October: National Family Sexuality Education Month
Talk about it.
Parents want their teens to be healthy, to make responsible choices about sex, and to develop good relationships. However, teens are getting sexual messages from many unreliable sources. Peers may have picked up incorrect information and passed it on to your child. By the time they reach adolescence, young people have watched thousands of hours of television, and dozens of movies. They have listened to hundreds of song lyrics, and seen countless ads in magazines, newspapers, and on the Internet. The content of many of these media messages is sexual -- and a lot of it is unrealistic or unhealthy.
With so many messages about sexuality bombarding young people, you want to be sure your teenagers can sort out the facts from the fantasy. You want your kids to develop healthy, respectful relationships. A good way to do this is to have an ongoing conversation about their lives, their opinions, and their relationships.
Whether or not you're thinking or talking about it, parents are the primary source for their children's information about sexuality. That's why it's important to be clear about what you want to teach your children. Sharing your values about sexuality can help your child feel connected to you, to your family, and your community. Studies show that family connectedness plays a prominent role in preventing too-early pregnancy. Young people who feel close to their families are more likely to postpone intercourse, and when they finally have sex, they have fewer sexual partners, and use contraception more effectively. In fact, a recent poll found that 67 percent of teens who had talked openly with a parent about sex would speak to a parent first if they were considering beginning a sexual relationship.
It may be hard to talk about values without having your teen "tune out," so avoid making the conversation a lecture – communication should go both ways. Remember that it is important to communicate your expectations to your kids. Share your values, and let your teens know why you have them, and give them the accurate information they need to stay healthy. Be the source of accurate information and reliable support for your teens, and keep an open ear when they need it.
Make the subject as normal as oral hygiene. You're not embarrassed to tell your kids to brush their teeth. Tell them about their reproductive health in the same way. It may be easier for you to communicate a message of health to your teen, so start with something that will ease your anxiety or discomfort, and go from there.
When you talk about sexuality with your kids, and they share their views with you, really listen to them. If they feel valued by you, they will learn to value themselves. If they value themselves, they are less likely to participate in risky behavior. Instill a sense of pride in their becoming responsible young men and women. Encourage them to take pride in their growing capabilities and to take steps to protect and nurture themselves
Don't worry about being an expert.
There are lots of printed materials and programs to give you information. Talk about what's important to you, including the health and well-being of your teen, and keep in mind that what you are hoping to do is build a stronger, more connected relationship with your child. For help and information, contact Planned Parenthood, or any of the organizations listed on the back of this brochure. Also check the resource list for books and other materials.
Additional Guides for Parents:
First Trip to the Gynecologist
Talking About Sex: An Overview
How To Talk With Your Child About Sexuality (From Birth to Teens)
Teen Sex? It's OK to Say No Way!
Talking About Birth Control
How to Be a Good Parent
A national coalition effort to promote family communication about sexuality.
The NFSEM coalition members who support this effort:
Academy for Educational Development
Advocates for Youth
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association for Health Education
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
American Association of School Administrators
American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists
American College Health Association
American Counseling Association
American Federation of Teachers
American Psychiatric Association
American Red Cross
American Youth Work Center
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Camp Fire, Inc.
Catholics for a Free Choice
Children's Defense Fund
Council of Jewish Federations
Jewish Community Center Association
International Planned Parenthood Federation
March of Dimes
National Asian Women's Health Organization
National Association of Community Health Centers
National Association of School Nurses
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of La Raza
National Council of Negro Women
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
National Council on Family Relations
National Education Association
National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
National Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting, and Prevention (NOAPPP)
National Partnership for Women and Families
National Urban League
National Women's Political Caucus
Nurses Association for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Ounce of Prevention Fund
Parents Without Partners
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.
Society for Adolescent Medicine
Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
The Coalition on Sexuality and Disability, Inc.
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
United Church Board for Homeland Ministries
YMCA of the USA
YWCA of the USA
Zero Population Growth