Talking About Sex: How Parents Handle the Conversation (Part 1)

Don’t freak out.  That’s the advice I always include in my conversations with parents about HOW to talk to teens about sex.  What I mean, is:  stay calm and matter-of-fact, and “never let them see you sweat.”  Apparently, my recommendations are spot on.  The study I’ve been mining for information on teen-parent sex talks, has several interesting things to say about how parents can communicate effectively with their teens about sex.  Here is just a bit of what they advise, based on the research:

“The results [of the study] suggest that the more parents are receptive to their adolescents’ opinions and ideas, attempt to keep the conversation informal or casual, and remain composed during the conversation, the less likely their adolescents are to report being anxious during the discussions, which, in turn, made them less avoidant As the current research and some previous work suggests (e.g., Mueller & Powers, 1990), parents need to create an atmosphere that is conducive to mutual interaction in which they are open to their children’s opinions, refrain from critiquing them, and are able to moderate their emotional reactions to their children’s ideas.” 

Just in case you think this means that you are not to share your opinions on sex, dating and relationships, au contraire.  The study actually found NO correlation between parental “dominance”…meaning how directive they were (giving counsel and instruction) and teens’ openness to talking.  Apparently, teens aren’t put off by parents who give clear, calm advice and, the researchers theorize, expect parents to do so.  So next time you make time for a chat about sex or dating with your teen, take a deep breath, and casually, but confidently, turn the conversation to the topic you want to cover.