As parents or caregivers, it can be challenging to approach vital conversations with your teen and young adult children about sex and relationships. These are sensitive topics that can often leave many people feeling unsure about how to start the conversation or what to say once they get it going.
This can be totally awkward! But guess what? Deep breath in…we are going to push through that feeling and talk about this stuff anyway!
Discussions about sex and relationships with teens are essential to their overall well-being and safety. As a Certified Sex Coach, I understand the importance of educating young people on these topics. I mostly work with adults who lacked information about human sexuality. Many parents thought no information was the best approach, and lemme tell ya – it’s not!
From consent and healthy relationships to STIs and self-care, here are topics to cover in these much-needed conversations with your child. Here are 10 vital topics for discussing sex and relationships with your kids:
- Consent: It is important to educate young adults about the importance of obtaining consent before engaging in any sexual activity. The discussion should include examples of what consent looks like and what it does not. Help them understand that consent should be constant, enthusiastic, and it is absolutely revocable.
- Healthy relationships: It is important to discuss healthy relationships and the importance of mutual respect, communication, and trust. This can include identifying warning signs of abusive relationships and discussing how to get help. Their “no” should always be respected.
- STIs and safe sex: Educating young adults about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the importance of practicing safe sex can help prevent the spread of STIs and unwanted pregnancies. Discussions should also be factual and science-based.
- LGBTQ+ issues: Discussions about sex and relationships should include information about different sexual orientations and gender identities. It is important to create an environment that is inclusive of all young adults. They may have friends, family, teachers, or others in their world that identify as LGBTQ+. Teaching them empathy and understanding will always help them grow into more functional tiny adults, even if they themselves are not queer.
- Pornography: With the widespread availability of pornography, it is important to have a frank discussion about its potential impact on relationships and self-image. You cannot just rely upon parental controls on internet-connected devices to do the work! The median age for kids to first see porn is around 11. Help them understand that pornography isn’t real life, and there are some things they cannot unsee on the internet. Remind them that porn is for adults.
- Birth control: It is important to educate young adults about the different forms of birth control, how to use them, and where to access them. This goes for all genders. Everyone is responsible for birth control. Condoms have a high efficacy rate, but only if they know how to use one properly.
- Emotional health: Discussions about sex and relationships should include information about emotional health, including how to cope with feelings of loneliness, jealousy, and rejection. A “no” from a crush doesn’t mean to keep trying harder to win them over. Not being asked to the dance happens sometimes. Friends can be mean and swoop in on a crush. Teaching them healthy outlets for their emotions, aka emotional regulation, will help decrease anxiety and depression rates.
- Online dating: With the rise of online dating, it is important to educate young adults about the potential risks and how to stay safe when meeting someone online. Older men have no business dating teens! They should understand what grooming and sex trafficking are, how to spot the warning signs and feel comfortable telling an adult like you what’s going if someone online is crossing boundaries or seems dangerous.
- Communication skills: Good communication is key to a healthy relationship. Discussions should include how to communicate effectively and how to listen actively. Practice eye contact with them. Help them learn to say and do hard things and how to trust their gut feeling.
- Self-care: Discussions should include information about self-care and how to take care of oneself emotionally and physically. This includes getting regular health checkups and practicing safe sex. This is especially important for boys developing long-term healthy lifestyles – and preventing their future spouses from having to make them go to the doctor. Also, solo sex is a healthy form of self-care!
As parents and caregivers, covering these topics will help ensure your children are equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools. You can help them make informed decisions about sex and relationships while providing a safe and supportive environment for these discussions. Open doors policies will also ensure they can come to you with any issue regarding their health and safety.
It’s imperative that you find opportunities to both proactively discuss topics before they need the information and find teachable moments to bring up information they should know. For instance, for 5-year-old children to understand consensual touch from a young age takes proactive work. Teaching a 10-year-old how to deal with a crush not liking them back will likely be in the moment on a car ride home from school or over the dinner table.
If you are struggling to have these conversations with your kid(s), know that you are not alone. It’s okay to seek support and guidance from a professional, such as a Certified Sex Coach like me. Coaches help you navigate these conversations and create a safe space for your child to ask questions and learn.
Additional Support Resouces:
Read Me: A parental primer for ‘The Talk’ by Dr. Lanae St John