Communicating with your kids and teens about relationships and sexuality can be challenging, and it’s so important.  If you want to learn more about how to communicate effectively, check out the Recommended Resources section of this website.  In addition, Vivian Peters hopes you’ll find the dialogues and commentary in her book OOPS!  Tales From A Sexpert helpful.  Here’s a summary of some of her tips.

  • Talk with your teen about life goals, and encourage THEM to TALK about to how the timing of becoming a parent would impact those goals.
  • Shift the focus from “What should I say?” to “How should I listen?”
  • Try to get your teen talking; listen more than you talk.
  • Remember, research clearly shows that talking with your kids about sex does NOT encourage them to have sex early.  It encourages them to be thoughtful in their decisions.
  • Remember that teens say their parents—more than friends or the media—most influence their decisions about sex.  Be sure you’re modeling the values you talk about.
  • Remember that being generally close with your kids—knowing their friends, having a warm relationship, encouraging them in many ways—is key to many things, including increasing the chances that they’ll make healthier decisions about their sexual behavior.
  • Encourage your kids to have dreams for their futures.  Discuss their dreams and encourage all their efforts (academics, arts, sports, music, community service) that will move them towards their goals.
  • Provide Internet guidance; your kids may be more Internet savvy than you are!
    • Tell them that they might find things that are unsettling on the Internet, and that some things might even be incorrect, but encourage them to come to you.
    • Provide your teens with teen-friendly sites that have accurate information, and tell them that if they read or hear anything that isn’t consistent with these sites, they should question it and ask you or a professional that they trust.  (For recommendations, check out these teen-friendly sites: For Teens.)
  • Encourage mastery of skills that interests them.
  • Encourage critical thinking about sexual behavior and early parenting.
    • For example, if you see a TV show or a movie or hear a song referring to casual sex, or you see a 14-year-old pushing a baby carriage, don’t lecture: ask your child what they think about it and then listen carefully to what they say.  Discuss their answer in a calm, respectful tone that shows you care, even if your opinions are different.
    • Be an ‘askable parent’; encourage your kids and teens to come to you with questions about their bodies, relationships, love, and sex.  Build an ongoing, age-appropriate dialogue.
    • When they do ask you a question, put them at immediate ease with an affirmation like “What a great question” or “I’m glad you asked me that.”
    • After you answer the question, pause to ask them “Did that answer your question?” or “Was that helpful?”  That shows them that you care, and that you want to be helpful.
  • And last but not least: keep your sense of humor!  Sometimes it can be challenging to talk with young people about sensitive topics.  It’s OK to say you’re uncomfortable and it’s OK to admit you don’t know everything—and then look things up together.  Finding opportunities to introduce laughter can make important conversations more pleasant for both of you, and can increase the chances that your child will want to talk with you.

ALSO: if you’re a parent, remember: you’re also part of a community.  If you want to improve the way these issues are addressed in your community, get involved with your local school or community group.  And even if you don’t have the time or interest in becoming involved yourself, it can be helpful if more parents bring up the subject with school and community leaders.  For example, attending a school board meeting or talking with school administrators and asking what’s being done to prevent teen pregnancy can be helpful.  Give them a copy of OOPS! Tales From A Sexpert!  Get people thinking and talking about these issues; that’s the first step in creating change.