The trauma of having the “birds and the bees” chat with your child is a common joke amongst parents. In fact, if you ask any parent, they’ll probably tell you they’d rather go through potty training a toddler again than have a frank discussion about what goes where during sex with their tweens and teens.
I’ve had many a discussion with my mom friends about the dreaded times when our kids have asked, “Hey, mom, where do babies come from?” and we’ve all laughed into our glasses of Chardonnay about the awkwardness of discussing the mechanics of sex with our tweens. My friends still tease me about the time my son asked me what a “blow work” was and my honest explanation.
However, while relaying our embarrassing sex talk stories to our friends can be amusing, there will come a time when your teen comes to you and tells you he or she is ready to actually have sex.
And that conversation is no laughing matter.
Sex is a big deal, no matter how many times you’ve done it.
And, when it’s your first time, it’s an even bigger deal.
Like it or not, teens are going to have sex and, if we play our cards right, our kids will come to us openly and honestly about their decision to be intimate with someone. Explaining the mechanics of sex to your teen is one thing, but making sure they are actually ready to do the deed (and accept the responsibility) is another issue entirely.
And, if our teens come to us to discuss their plans for sex, we owe it to our kids to take them seriously.
We owe it to them (and their future partners) to not immediately yell, “Not under my roof!” or “Wait until you are older!” as we shut down the conversation.
So, use these tips to help facilitate the conversation in a way that doesn’t make both of you uncomfortable:
Don’t lecture your teen.
Seriously, don’t. The last thing a teenager wants to hear is a list of reasons why sex is a bad idea. Because, let’s face it: if your teen is telling you he’s ready for sex, he’s probably already done some sexual experimenting. And the quickest way to get your teenager to decide not to talk to you about sex is getting a lecture from Mom or Dad.
Be honest about your own teenage sexual experiences.
When your teen has opened up to you about wanting to have sex, now would be a good time to be honest about your experiences as a teen. Did you wait until you were older? Why? Do you regret having sex at an early age? Talk to your teen about your first time as a way to help them process their feelings, but don’t project your feelings onto them either. You’ll find skipping the “do as I say, not as I do” route will help your teen open up.
Use gender neutral terms when talking about sex.
As I’ve discussed sex with my kids over the years, I’ve been careful to use the word “partner” rather than “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” I want my kids to know that I support their sexual identities and that I don’t assume to know who they will chose to be intimate with. Using inclusive terms will create trust and security between you and your child.
Discuss all forms of sexual intimacy. Yes, ALL of them.
Again, don’t assume that your teen will be experimenting with sex in the “traditional” sense of the word. Your teen might be contemplating having sex with a same-sex partner. Just because your child identifies as heterosexual now, doesn’t mean they will stay within those parameters forever. There’s a chance they are still working through their sexual identity, and haven’t had a frank discussion with you about that just yet.
Or, your teen might want to try oral sex with her partner. Giving your teen accurate, honest information about the various ways to have sex will help him/her make the right decisions later on.
Make sure the rules of consent are crystal clear.
It is not enough to tell your sons “no means no” because recent studies have shown that men, particularly college-aged men, still have difficulty discerning between sexual interest and consent. Make sure your child knows the difference, and make sure they are aware of instances when someone is unable to give informed consent (e.g. while intoxicated).
Additionally, make sure your teen understands that they never have to do anything that makes them uncomfortable with their partner, and that there’s no shame in speaking up throughout the process of intercourse.
Talk openly about birth control. And make condoms readily available.
Unprotected sex comes with very real adult consequences: pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Educate your teen about the transmission of diseases like herpes, genital warts and other STDs. Talk to your teen about how to use a condom, where to get them and why protection is necessary when being sexually intimate. Discuss birth control options with your teenage daughter and allow her and her doctor to decide which one will be best for her. And, if you wanted to stash a box of condoms in your teen’s bathroom cabinet, that wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. (Yes, I’m serious.)
Make sure your teen knows that sex is a two-way street.
When my son asked me about “blow works,” I not only had a frank conversation with him about the mechanics of blow jobs, but I also took it one step further. I took the opportunity to discuss the fact that sex is never about one-sided gratification, that both partners should walk away satisfied. And I’ve had the same conversation with my daughter. Sex isn’t about being greedy, it’s about mutually satisfying your partner in a way that is comfortable for both sides.
Hearing that your teenager is ready to have sex is stressful, and can be hard to process. But, by keeping an open mind and listening more than lecturing, your teen will come to you more and more as he or she experiments sexually. We want to keep their trust, and maintain those lines of communication. And, of course, there’s no judgment if you have to gulp down some wine or head out on a brisk walk after talking about condoms and birth control with your teen. I get it, Mama, trust me.