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A study from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy shows that, despite what some parents may think, their influence on their teen's behavior is still more powerful than the influence of peers. Despite this, only one in three high school seniors reports that they talk with their parents about this incredibly important issue.
In another study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost half of the 15- to 17-year-olds surveyed reported that they have never talked with their parents about sexual decision making. They also haven't discussed sexual issues such as HIV/AIDS, other STDs, and birth control. Only 11 percent of the sexually active teens in the survey said they discussed sex with their parents before having sex; 28 percent discussed sex with their parents after having sex; 37 percent of these students said their parents don't know they're having sex; and 20 percent said their parents found out some other way.
But It's Embarassing…
“I will never forget the first time I asked my mother a question about sex. I used a term she had never heard before and I had to explain it. I have never been so humiliated,” relates Leah. Now a mother of her own teenage daughter, she adds, “Now I realize she must have been embarrassed too. I wish we could have just-laughed about it and then kept talking.”
Sound familiar? One of the main reasons both teens and parents give for not talking about sex is mutual embarrassment. “Both of you need to acknowledge your discomfort,” says Steve Saso, high school teacher, seminar leader, and co-author of Ten Best Gifts for Your Teens. “It helps to know that parents are human beings too and that sometimes they feel awkward and nervous.”
Betsy Crane, professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, says, “Talking with parents about sexuality can be both embarrassing and rewarding. The topic is a personal one, so that makes sense. What's important to remember is that they will feel the same way!”
Top 10 Talking Tips
“If you just want to open up the conversation but don't have an urgent problem or question,” advises Crane, “try asking about how they think things have changed for teens since they were young. This keeps the topic away from being specifically about your sexuality or theirs can lead to some interesting talks.”
3. Treat your parents as you want to be treated in return. If you want your parents to listen to you with empathy, respect, and fairness, you have to do the same in return. “Remember that parents are humans with their own feelings and insecurities,” says Dr. Graman, “so treat them gently. If you want a good response from them, give them something to respond to.” If you expect them to listen to your opinions openly and patiently, do the same to them. If you want them to stay calm and noncritical, do the same in return. Crane adds, “Listen to their values, even you don't agree. You'd want them to do that for you.”
Mike Domitrz comments, “When teens talk to their parents about sex and do so in a respectful manner, teens are often surprised to learn their parents' real feelings about intimacy, privacy, and respect.”
Your concerns and questions about sex are important. In fact, they're too significant to leave them up to guesses and gambles. Your parents love you and want to help. Give them a chance, and find out just how much they mights surprise you in the process!
- Orr, Tamra; How to Talk to Your Parents About Sex; Current Health; Nov 2002; Vol. 29; Issue 3.The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Reflection Exercise #3
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
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