Your Boundaries and TheirsBefore kicking off a conversation with your teen about the facts of life, it’s important for you to know your own mind. Your values — cultural, religious, ethical, hygienic — are an integral part of how you view sex, romance, and marriage. If you’re unsure of what you want to teach your teen, that uncertainty will make it difficult for you to communicate. Have a parents-only conversation first to clarify what you both want for your child, and to define where the lines of appropriate behavior will be drawn in your family. Then you might want to brush up on the basics of human reproduction. It’s been a while since you learned all this, and you may be surprised at what you don’t know yourself — or don’t quite know how to explain. Your kid will have questions at many points through the teenage years, so prepare yourself with some basic biology, and don’t worry if you need to do more research in the future. Remember, you may both have some learning to do!
Open ConversationsIt’s incredibly important to show your teen that you’re willing to talk about anything that’s important to them without judgement. After all, you love your child and want to know what’s on their mind and heart. You also have things to share and teach, and they have questions, concerns, and things to tell you. As we all remember from our own teen years, romantic relationships loom pretty large in importance and consequences, and the concerns will probably loom even larger for a teen with anxiety. So show your willingness to talk by bringing the subject up yourself. Then, listen with patience and no preconceived notions of what you think they want to talk about. Eager or reluctant, your teen will eventually have something to say or ask. Encourage a conversation, rather than a parent-only monologue. And remember, this isn’t a “one and done” conversation. Rather, questions, hopes, and fears about sex and romance will most likely be part of your teen’s life from puberty onward, so treat it as a natural part of growing up.
Make Important Points Lightly
● Basic information about fertility and reproduction
● House rules about dating, romantic interaction, and curfews
● Warning signs of unhealthy relationships, such as verbal or physical abuse, drug, and alcohol use, pressuring your teen for sex or money, or to isolate them from the family
● Age-appropriate jokes about love and sex
● Discussions or questions about that special someone who’s tugging on your teen’s heartstrings
● Fun stories (or cautionary tales) about your own young romances