Many parents would rather not talk with their kids about sex. Of course many parents would rather not talk with anyone about sex. And while you can choose to avoid sexual communication in your adult life with romantic partners (but I wouldn’t recommend it) if you choose to never talk with your kids about sex you do so not only at your own peril, but theirs as well. There are lots of good reasons to talk with your kids about sex. Here are a few of my favorites.
Talking with your kids about sex can help keep them safer.There is a lot of research that has shown that when parents talk with their kids about sex, their children are:
- more likely to use contraception
- more likely to delay intercourse
- less likely to have a teenage pregnancy
To be clear, it’s not just any kind of sex talk that helps, and some of the survey research offers conflicting reports on the impact of talking with your kids about sex, which may reflect the fact that it is possible to talk with your kids about sex in ways that are not helpful. So while it’s a good idea to talk with your kids about sex, it’s equally important to know what makes for good sex education and what the best way is to do it.
Kids listen to their parents when they talk about sex.It might surprise some people who think of teens as extremely disaffected and contradictory to find out that both adolescents and teens, when asked, say they listen to what their parents have to say about sex:
- One study in 1995 found that adolescents rated parents higher in credibility than school and friends when it comes to getting sex information (although they rated them low in “accessibility”).
- A more recent 2006 survey by the Canadian Association for Adolescent Health found that sixty three percent of teens considered their parents a major source of information, and forty three percent thought parents were the most useful and valuable source of information.
It may be true that when they reach a certain age your kids are less likely to listen to what you have to say about many things. Interestingly, sexuality doesn’t seem to be on that list.
You’ll learn things from talking with your kids about sex.Having to talk with your kids about sex means having to re-think many aspects of sexuality you may now take for granted. Even answering a simple question like “why would anyone want to have sex?” (not an uncommon question among kids of a certain age) requires us to think carefully about what sex means for us. In another example, with an older child, you might have to do some research just to keep up with sexual options on line, and this means learning for yourself as well as your child.
The fact is that when it comes to sex we’re all life long students. Our sexuality never stops changing as we age and this means that as long as we don’t turn away from it, there is always something new to learn. Talking with your kids about sex is another way to keep your mind open to the meaning of sex in your own life.
Talking about sex with your kids can further develop your relationship.Any relationship that’s based on communication is going to have its challenges, and often its in overcoming those challenges that the relationship grows. Your relationship with your kids is no different, particularly as they get older and become more independent adults. Talking with your kids about sex won’t always be easy, but it’s well worth the effort, and the payoff can be more than a healthy child, it can be a healthier relationship overall.
Eisenberg, M.E., Sieving, R.E., et. al. “Parents’ Communication with Adolescents About Sexual Behavior: A Missed Opportunity for Prevention?” Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Vol. 35, No. 6 (2006): 893-902.