sexual activity. Show them with examples how and why it is ok to wait. Offer them alternatives to express affection, such as holding hands, talking with an open heart, hugging, dancing, going for long walks, etc. You may also want to think ahead about how to prepare your teen regarding how can they decide whether a partner is interested in them as a person or just as a potential sex partner?
7. Stay Honest
Many times, we parents don’t have answers to all the questions our teenagers might pose to us. Let’s face it. Relationships are complicated and there is never one right answer. If you don’t know an answer to your kid’s question there and then, honestly say so. Offer to come back at a later time with a clear, thought out response.
8. Keep your Anger at Bay
If you interview a teen about what his/her fears are, this one will appear in top 5 in their list - ‘fear of disappointing my parents’. While it is understandable to scold the kids if what they did was wrong, reassure them that nothing could ever make you stop loving them. You don’t want to get into a situation where they shut themselves from coming to you out of fear of disappointing you or having to deal with your rage.
9. Safety Tops the Chart
Establish a code word with your teen or a code method so they can ask for help from you should they be stuck in an unfavourable or potentially dangerous situation. Reinforce repeatedly that nothing matters more to you than their safety. Make sure they can come to you for help even if something goes very wrong.
A lot of you might think, ‘none of this is going to make a difference, my teen isn’t going to listen to me anyway’. Even if you think your teen is disinterested in knowing what you have to say, share it anyway. There is a big fat chance he or she is actually listening!