Sue Scheff: Parent-Teen Sex Talk

“I always get a little bit nervous because I always worry about what they might ask me about my own life.”
– Judy Crim, Mother

When 12-year-old Sean Crim has a question about sex he asks his mother. “I would probably rather get information about sex from my parents. They always tell me the truth and they’ve never really lied to me about anything,” he says.

But for his mom, talking about sex isn’t easy. “I always get a little bit nervous because I always worry about what they might ask me about my own life,” says Judy Crim.

It’s an issue for lots of parents. If your children ask about your life before marriage, how would you answer? Sean’s mom says it’s happened to her.

Judy says, “We talk about what was going on when I was a teenager, what teenagers were actively doing. And they’ll say mom did you do any of that?”

It’s an awkward question. Experts say if you are too uncomfortable…you don’t have to answer.
Leola Reis of Planned Parenthood says, “They are still the parent and some of that is not really appropriate. I don’t think you need to lie, I think you can withhold that information. ‘This conversation is not really about me and what I did. It’s what my hopes are for you. And let me tell you some of the things I’ve learned.’”
But if you decide to talk about your past, experts say don’t lie, and remember that you don’t have to say too much. Reis suggests sentences like ”I’m not really comfortable with some of the things I did as a young person.’”

Still, your past can be a lesson for kids about avoiding mistakes. Judy Crim says, “I can also offer them if I made a choice to do something, what regret did I have to live with? What guilt do I have to live with? And how did that affect my life?”

Tips for Parents
Recent studies have shown a decrease in the prevalence of many sexual behaviors among high school students throughout the United States, including sexual intercourse. Further, studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the percentage of sexually active students who used a condom at last intercourse continued to increase.

Even though the number of sexually active teens is in decline, the percentage of sexually active teens is still alarming. Consider the following statistics taken from a recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey:

Nationwide, 47.8% of students had ever had sexual intercourse (Table 61). Overall, the prevalence of having had sexual intercourse was higher among male (49.8%) than female (45.9%) students; higher among black male (72.6%) and Hispanic male (58.2%) than black female (60.9%) and Hispanic female (45.8%) students, respectively; and higher among 9th-grade male (38.1%) than 9th-grade female (27.4%) students.

7.1% of students had had sexual intercourse for the first time before age 13 years
14.9% of students had had sexual intercourse with four or more persons during their life
35.0% of students had had sexual intercourse with at least one person during the 3 months before the survey
Among the 35.0% of currently sexually active students nationwide, 61.5% reported that either they or their partner had used a condom during last sexual intercourse

Open communication and accurate information from parents increase the chance that teens will postpone sex. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, in talking with your child or adolescent, it is helpful to:

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 own discomfort.
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 manner.

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
American Social Health Association
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

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