Despite common perceptions, children—including teenagers—are more influenced by their parents than by peers. Research shows that children always look first to the immediate adults in their lives for guidance and for framing the world in a way they can relate to and understand. They go elsewhere only when they know or sense that we are not willing to be present or available. What decades of research demonstrate should be no great surprise: families who sustain this kind of connectedness around issues such as sexuality raise healthier children who make better decisions, take greater responsibility for their actions, and perhaps most important, postpone potentially risky behaviours. Here are 6 steps parents should take in teaching their child(ren) about sex:
STEP #1: TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
No matter how awkward this issue may be, talking to your children about sex is your responsibility. Don’t delegate it. Accept it.
STEP #2: USE CASUAL MOMENTS
Instead of having one big talk, take advantage of casual moments to communicate, perhaps while the two of you are traveling in your car or doing a chore. To help your child open up, ask viewpoint questions. For example, rather than saying, “Are you attracted to TV programs like that?” you could say, “Why do you think young people like watching those kinds of films?” After your child answers, you could ask, “How do you feel about that?”
STEP #3: DON’T RUSH THEM TOO SOON
Children below the age of five can be taught the proper names of the sex organs, as well as how to protect themselves from sexual predators. As they grow, children can be told basic facts about reproduction. By puberty, they should have come to understand more fully the physical and moral aspects of sex.
STEP #4: HAVE CLEAR VALUES
Start teaching your child—at an early age—about honesty, integrity, and respect. Then, when sex is discussed, you have a foundation to build on. Also, state your values clearly. For example, if you view sex before marriage as improper, say so. And explain why it is wrong and harmful. Research shows that teens who say they know that their parents disapprove premarital intercourse are less likely to actually have sex.
STEP #5: LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Live by the values you teach. For instance, do you laugh at obscene jokes? Do you dress provocatively? Do you flirt? Such actions may undermine the moral values you are trying to teach your children.
STEP #6: DON’T TAINT THE TRUTH
Sex is good and is a gift from God, and in the right circumstance—in marriage—it can be a source of great pleasure. Let your child know that in time he or she may be able to enjoy that gift, without the heartache and worries that come from premarital sex.