Research says that young people who "sext" are more likely to have sex, and that dating violence is on the rise.
So, picture this scenario: Your child sits down at the dinner table and asks, “What is sexting? What is sex?” or “How do babies get inside their mommy’s tummy?”
In response, would you:
A. Laugh and change the subject?
B. Get irritated and tell your child that those questions are not appropriate at the dinner table?
C. Thank your child for asking such a great question and either seek to answer it or tell them that you will talk with them about it after dinner?
Just thinking about answering these questions has and will cause anxiety for many parents. When asked about talking with her children about sex, one mother replied, “My parents didn’t talk with me about it. I think I would just die if I had to talk with my son about it. He’ll figure it out.”
Let's consider that statement for a moment.
When young people are left to figure things out for themselves, the results can disastrous. Parents can help their children/teens understand that relationships based on sex aren't healthy or cool by talking openly with them about topics such as sex, love, lust and romance. It's also an opportunity to help your child think about how certain actions now can impact their goals for the future.
If you are on the fence about talking to your children about sex, sexting and the like, consider the benefits.
- Children develop an accurate understanding about their bodies, and about sexuality, instead of getting inaccurate information from friends or the media.
- They learn that talking to you about sex doesn't have to be embarrassing.
- You equip your child with information they need to make wise choices for the rest of their life.
- You are teaching them life skills like self-discipline, problem-solving and planning for the future… skills that will help them move toward productive living.
So, here are some helpful tips for taking the plunge and starting that conversation with your kids:
- Be an askable parent. Encourage open communication. Tell them it is okay to talk with you. If you don’t know the answer, find the answer together.
- Don't overreact. The number one complaint from teens is that parents jump to conclusions when they do ask questions. The goal is to keep the dialogue going.
- Take advantage of teachable moments. The latest sexting research, the pregnancy of a friend and television sitcoms are teachable moments.
- Listen. Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen as your child shares. It is a great way to learn what they are thinking. Hint: If you want to know what is really going on, do carpool duty and keep your mouth shut.
- Less is more. State the facts, be honest and keep it simple and age appropriate.
- Share your expectations and values, too. Whether it is sex, drugs, alcohol or something else, tell your children what you expect. Be clear about your family values.
The best way to protect young people is to educate them. Are you an askable parent?