Going Beyond "The Talk"
Going beyond "the talk" to "the walk" of parent-child connectedness on one of life's most critical issues.
Today's children are growing up in a much different world than their parents did. Our "sex-saturated society" exposes children to sexual images and messages at much earlier ages. The average age of first exposure to pornography is 8 years old! It stands to reason then that today's children need more communication from their parents about sex to counter the myths and misinformation from the culture, technology, and peers.
In our parent program called "ABCs of the Birds and the Bees," we talk to elementary parents about why, when and how to talk to their children about sex. We ask how many of their parents talked with them about sex, and typically one or two hands goes up in the room. A few remember their mother or father awkwardly sitting them down for "the talk," and a very rare person will say they had open communication with their parents on the subject. Research continues to show the power of a parent to influence the health choices of their children. In a survey conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, students were asked "Who most influences your decisions about sex?"
hile they don't always act like it or admit it, your children are listening. And they care about what their parents think is best for them.
Aim for Success seeks to empower parents to better communicate with their children about sex- the facts about sex, and their values about sex. To empower means to both equip and encourage- equip you with information, tools and ideas for talking about these important topics, and encourage you to lay aside your own fears and hesitations and confidently take this role on. After all, if you don't talk to your kids about sex, who will?
There are three key reasons to talk with your kids about sex:
1. To prepare your child to make healthy choices related to sex and relationships.
When children are young, we are able to isolate them from many of the dangers of this world. But as they grow, our role as parents changes as we work to insulate them and prepare them to head out into the world protected against the negative pressure they will encounter. It is much easier to set a child out on a healthy path from an earlier age and help them continue there, than to not provide direction and have to bring them back later from a destructive path. Take advantage of the "moldability" of younger children and lay forth your values and expectations for their lives BEFORE they encounter the negative pressure.
2. To prevent the negative consequences of unhealthy choices.
Did you know?
1,500 teenage girls become pregnant each day in the United States.
10,000 teenagers get an STD every day.
1 in 4 sexually active teens gets an STD each year.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is the most common STD among teens, and can cause genital warts and several types of cancer. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, condoms may protect you against this virus.
Sexually active teens are more likely to experience loneliness, anxiety and depression.
Teens who get involved with sex are at risk physically, emotionally and relationally.
3. To promote communication and a healthy relationship between you and your child.
Children who report a higher level of "connectedness" to their parents make healthier choices.
"Parent-child interactions can affect children's behavior over and above the influence of socioeconomic and demographic factors, such as income, family structure and parent education. High parental warmth and supportiveness contribute to healthy development."
Family Strengths: Often Overlooked, But Real
(Moore, K.A., Chalk, R., Scarpa, J., & Vandivere, S., 2002)
Children need support and empathy, compassion and connection, and when those needs are met in the relationship they have with their parents, they are less likely to "go looking for love in all the wrong places" as the old song says.
Building parent-child connectedness is a balance of both relationship and rules- or high levels of both love and supervision. The investment of time and energy into the lives of your children will be more protective to their health than most parents realize.
It's been said "the family that plays together, stays together"- but we believe "the family that talks about sex together, stays together!" We will talk more about HOW and WHEN to talk about sex in our next e-newsletter, but keep in mind that talking about sex is both relational and progressive. These conversations will happen in increments over time from the early elementary years on through high school. And we hope you'll find them to be positive and enjoyable. If your children aren't learning about sex from you, who are they learning from?