Not talking to your kid about sex will not keep your kid from having it. Research proves this. It’s completely normal to feel a little overwhelmed at the idea of the conversation, but again, failing to talk to your kids about sex won’t stop them from having it. If you’re not sure how to talk to your kids about safer sex, read on. Below you’ll find 6 tips for talking to your kid about birth control, safe sex, and more.
1. Don’t wait until they’re a teenager to start talking!
The best time to start talking to your kid about sex? Yesterday. Broadly speaking, kids know more about sex and are having sex far earlier than their parents think. So, it’s best to talk to your kids about sex early.
Better yet, start having ongoing conversations about their body, biology, and consent at an age-appropriate clip throughout their childhood.
That said, If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet started talking to your kids about sex, don’t worry. Now is as good a time as any to start! You could even say to your kiddo that this conversation should have started years ago. For instance, you might say, “I should have started having these conversations with you years ago, but I’d really like for us to start having open dialogue about sex and relationships now.”
2. Continuously educate yourself
Even if you or your partner(s) are on birth control, odds are that there are types of birth control that exist now that didn’t exist when you were first having sex.
Your move: Take some time to educate yourself on all the different hormonal and non-hormonal, permanent and as-needed, scheduled and low-maintenance types of birth control now on the market.
Your middle-schooler probably doesn’t need to understand the ins-and-outs of these different options just yet. But, no matter their sex or gender, they will sooner than you think! Proactively educating yourself will help you be ready to share accurate information when the topics come up.
3. Be honest
Feeling uncomfortable? Name it. Don’t know the answer to one of your kiddos questions? Say that, then offer to look up then answer. Asked about your first time? Tell them about it (in an age appropriate way).
When you are honest with your pre-teen during these conversations, you are modeling for them that your relationship is one built on trust and honesty.
4. Help them understand an expansive definition of sex
Many adults grew up believing — and perhaps still believe— that sex is marked exclusively by vaginal and anal penetration. But actually, sex is any meaningful act of pleasure and when you define sex for your kids, you should use this definition.
Beyond being inclusive to a wider-range of gender and sexual identities, this definition will help your kiddo understand that intercourse isn’t the only sex act with potential risks. After all, STIs can be transmitted during sex acts like oral sex and hand sex, too.
Plus, this definition includes cyber sex as sex, which may help your kiddo make more-informed decisions about how they use technology down the line.
5. Bring up all barriers
Many sex education programs — or at least, the ones that incorporate safer sex practices into their curriculum at all — talk about condoms, how to use them, and why they’re important. No doubt, condom use is a spectacular way to reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy and/or STI transmission during P-in-V intercourse, anal intercourse, and fellatio.
But condoms aren’t the only barrier! There are also internal condoms and dental dams. Dental dams can be used to lower the risk of STI transmission during cunnilingus, analingus, and vulva-on-vulva intercourse. And internal condoms are an alternative barrier option to reduce the risks associated with penetrative anal or vaginal sex.
If your kiddo is a hands-on learner, consider buying a box of these various barrier methods so they can see how they are packaged, stretch, and function.
6. Talk about the physical and emotional side effects of sex
Many conversations about sex with pre-teens focus only on the potential physical side effects: pregnancy and STI transmission. As a result, many young people are unprepared for the emotional side effects of sex — and that’s true whether the emotions are positive or negative.
Help your pre-teen understand that they might feel any of the below, or other, emotions after having:
In this conversation, explain what types of sexual situations may lead to less positive feelings, and what types may lead to more positive ones. You may also list out signs that an individual is a mentally safe individual to be physical with. For instance: empathetic, thoughtful, sex-positive, good listener, etc.
The pressure to have sex – or to wait – can be incredibly challenging for tweens and teens. Having a trusted parent to talk to and bring their feelings too is invaluable. Allow your child an open, non-judgmental and punishment-free channel to explore and learn about this crucial topic.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team