Have you had the Sex Talk with your kids?
If sitcoms are to be believed, it’s a cringeworthy conversation. But it doesn’t have to be, says Adolescent Medicine Specialist Laura Grubb, MD, MPH. Dr. Grubb provides comprehensive primary care to 11- to 24-year-olds, working closely with patients and parents to make smart, healthy decisions during those transformative years. In her experience, parents often avoid “the talk” until there’s a problem—and that’s a problem.
Q: When should parents talk to their kids about sex?
A: I try to open the door with parents and encourage an early conversation, around age 11. Your child wants to know about sex and if there’s a void, something will fill it. They’ll learn about sex in the hallways at school, on TV or via the Internet. The more you dispel the myths and deliver accurate information framed how you want—according to your values and traditions—the more influential you’ll be.
Q: Why is it important to start so early?
A: Fact is, about 8 percent of teens have had sex before age 14, and more than half have sex before finishing high school. Yet studies show that teens who learn about sex are more likely to delay intercourse, use contraception and have fewer partners. I advise parents to start early, but it’s really a series of conversations that evolve as adolescents get older.
Q: What’s the most important thing for parents to say?
A: Simply let your kids know you’re a resource: “I’m here for you if you have questions, or if you’re scared or worried.” Be open-minded and listen to their concerns. But remember you’re the parent, not a friend. Provide guidance they can trust, but don’t swap stories.
Q: What’s the most important thing not to say?
A: Don’t be negative. Don’t make arbitrary rules and tell them all the things they shouldn’t do. That’s not going to work. In my practice, the vast majority of teens see their parents as a resource—what you think matters to them. If you’re embarrassed—and many parents are as embarrassed as their kids—find a book youcan read with them to start the conversation.
Some books to start the conversation
Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up by Jacqui Bailey
Talking to Your Kids About Sex: Turning “The Talk” into a Conversation for Life by Laura Berman
Asking About Sex & Growing Up: A Question-and-Answer Book for Kids by Joanna Cole
Contact us today
Dr. Grubb specializes in helping young people ages 11 to 24 with the health challenges and opportunities of adolescence and young adulthood. She can be reached at 617-636-8100.