Your kids have questions about their bodies, reproduction, puberty, relationships, and sexual decision making. Research shows that they want to get answers from parents. Help them make the right choices. Below are tips on starting the conversation and a list of community resources you can contact for more information.
● Is Your Child Sexually Active? Every two years, Berkshire United Way collaborates with community partners to implement a survey among all 8th, 10th and 12th graders in Berkshire County. From this survey, we know that 15.9% of 8th graders are sexually active, that 32.3% of 10th graders are sexually active, and that 61.2% of 12th graders are sexually active. We also know from this survey that the top three most commonly used forms of birth control among teens are condoms, the pill, and no method. All of these methods have a high risk of unintended pregnancy.
● If more than half of 12th graders are sexually active, the reality is that your child is most likely being exposed to this culture among their peers and in school. To that end, Berkshire United Way wants to provide you with tools that you can use to share your values and talk to your children about sex. We hope that you find the following information useful. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions, comments or concerns.
● Tips for Talking with Youth Teen About Sexuality: As parents, we really make a difference when we talk with our kids about sex. Teens who report having positive conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sex, have fewer partners, and use a form of birth control when they do have sex. The following tips were developed by Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts to support you in making it easier to talk with your teen about sexuality.
○ Do not be discouraged if you are uncomfortable. It is common for parents and kids to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when talking to one another about sex. Owning up to that can help relieve the tension. We might try saying, “It is totally normal that this feels awkward, but I love you and care about you so we need to talk about important things like this.” In time and with practice, it will get easier.
○ Give truthful, useful, and accurate information. It is important to convey our own values about sex and sexuality. It’s also important to prepare our children to make responsible choices whenever they become sexually active. In addition to conveying our own values regarding sexual relationships, it is important to talk with teens about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
○ Look for “teachable moments." Everyday, life provides lots of opportunities for talking about sexuality. When watching a TV show that features a young person going through puberty or going out on a date, seeing an ad that prompts thoughts about body acceptance, or running into a pregnant neighbor, we can use that to initiate conversations with our children. Having a starter can make the conversation more natural.
○ Spend more time listening than talking, and get to know the world our teens live in. What pressures are they dealing with? What do they consider normal? It is often tempting to jump in and give our point of view, but if we spend more time just listening and asking questions, we help our kids learn how to explain their ideas clearly. We get to know each other even better, and we build trust by showing we really care about their thoughts and feelings.
○ Try to understand what motivates teens. It is important to communicate with kids about the importance of delaying sexual behavior until they are old enough to protect themselves and their partners. To do that well, it is helpful to understand and keep in mind the reasons teens give for having or delaying sex. Teens often cite a desire to feel closer to a boyfriend or girlfriend, or the erroneous belief that “everyone’s doing it” as reasons for having sex. In contrast, they cite a fear of upsetting their parents or that sex will interfere with their future endeavors as reasons for delaying sex. We can talk with our teens about what motivates them around sex so we can better understand how to help them make the best choices for themselves.
○ Don’t just talk. Parents can follow a few simple guidelines that will make teens less likely to engage in risky behavior such as drinking, smoking, having unprotected sex, or having sex before they are ready. We should know where our teens are and whom they are with, and we should not allow them to spend a lot of time alone without adults present. When teens are invited to each other’s house or to a party, we can find out if there are going to be adults present. We can also discourage our teens from going out on school nights and dating or hanging out with older teens. Our teens are less likely to engage in risky behavior if we know their friends’ parents, so getting to know the parents of our kids’ friends, and especially the parents of anyone our son or daughter is dating, is a good idea.
● Particular Resources: Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts has developed the following materials to provide you with more information and resources. Click through the links to access the documents.
● Community Resources: The following organizations offer a workshop titled, “Let’s Be Honest.” This is a free, interactive workshop that provides parents with age-appropriate strategies for responding to their children’s hard to answer questions as well as techniques for talking about sexuality in a skilled and comfortable manner. Contact these organizations to learn more, and to determine when the next workshop is being held.
● Youth Inspired Tips: The following tips were compiled by a local teen. She explains how she would want her parents or an adult to talk to her about puberty and sex.
○ We really care what you think, even if we do not always act like it.
○ Talk to us about sex, love, relationships. But, no lectures, please.
○ We may look grown up but we still want your help, opinions, and advice.
○ If we ask about sex or contraception, do not assume we are already “doing it”.
○ Listen to us and take our opinions seriously.