The 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.
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.
- 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
- Talking with kids about sex and relationships. (n.d.). Talk With Your Kids. Retrieved from http://www.talkwithkids.org/sex.html
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.