Let’s Talk: A Toolkit for Parents
You Can Make a Difference!
As a parent or guardian you have an important role in your child’s life. We know talking about sex can sometimes be awkward and challenging for both the adult and the child, but it matters! Open and honest communication between parent and child on the topics of puberty, sex, and relationships has been shown to help young people make healthy decisions in the future.
Girls Inc. is here to help! The information in this Parental Toolkit is designed to provide you with tips and resources to help you be both more comfortable and more knowledgeable in discussions with your child. You can do this! Your efforts will make a difference in your child’s health and future decisions.
Top 10 Tips for Parents
1. Start the discussion early and keep it going. It’s best to start talking with your child about sexuality when she/he is very young. For instance, when teaching your toddler about the parts of the body, include “this is your penis” or “this is your vulva” in your conversation. Is your child beyond the toddler years? It’s never too late to start. Since issues and concerns change as children get older, there is always something to talk about.
2. Honesty is the best policy. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Then say that you’ll find out or that the two of you can find out together. Likewise, if a question makes you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, say so. It’s fine to say, “I’m a little embarrassed by that question, but I’m glad you asked, and I’ll try to answer it.” This lets your child know that it’s OK to talk about sexuality and sex even if the question is embarrassing.
3. Answer questions in simple, clear terms. Tailor your answer to your child’s age or developmental level. Avoid giving overly complex or sophisticated answers. But, be sure to give your children the verbal cues they may need in order to continue asking questions. Examples of verbal clues include, “I’m glad you brought that up,” “If you have any more questions, let me know and we’ll talk some more,” or “That was an important question. I really enjoyed talking with you.”
4. Share your own feelings and attitudes. It’s your right and responsibility to share your values and expectations with your children. Tell them what you believe and what you want for them. This doesn’t mean that they will accept all of your values. Especially during adolescence, sons and daughters begin to reject some of their parents’ values as they search for more independence. However, if you tell them what you believe and what you expect, they’ll have a basic foundation of values to draw upon when faced with peer pressure.
5. Be a good listener. When your child approaches you with a question, find out what he is thinking about before you answer. If you’re not sure what your child is really thinking, you might say, “Tell me what you think about that.”
6. Use everyday occurrences to begin conversations about sexuality. Such events include watching TV, hearing provocative lyrics in a popular song or diapering a baby. For example, after a TV show that deals with some aspect of sexuality, you might ask, “How do you feel about that?” or “What do you think she/he should have done?” Remember to say what you think about the program as well.
7. Build your child’s comfort level for coming to you with questions and concerns. Reassure your kids that they can talk to you about anything. Hear her out before voicing your opinions and avoid making assumptions about what she “must” be doing based on her questions. Treat her questions as a part of normal, everyday life.
8. Talk with your child about potential risky situations and how to deal with them. Reassure your child that you’d rather have her ask you for help than not ask because she fears your negative reaction.
9. Stay involved in your child’s life. Supervise and monitor his whereabouts. Know your child’s friends and their families. Welcome your child’s friends into your home and get to know them.
10. Remember your child learns about sexuality every day. Practically from Day One she learns about values, expectations, attitudes and behaviors from you and family members. Even though little may be said, many of the things you do and how you relate to others carry messages about sexuality. Ask yourself, “Are my actions consistent with the values I hope to teach my children?”
Let’s Talk Testimonials
It would be easier to talk to my parents about sex if she had started talking to me in 5th grade – maybe even earlier. Not the whole thing, but it would’ve been easier. Better than finding out through kids at school.Female, 7th Grade
I like to talk to my parents about sex because my mom doesn’t question me why I’m asking. I like when my mom trusts me. She will also answer anything I ask.Female, 8th Grade
I wish my parent would understand me when I want to talk about a subject like sex. I don’t want them to judge me and tell me I’m doing wrong for wanting to talk about it.Female, 8th Grade
I like to talk to my parents about sex because they are experienced. I mean, how did they have me?Male, 8th Grade
I like it when my parent tells me when it’s right to have sex and talks to me about what to do right and what’s bad about having sex.Male, 7th Grade
I like to talk to my parents about sex because they are honest.Female, 8th Grade
I like to talk to my parents about sex because my mom doesn’t make talking about sex awkward. She understands that it’s a natural part of life and it’s nothing to be embarrassed of.Female, 10th Grade
My parent makes it so awkward when she tries to be like my friend instead of my parent.Female, 8th Grade
I wish my parent would actually sit down and talk to me about the stuff.Female, 9th Grade
I wish my parent would talk to me more about sex. They try to avoid it as much as possible.Female, 11th Grade
I like to talk to my parents about sex because she tells me the right things to do in situations. She tells me the consequences and to choose abstinence.Male, 8th Grade
It would be easier to talk to my parents about sex if they were more open with me and if they would allow me to say what I felt necessary before responding.Female, 10th Grade
I like to talk to my parents about sex because they give me helpful information for the future.Female, 8th Grade