“Hey, kids! Let’s all sit around the table and talk about sex and how to protect yourself…” Odds are, that statement has never come out of your mouth. But, the fact of the matter is that if you have children, it’s important that the foundation of information about sex, pregnancy and STD prevention come from the home environment.
If they don’t get accurate information from you, they are going to hear it elsewhere and there is no end to the misinformation that is out there.
Provide Your Teenage Daughter With Factual Information About Sex & Contraception
Regardless of your personal views regarding sex, who should have it, and when – it’s important that you find a middle ground when communicating with your daughter about sex and contraception. Consider the following facts, courtesy of ReCAPP (Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention):
- 47% of teenagers report being sexually active in high school.
- 15% of high school kids report having had four or more sexual partners.
- 70% of females and 56% of males report having their first experience with sexual intercourse with a steady partner.
In other words: almost half of all high school teenagers are sexually active, and more than 1 in 10 of those has had multiple sexual partners. The more open you are when it comes to talking about sex, the more secure your daughter will feel about herself and her decisions, and the more likely she will be to insist on using protection if she does choose to become sexually active.
When is it Time to Talk About Sex?
When your child asks! You may have a three-year old who asks how babies get into tummies. You can say, “the mommy has an egg, the daddy has as seed, and the baby is like a flower that grows in a special place in mommy’s tummy, called the womb.” Your five year old may ask, “Yeah, but how does the seed get to mommy’s egg?” (gulp!) Great books at this age is, It’s Not the Stork…, by Robie H. Harris or, Amazing You!, by Gail Salz.
Later on, your information will need to become increasingly detailed, while still remaining age appropriate. Try to use correct anatomical names as much as possible during these talks, and be as accurate as you can.
When they’re adolescents, it’s important to prioritize their self-esteem, in addition to factual information about their bodies, puberty and sexuality, so they continue to build self-confidence. Children who have stronger positive self-images are better at avoiding peer pressure and making choices that are comfortable for them. A good book for the 9-12 crowd is, “Let’s Talk About S-E-X,” by Sam Gitchel.
Once your child gets into Jr. High, a book like, Changing Bodies, Changing Lives…, by Ruth Bell is a handy tool to have around. We recommend having two copies; one for you and one for your child. That way you’ll know what she’s talking or asking about, and you can initiate relevant conversations on your own. Some of our teenage and early adult patients treated this book like a reference guide.
Books like these are a great foundation, from which your conversations about sex and contraception will grow and evolve.
Where Do You Stand On the Topic of Sex?
You may have an automatic answer, but is that answer really yours? Or is it what you think you should say? You wouldn’t believe how many mothers we talk to who lie to their daughters about their own sexual history, claiming they were virgins when they got married when they weren’t. These well-intentioned women are under the false assumption that telling the truth is giving their daughters permission to have sex.
In fact, this can be a very isolating experience for a young girl, who wants to feel “normal” and can wind up feeling a sense of shame, not to mention a complete disconnect from you, when – in fact – you are both very much the same. She needs the truth, love and support. Share what you learned from your experience and what, if anything, you would have done differently if you could.
Really think about how you feel about sex. Yes, you would probably prefer that your daughter wait until she out of high school and potentially even married before having sex. However, in an era where the average age of marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men, that may not be realistic. Analyze what you really feel and believe before you simply say what your mother said, or you feel obligated to say, before discussing the topic with your daughter.
Zen Parenting Radio has two great podcasts along these lines: How Do YOU Feel About Sex and The Truth About Sex Education. Listen to them (sans kids) and perhaps they’ll help you get a better idea of how you want to treat the subject with your own daughter.
Make Conversations About Sex a Periodic Norm in the Car or House
Talking about sex with your children may never feel completely comfortable, but making it a periodic norm will certainly help. And by “norm” we don’t mean that you are constantly reminding them about contraception. We mean that riding in the car and listening to a pop song can create an opportunity to discuss the ways men, women and relationships are portrayed in the songs.
Discussing how unrealistic that skinny billboard model is provides an opportunity to talk about how women’s bodies are beautiful in all of their forms, and how nice it would be if society focused on that – rather than unrealistic, Barbie-esque or emaciated figures.
Those conversations eliminate shame about the body and sexuality, they boost confidence and help girls and young women feel normal and they prime the pumps, so to speak, about more in-depth topics pertaining to sexuality. Check out this Planned Parenthood Video (as well as others) for more examples of how to talk to your kids about tough topics.
Schedule an Appointment With a Gynecologist
Once your daughter hits ages 14 to 16, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with an OB/GYN. That first visit should be considered an orientation and should not include a pelvic or pap smear unless there is an issue at hand. This gives your daughter a chance to decide if she is comfortable with that doctor (if not, find a new one and schedule another first appointment), and a chance for us to ask and answer questions that will begin a lifetime relationship with her and her reproductive self.
These office visits are another opportunity for you and your daughter to discuss her reproductive maturity, sex and contraception – with a medical expert on hand to fill in the gaps or resolve any confusion.
Ready to schedule your daughter’s first appointment? Give us a call here at Overlake. (425) 454-3366.
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