Five Anxiety-Management Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Sex

parents-talking-children-sex-0329137The sex talk is enough to send just about any parent into a tailspin of anxiety. Such anxiety can affect the quality of the conversation, your child’s attitudes about sex, and your child’s willingness to come to you with future sex-related questions. If your kid thinks he or she is going to be met with an anxious, flustered parent who conveys negativity, the child is much more likely to consult a friend—which can lead to misinformation.

Before you talk with your child about sex, you’ll need to examine your own attitudes so that you can convey comfort and confidence. While there’s no guarantee that you can completely move past your anxiety, there are a few things you can do to minimize it.

Examine Your Own Attitudes
Before you begin trying to shape your child’s attitudes about sex, look at your own ideas. Many parents, for example, want children to have healthy attitudes toward sex but feel uncomfortable with the topic themselves. Children believe what their parents do, not what they say, and no matter how positively you speak, negativity will rub off on your child.

Spend some time thinking about particular topics that make you uncomfortable and examine why these might be hot-button issues for you. If you have sexual issues of your own, it’s a good idea to talk to a therapist before you talk to your child. If there’s a specific topic that makes you uncomfortable, try delegating that topic to your spouse or a trusted family friend.

Start Early
There’s no way you can convey all the information your child needs to know about sex in a single talk, and trying to do so can spell disaster. Parents should start talking to their children about sex early, and continue providing age-appropriate information as children develop.

Starting early can help you move past your own anxiety. After all, it’s usually easier to talk to an adoring 6-year-old than to a judgmental teenager. By starting early, you get into the habit of talking about sex with your child, and this can make it easier to talk about other challenging subjects as your child gets older.

Make It Natural
Anything can start a conversation—a television show, news story, or the experience of a family member. There’s no need to corner your child and start a highly serious talk. Instead, use every opportunity you can to talk about sex in a comfortable, low-key environment.

When you let the conversation flow naturally, you’re less likely to build up dread. Conversations that occur as part of everyday events tend to be shorter, too, which can help reduce anxiety and stress.

Lower the Stakes
Sex conversations can seem like high-stakes talks, during which you must give every conceivable piece of information your child might ever need. This attitude can contribute to parental anxiety and make your child not want to talk to you about sex again.

Instead, try treating sex like any other topic, raising it in an easy, low-key manner. Pretend you’re talking about how to safely cross the road or how to kick a soccer ball. Heavy-handed approaches may be more likely to be met with skeptical, dismissive, or even rebellious reactions.

Ask for Feedback
Most parents’ conversations with their children are two-sided. You might each share what you did during the day or discuss your thoughts on a family member or political issue. But parents tend to make the sex talk one-sided, lecturing their children and expecting them to take in a huge quantity of information.

This practice not only makes it less likely that your child will get good information, it can also increase your anxiety. Instead, try asking your child his or her thoughts, asking how much he or she has learned, or even asking if the child feels like he or she can trust the information you’re giving. This gives your kid a chance to provide feedback and ask questions, and makes the sex talk seem much more like any other conversation.

References:

  1. Park, A. (2009, December 07). Parents’ sex talk with kids: Too little, too late. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1945759,00.html
  2. Talking with kids about sex and relationships. (n.d.). Talk With Your Kids. Retrieved from http://www.talkwithkids.org/sex.html

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  • jason

    jason

    March 29th, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Could someone please explain to me why there is this anxiety about talking to our kids about sex? It’s not like we don’t understand sex, and why wouldn’t we want them to have more information about it than we probably did? I guess I don’t see what all the fuss is about, because like it or not they have to get the information, and wouldn’t you rather it come from you?

  • Keenan

    Keenan

    March 30th, 2013 at 12:07 AM

    Talking about sex to kids is good. my parents go that… but you have to talk in a comfortable manner without making the child feel anxious – my parents didn’t get that… so whenever they did want to tell me about the birds and bees, it was a tense atmosphere at home and it would almost seem like a courtroom to me because everything was kept aside and the focus was on me and the sex talk!

    I felt like a criminal and hardly ever did anything except nodding my head occasionally. Wish it was better because they did give out good information… just the way they did was not the best. I plan on better the delivery method when I am talking to my own kids in the future. Keep it simple people, and keep the kid comfortable when talking about it.

  • Ben J

    Ben J

    March 30th, 2013 at 5:51 AM

    What is so hard about this for many parents is that some of us don’t have a very good reference point for what this whole conversation is supposed to look like.

    I was raised in a very conservative and strict family, and most of what I knew about sex I learned either from friends or just on my own as I got older. My parents never had the talk with me because I really think that they always thought that sex was something utilitarian and to be ashamed of.

    But I want my kids to have something better than that, but you can understand my own discomfort as I try to broach this subject with them without ever having been given this when I was young. It doesn’t cause me stress per se, but it does make me feel a little nervcus about being able to give them the right amount of information at the right time.

  • brandon

    brandon

    March 30th, 2013 at 11:56 PM

    Never was good at communicating about sex with the kids. It was always educational videos and the wife talking to them. Maybe that is because I come from a conservative family where this was never spoken about, but I hope more parents out there actually do talk because it is an important step of growing up for the kids.

  • tabitha

    tabitha

    March 31st, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    So glad that there are apparently a lot of people who are not stressed about having this talk, but I for one am terrified! What if I can’t answer all of their questions in a way that satisfies their curiosity and gives them the information that they need to make informed decisiosn? I am glad that my kids come to me with their questions, I guess that means that I am at least doing a little something right. But to have that kind of in depth conversation with them that I know it is getting time to have, that scares me.

  • McKayla

    McKayla

    April 1st, 2013 at 5:07 AM

    It is critical that you have these conversations early and often with your kids. It is a whole lot easier to give them small bits of information along the way than it is to overwhelm them and you with all of it at once, and particularly at a time whenthey probably don’t want to hear all of this from you in the first place! I find that you have a much better chance of having a good conversation with them later if you have been willing to talk to them about much of this all along. You can’t wait til they are in the throes of adolescence and have already heard it from someone else- you need to get to them before others have a chance to give them the wrong information.

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