Having The Talk

Talking to your children about sex.

A 2005 study found 43 percent of Canadian teenagers aged 15 to 19 reported having sexual intercourse at least once, while 8 per cent reported having sex before they were 15 years old. Most studies on teenage sexual behaviour have found that youth who been provided with comprehensive sex education, which is education that includes discussions on options such as birth control, sexually transmitted infections (such as herpes, HIV, syphilis, etc.) safer sex (for example, sex with a condom), and abstinence (meaning no sex until marriage) have lower pregnancy rates than youth who were provided with no sex education or education that focused solely on abstinence.

Studies also show that peer education (for example, using youth to educate their peers) does not reduce pregnancy rates or increase condom use. A recent study by researchers affiliated with the University of Montreal found 45% of teens consider their parents as their “sexuality role models” – and these youth reported having discussed sexual issues with their parents open at home. These youth also were more aware of risks associated with sex, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. This study also found that parents frequently underestimate how great an influence they are as sexuality role models.

These studies indicate that the kids who do speak to their parents about sex make much smarter sex-related decisions. Knowledge does not lead to increased sexual activity, whereas a lack of information poses greater risk.

No one is better suited to provide sex education to children than PARENTS. Some parents would rather avoid discussing difficult topics with their kids – but if you are a parent you need to remember, if you don’t do it, then your child will get his or her information for other sources – sources that may end up doing more harm than good. Here are some tips when it comes to talking to your children about a topic like sex:
• Talk to your child regularly, right from the beginning. Talk to them about anything and everything. The more time you spend with them, the greater the chance they (and you) will feel comfortable talking about sex when the time comes
• Be comfortable with the topic yourself: You want to make sure that when the time comes, you are giving your child accurate information. There are some good websites (for e.g., sexualityandu.ca, childrennow.org, healthlinkbc.ca) that you can visit that will give you tips on how to talk to your child about sex. The library is another great resource. A knowledgeable adult (like another parent who has had the ‘talk’) can also be of great assistance
• At the same time, it’s okay to be a little nervous. It may not be a comfortable topic to talk about, but avoiding it is not the answer. Kids may then turn to television (such as movies and music videos) which often provide an unrealistic and unhealthy picture of sex and sexuality
• Give your child several opportunities to talk, and don’t judge what they say. Remember, it’s probably not a comfortable talk for them either, and criticizing or not given them a chance to talk will only make it more comfortable for them
• Watch for cues: If your child seems overwhelmed or tired, stop the talk and bring it up another time

Kids get their information from television, the internet, magazines, teachers, and friends – but remember – no one can prepare them for the future (and instill the values you want them to have) better than you, their parent.