If so, when did you do it? How did you it? What message did you convey? If you haven’t, why not?
Apparently, many American parents are avoiding having that talk with their kids about how people make babies, how to stay safe from sexually transmitted diseases, why masturbation won’t make you go blind, and that, regardless of what Bill Clinton said, oral sex is sex.
Evidence that American parents are shirking this particular duty comes from a study published in Pediatrics (which you can read about in this issue of Time magazine).
These researchers found that 40 percent of adolescents had gone all the way to home base before their parents talked to them about birth control, safe sex, and STDs. Forty-two percent of girls reported that "they had not discussed the effectiveness of birth control and 40 percent admitted they had not talked with their parents about how to refuse sex before engaging in genital touching. Nearly 70 percent of boys said they had not discussed how to use a condom or other birth-control methods with their parents before having intercourse."
I realize it’s not a comfortable topic for a lot of moms and dads—or their kids.
I’m not sure why, and I’m not saying my husband and I are the Great Communicators, but we haven’t had all that much trouble with the topic. Actually, we’ve never officially sat down to have The Talk with our son, now 11 and in middle school, where supposedly some precocious kids are trying out sexting, oral sex and, even, intercourse.
For our family, the topic of sex has just come up in the course of regular conversations. For example, one day, my son and I, while driving home from an errand, had the intercourse-as-pathway-to-procreation conversation. I really don’t remember how the subject came up, or how long ago this conversation took place. Maybe two years ago? Somehow, he asked what “sex” is, and I told him, in what felt like a simple, matter-of-fact way, that it basically involved the penis into the vagina, and so it goes...
Another time, on another car trip, he asked why he was an only child. After I told him that we were happy with just one kid, he asked me how his father and me kept ourselves from having another baby. I'm pretty sure condoms were mentioned in that conversation, as were a few other methods.
I’m also pretty sure I read somewhere that this is the best way to handle this topic, or any sensitive topic. Don’t make the sex talk into A Big Deal. Make it something that kids just feel like bringing up whenever. And don’t overwhelm them with too much information.
The summer between our son’s fourth and fifth grade, my husband and I presented him with a book, written for young males that deals with changes that will take place in his body as he enters puberty and adolescence. It also talks about different aspects of sexuality—wet dreams, masturbation, sexual orientation—in a straightforward, approachable, non-judgmental way.
We know he likes to read, and we figured giving him a book would let him choose when and how he’d like to study up on the mechanics of it all.
“If you have any questions, feel free to ask us,” my husband said, handing it to him. My son took the book, blushed just so slightly, and announced, “This is so corrupted!”
But a few minutes later, we saw him curled up in his room, reading it. I think he tore through the entire book in a day.
One question my son asked on one of our car drives gave me hope that as a teen or young adult, he won’t do anything reckless to make himself a father before he is anywhere near ready, financially or otherwise.
“Are babies expensive?” asked my boy, who can be very kind and loving but also extremely attached to the cash he saves in his wallet and its power to buy him the latest PS3 games.
“Oh yes!!!!” I said. “They are so expensive.”