The Time is Now: It's Let's Talk Month
At the Campaign, we spend a lot of time encouraging parents to have open, honest conversations with their kids. In fact, a favorite phrase around here is "it's an 18 year conversation" by which we mean that it's never too early to begin communicating with your children in age-appropriate ways about sex, love, and relationships. But those three topics are some of the hardest for parents to broach with their children. In fact, regarding sex, most parents admit that they don't know what to say or how to say it and so many of them simply let Dr.Google do their teaching for them.
But believe it or not, despite the glazed looks in their eyes and the horrified expressions on their faces, teens consistently say that parents--not peers, not partners, and not pop culture--MOST influence their decisions about sex. In fact, teens say it would be much easier for them to avoid pregnancy if they were able to talk more openly with their parents about these topics.
So parents, we want to challenge you to bite the bullet and open the lines of communication between yourself and your children by participating in Let's Talk Month. Created and coordinated by the good people at Advocates for Youth, Let's Talk Month—which takes place each October—is dedicated to encouraging parent/child communication about sex, pregnancy, and related issues.
So how to get started? Well, here are a few modest thoughts...
Timing is everything. Don't wait until you're pulling up to the school drop off zone to drop a bombshell on your teen...there's probably nothing they want to hear less than "Have a great day at school, sweetie. By the way, are you having sex?" Instead, find a time that is quiet, low stress, and private to chat with them.
Listen more than you talk. Truly, "talking" is job number 2 for parents. Job number 1 is all about listening...listen to what your children are telling you and respond in ways that will reach them where they are.
Be honest. Children have excellent BS-meters and they will know when you're not being truthful with them. It is your job as a parent to tell your children your beliefs on sex and dating and to then live those beliefs in your everyday life.
Don't freak out. Recognize that your child asking you a question about sex doesn't necessarily mean that he or she is having sex. Children have a lot of questions about sex, love, and relationships and if they trust you enough to come to you with those questions, you should respect them enough to answer them in a truthful, level-headed manner.
Respect your child. They may always be your little baby, but your sons and daughters have real feelings and can experience love, pain, heartbreak, and more—just like adults do. One of the most consistent complaints we hear from teens is that their parents don't take them seriously. So if your child comes to you about their relationship, resist the temptation to brush it off as puppy love or to treat them as if they are too young to understand real feelings.
Use the world around you to start the conversation. Are you watching a television show with your child that features a storyline about unplanned pregnancy? What about a movie that shows people who are sexually active but doesn't ever refer to birth control? These are excellent opportunities to start a conversation in a low pressure way...simply saying "I can't imagine how hard it is to have a baby at 14...have you ever imagined what your life would be like if you got pregnant/got someone pregnant?" or "Does that couple's relationship seem realistic to you? They fight all the time but they still stay together...that doesn't seem healthy to me. What do you think?"
For more information on talking to your children about sex, love, and relationships, check out these resources from The National Campaign and visit our Parent's Portal for even more tips, facts, and information.
- The When, The How, and the Why: Talking to Your Teens About Sex, Love, and Relationships [VIDEO]
- More than Just the Talk: Talking to Your Teens About Sex, Love, and Relationships [VIDEO]
- 10 Tips for Parents to Help their Children Avoid Teen Pregnancy
- Relationship Redux: Tips and Scripts for Talking to Your Kids About Relationships
- Survey Says: TV Guide
- Survey Say: My Inner Seflie
- Survey Says: Madre and Padre Power
- 5 Tips for Navigating TV, Social Media, and Sex With Your Teens
- Do's and Don'ts: Parents, Teens, and the Talk
This blog orgianlly appeared on Pregnant Pause in October 2014, and was updated in October 2015.
Jessica Sheets Pika is the Director, Communications and Editorial Content at The National Campaign. In that capacity, Jessica drives the communications strategy for the Campaign by curating, writing, and editing content; managing consultants and content contributors; and developing new activities and content areas for the organization. She is the organization’s editor and manages the creation and publication of all Campaign materials. In addition, Jessica manages the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy/Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, a national, digital call to action encouraging teens to think about how their lives might change if they were to become pregnant. Jessica also handles press initiatives, spearheads the design and creation of new National Campaign materials, and provides general communications and editorial guidance to all program areas of the Campaign.
Jessica joined The National Campaign in 2006 and has nearly 15 years of experience in the non-profit health care world. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Political Science from Wake Forest University and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, her adorable children, and their dog, Cora.