How to begin sex chat
"(Tell your teens)," Pack says, " 'I'm going to feel awkward around it but I think it's important that we have open conversations about this.' " Matthew knew his parents would have happily answered any of his questions, but he wasn't comfortable asking them.
But 25 years ago, teens couldn't take their questions to the Internet, like they do now, to find a plethora of "educational" words, photos and videos.“There’s so much evidence that when young people are making really important decisions in their life about things like sexual behavior, they really, really want guidance from their parents,” Guilamo-Ramos said.“Yet in many ways, the message that we’ve given parents is, ‘(You) aren’t necessarily the most influential.’ And that’s really not true.” Studies have shown that kids are less likely to have sex if parents taught them to say no, and even if they do, they delay it, use birth control and practice safer sexual behavior.In Guilamo-Ramo's program, Families Talking Together, parents learn to start conversations about delaying sex and reducing risky sexual behavior — often getting this instruction one-on-one from a social worker instead of just waiting in the waiting room at their child's doctor's office.One of the most important things parents learn to say is that because they want what's best for their child, they want them to wait."I think that discomfort they feel gets in their way of really seeking out those conversations" about sexuality, she says.
In addition to parental discomfort, teens are also struggling with their own embarrassment, blended with curiosity, which makes them desperate to know but determined not to ask.
Which means parents must take the lead on these important, albeit difficult, conversations, experts say.
And if starting directly with sex or pornography is too drastic, experts say parents can start with less uncomfortable topics, like body image or how to set boundaries.
"Our kids need, in fact, less on sperm and eggs and fallopian tubes and a lot more on love and intimacy and 'how do I understand these feelings?
'" In fact, far too many parents can't even talk about their own sexuality with their spouse — and teens sense that discomfort, says Jackie Pack, a certified sex-addiction therapist who has worked in the field of addiction and trauma for more than 20 years.
"Where we see a critical gap when it comes to sex ed to young people is how to think critically about the messages that are in society around sexuality, gender, consent, stereotypes," said Jesse Boyer, interim president and CEO of SIECUS.