Don’t let “The Talk” Leave You Tongue-tied
According to a September survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the majority of adolescents 12 to 19 said parents most influence their sexual decisions. On the other hand, most parents believed their children’s friends are most influential. In addition, 6 out of 10 adolescents surveyed said their parents are role models for healthy, responsible relationships.
While it may cause parents to cringe, talking about sex to your children and teens is important, says Vicki Panaccione, a licensed child psychologist in Melbourne. “That’s because children are physically developing at a younger age and are exposed to more sex in society than ever before.”
But she cautions parents to consider the child’s age before jumping into specifics.
“Your discussions have to be based on age and try not to give more information than they can emotionally handle,” Panaccione says. “With little ones, you should be talking about how mom and dad love each other and when that happens, they have a baby.”
By age 10, parents should be more specific, using correct names (of anatomy) and (by age 12) explaining the actual act of sex. It’s also a good time to explain that physical intimacy is a commitment to another person.
“Some people get too mechanical and never explain that this other person must be special and love is involved,” she says.
Also, keep in mind that when children ages 3 to 7 ask questions, they may be repeating what they’ve heard or seen from others. So, see what they know about the topic first, ask them to explain what it means, and then provide answers that are age-appropriate.
“It’s helpful to have visual aids or videos, too,” Panaccione says. “It can take anxiety off of the parent since the words aren’t coming through your mouth but through the material.”
Whether it’s a discussion or visual aids or whether parents advocate abstinence or safe sex, children should be given factual information.
1) Keep in mind the age of the children when explaining sex. Young children don’t need to know details about how the body works.
2) With older children, take the time not only to explain anatomy, but the love, commitment and responsibilities that go along with having sex.
3) Use visual aids, such as books or videotapes. It can decrease anxiety and give something for parents to discuss afterward.
4) Explore what your children already know about sex. If they ask questions, ask where they heard it, what it means to them and then set the record straight.
5) Don’t wait for older children to ask you about the topic. Not providing any information will leave room for misconceptions and bad choices.
As published in Florida Today.
© MMVI Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D.